Abstract - The Information Society 21(3)

Contested Codes: The Social Construction of Napster

David Spitz and Starling D. Hunter

In the five years since its inception, some interpretations of the software program known as “Napster” have been inscribed into laws, business plans, and purchasing decisions while others have been pushed to the fringes. This paper examines how and why certain assumptions about Napster have gained greater currency while others have not. Our analytical approach involves an examination of discourse about Napster in several arenas – legal, economic, social, and cultural- and is informed by a conceptualization of Napster as an ongoing encounter between, rather than the accomplishment of, inventor(s), institution(s), and interest(s). And while we recognize the value of empirical examinations of Napster’s impact on firms and markets, as well as the proscriptive advice which it supports, we opt here for providing a contextualized understanding of the technology that complements rather than substitutes for empirical analyses of it.

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