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The Social Construction of Napster


  • Spitz, David
  • Hunter, Starling


This paper attempts to unpack a few of the vast array of assumptions implicit in how "the technology" known as Napster was understood by several of its key constituencies. Our approach examines discourse about Napster in several areas - legal, economic, social, and cultural. This approach enables us to understand "the technology" as an ongoing encounter, rather than the accomplishment of any one inventor, team of inventors, dominant institution, or rule of law. We do not offer proscriptive advice. While there is value in other research that has tried to determine the "impact of Napster on" a particular market or industry, we argue that a multidimensional understanding is necessary both as a foundation for such research as well as in its own right. In only the past four years, dominant interpretations of Napster have not only emerged, but also have been inscribed into laws, business plans, and purchasing decisions, in effect, determining what "tools" - precedents, myths, data sets, prior objects, capabilities - will be available in the future. Our paper tries to show how and why certain (subjective) significations increasingly have taken on the status of truth, while other (equally subjective) discourses have been pushed farther and farther out to the fringes

Suggested Citation

  • Spitz, David & Hunter, Starling, 2004. "The Social Construction of Napster," Working papers 4445-03, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
  • Handle: RePEc:mit:sloanp:5049

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