Information superhighway

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The term data highway (also: Datenhighway , occasionally also: Infobahn ) is a metaphor for the Internet, especially in the second half of the 1990s . It is a somewhat free translation of the English expression Information Highway (also: Information Superhighway ), which is also used as such in German-speaking countries as a variant for the data highway .


The term was coined by Al Gore in the US government program “High Performance Computing and Communications” during the election campaign and in the Clinton administration around September 1993 and referred to a model that has been discussed for either a national (“National Information Infrastructure”) or a global (“Global Information Infrastructure ”) and comprehensive information infrastructure . The term information highway initially referred to another high-speed network , although the focus was not on the purely technical aspect, but on the content of the information conveyed. The idea itself, however, goes back to the " National Research and Education Network " discussed in 1991 , which was supposed to replace the outdated NFSNET .

Following the development of the West (“Go West”) by the pioneers of the previous century, Clinton and Gore proclaimed the equivalent for the information age of the 21st century: As part of an application-oriented technology initiative, the establishment of the “National Information Infrastructure” began; For example, the National Information Infrastructure Task Force was located directly at the White House in Washington. The committee, which is made up of high-ranking US politicians, illustrates the importance attached to building a nationwide information infrastructure at the political level as quickly as possible. These infrastructures were never implemented - despite considerable start-up investments - since the Internet had long since fulfilled a large part of the planned functionality.

The term in German-speaking countries

In terms of content, Information Highway meant the same thing that had been thought of in the Federal Republic of Germany since the 1970s: an integrated, broadband universal network with functions such as networking all schools and libraries and - later - services such as the commercial distribution of digital videos ( video-on-demand ), Interactive television , teleshopping and video conferencing over IP .

In Germany the term has been using information superhighway (: also casually Infobahn ) conducted an impact discussion. Driven by reporting in the media, the presence of terms such as information superhighway , data highway and multimedia also increased continuously in the German-speaking area from around 1994 onwards. Since the turn of the year 1994/95 at the latest, the topics of global networking and multimedia have dominated the reporting of computer magazines. From 1995 onwards, these also determined the content of popular computer magazines, gave rise to a flood of journalistic start-ups and finally reached the book offerings of established publishers.

The trade fairs CeBit 1995 and 1996 and CeBit Home 1996 were also shaped by trends around global networks and multimedia. Finally, the conventional press also picked up on the trend. For example, in March 1996 the “Spiegel” published a “Spiegel Special” with the title “The Multimedia Future”; the issue of March 11, 1996 had the motto “The world online. D @ s Netz “and reported in detail on the Internet. Even regional daily newspapers such as the “Berliner Tagesspiegel” set up sections that deal exclusively with the new technology (“interactive”). Online services and the Internet have found their place in the public consciousness. However , due to the inflationary use of the word in the media and the predominantly sole reference to technology, the term information superhighway had finally lost its original and main reference to educational content; For example, Deutsche Telekom already spoke of the product “ISDN data highway” in its catalog 94/95.

The vision of the “Information Highway” only offered a model, but there was disagreement about the concrete implementation; For example, there was a lot of speculation about the necessary technical requirements of the “data highway”, but there were no binding specifications. It was also largely unclear how the considerable financial investments needed to build the necessary global infrastructures would be raised. Even if the intercontinental connections and backbones of the “information highway” could be created through cooperation between state and private financiers, the majority of private households would remain cut off from the “global information infrastructure”: the existing narrow-band telecommunications connections are insufficient to accommodate the planned multimedia To transport services of the universal network such as video-on-demand. Large parts of Africa and Asia can currently not even fall back on a nationwide telephone network, with the exception of broadband multimedia services.

The term data superhighway originally tried to combine security, purposefulness, clarity, speed and effectiveness with the Internet. However, the expression aims more at the concept of "order" than at the concept of "freedom", which is also reflected in the new meaning of the word surfing . The term information superhighway has therefore often been criticized as a false image and has not been able to displace the widespread metaphor of “surfing”.

This will most likely not work in the future either, because the term data motorway and its synonyms are rarely used in German-speaking countries today. So a query revealed in early March 2010 at the Online Archive of the Austrian daily "Die Presse" for the entire period from 1 January 2001 to 28 February 2010 only 21 matches for superhighway and 24 matches for the data highway . Both expressions are mainly to be understood as connotation-free synonyms for Internet . “Broadband” and “high speed” appear almost exclusively as secondary meanings of the two words. At the same time, a query in the online archive of the "Frankfurter Rundschau" for the period January 1, 2005 to February 28, 2010 for the search term data highway resulted in 23 hits, for the search term data highway no hits were found. With the same query modalities, the "Presse" 14 and the "Frankfurter Rundschau" returned 0 results for the expression Information Highway .

The fact that the metaphor data highway was a phenomenon from the early days of the Internet in the 1990s is also proven by a corresponding evaluation of print articles that appeared in the German news magazine "Der Spiegel". The term appears there for the first time in 1993, peaked in 1995 and has barely been traceable since 2001.

An example of the use of the language image of the motorway is a statement made by the Austrian Chancellor Franz Vranitzky in a parliamentary session:

“When we talk about the future of our country, we cannot avoid noticing that there are new enforcement reports from the construction sites of the information superhighway, the data superhighway, almost every day. Not everything that is offered has the character of a motorway. A wide variety of nets are built according to standard, according to size, converted and so on, and all of this invites you to drive on. In order not to miss the advantages and advantages of this modern technique and technology, we have to deal with it ... "

- Franz Vranitzky : Shorthand minutes, 27th session of the Austrian National Council, XIX. Legislative Period, Tuesday 28 March 1995, p. 55


  • Matthias Bickenbach, Harun Maye: Metaphor Internet. Literary education and surfing (= Kaleidograms. Vol. 49 = Writings of the International College for Cultural Technology Research and Media Philosophy. Vol. 2). Kulturverlag Kadmos, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-86599-089-1 .
  • Danny Goodman: The Information Highway Myth. (What does the digital information superhighway really bring us?). Midas, St. Gallen et al. 1995, ISBN 3-907020-92-8 .
  • Reto M. Hilty (Ed.): Information Highway. Contributions to legal and factual issues. Stämpfli et al., Bern et al. 1996, ISBN 3-7272-9302-0 .
  • Steven E. Miller: Civilizing Cyberspace. Policy, Power, and the Information Highway. ACM Press et al., New York NY 1996, ISBN 0-201-84760-4 .
  • Joseph Weizenbaum : "Information Highway and the Global Village" - On dealing with metaphors and our responsibility for the future. In: Joseph Weizenbaum: Computer power and society. Free speeches (= Suhrkamp-Taschenbuch Wissenschaft. 1555). Edited by Gunna Wendt and Franz Klug. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2001, ISBN 3-518-29155-6 , pp. 15-34.

Individual evidence

  1. Query from March 3, 2010 in the online archive of the "Presse" .
  2. Query from March 3, 2010 in the online archive of the "Frankfurter Rundschau" .
  3. "Obituary for the data highway " , " Der Um Blätterer ", May 20, 2010, accessed on February 23, 2011.
  4. Stenographic protocol on , accessed on October 21, 2011

Web links

Wiktionary: Information highway  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations