Elon University

About Imagining the Internet

Recorded over a 24-year span, Imagining the Internet’s collection of various forms of documentary research brings to life humanity’s past visions for the future of communications and the future of the world. Imagining the Internet conducted major research projects from 2000 through 2023. It was succeeded by the Imagining the Digital Future Center in February 2024. Imagining the Internet’s mission was “to explore and provide insights into emerging network innovations, global development, dynamics, diffusion and governance” at the turn of the millennium. Led by founding director Janna Anderson, this initiative worked to illuminate issues in order to serve the greater good, making its work public, free and open. Its research held a mirror to humanity’s use of communications technologies and resulting challenges and opportunities. It informed policy development, exposing potential futures, and it lives on to provide a valuable historic record. Find out more about the work it has done to document human-tech evolution in the early 2000s by viewing the circa-2013, five-minute video below.

Direct media inquiries to Owen Covington, Elon University assistant VP for strategic communications and media relations.

To see the full, 11-minute version of the video, visit our YouTube channel.

Imagining the Internet’s content is the work of hundreds of Elon University faculty, students, staff, alumni, advisers and friends, working in the early decades of the 2000s to identify, explore and engage with the challenges and opportunities of evolving communications forms and issues. They investigated the tangible and potential pros and cons of new-media channels through active research. Among the spectrum of issues addressed by their projects are power, politics, privacy, property, augmented and virtual reality, control and the rapid social, political and economic change spurred by accelerating technological change at the turn of the millennium.

What You Will Find on This Award-Winning Site

Imagining the Internet: A History and Forecast is a multi-section resource containing thousands of pages. It exposes future possibilities while simultaneously providing a peek back at the past. In it, you will find the words of thousands of people from every corner of the world, making thousands of predictive pronouncements about the future of humankind.

  • This resource offers thousands of experts’ written assessments of where trends might take us compiled in nearly 50 reports over a 20-year span – Dozens of expert surveys were conducted by Imagining the Internet and Pew Research since 2004 –  numbering in the thousands of pages of data – including tens of thousands of predictions of potential communications/human evolution while that evolution has been in process.
  • It includes video and audio interviews recorded at global technology events that reveal future hopes and challenges as expressed by thousands of Internet leaders, including Internet and Web pioneers like Vint Cerf, Douglas Engelbart, Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Kahn, other thought leaders and global policy professionals. (Event Coverage).
  • Early ’90s Predictions Database – The database shares more than 4,000 predictions for the future of the Internet drawn from what technologists, pundits and others were predicting in the 1990s, during the “awe” stage of its development. (Time Capsule: Early ’90s Predictions Database).
  • Communications history – This resource features brief explanatory sections on the future and past development of early communications networks. (Time Capsule: Forward 150/Back 150).
  • Plucky, prescient and wacky public predictions – A searchable set of Voices of the People predictions were submitted directly to the Imagining the Internet site by its fans from around the world between 2004 and 2013.
  • Informative areas targeted to benefit children and teachers of elementary, middle school, high school and college students have used this site to in their courses. (KidZone and Teachers’ Tips).
  • Imagining the Internet recorded a legacy of predictive statements in the time they were made, continuously building a historic record of lasting value that documents the way humanity pictured itself – the hopes and fears – as it made its way through an explosion of change.

Details about the evolution of Imagining the Internet can be found here.

Details about the builders of the site can be found here.

Why Is It Vital to Study the Future?

Better policy choices and social planning can be accomplished if the coming impact of new technologies can be accurately pre-assessed.

  • Read a brief explanation of the importance of forward-thinking and pre-planning here.
  • Access suggestions for cultivating futures thinking here.