MCC’s Aaron Cohen Takes Us “Inside the Internet Garage”

NYU Steinhardt’s new interview series, “Inside the Internet Garage,” launches April 24 and features personal reflections on the first 20 years of internet history from some of the internet’s leading personalities. Adjunct professor and INC@NYU founder, Aaron Cohen, talks more about the upcoming series:

First and foremost, what is INC@NYU?

INC @NYU stands for the Initiative for Internet and Network Culture at New York University. This enterprise seeks to catalyze and cultivate new knowledge about digital culture, society, and history.  Steinhardt’s Department of Media, Culture, and Communications offers an interdisciplinary major in theory and media history that has become a superb foundation for an information age oriented liberal arts education.   INC@NYU enables us to engage a community that includes scholars all over NYU, digital industry professionals in New York, and students of many disciplines.  The output of our work together will  to  an emerging new field in academia that we might think of as Internet studies.

What was your motivation for creating “Inside the Internet Garage?”

I’ve been working in the digital industry for 18 years. In my former capacity as a startup CEO, I met many fascinating people who shaped the industry that 250 million Americans and nearly 3 billion global citizens use today.  I  wanted these people to visit NYU and share their stories in front of a live audience.  We then make that interview available  to everybody around the world.  Think of it as  a continuing  oral history of our transformation from an industrial to information society. We have many conversations ahead of us.

Why did you invite Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg to launch the series and what do you hope students will glean from your interview with them?

Walt helped invent technology journalism and may be the person most responsible for challenging engineers to make products and services lay people can actually use.  I think of him as the godfather of “ease of use.” Kara is among the top two or three journalists covering Silicon Valley on a daily basis. She knows everybody, fears nobody no matter how powerful, and writes with great knowledge and flair. She’s also really funny. Together they formed AllThingsD. That has led to “The D Conference,” an event that regularly sets the agenda for the coming year in technology and media. We are interviewing two of tech’s most famous interviewers.

Leil Leibovitz, another MCC professor, categorizes himself as a video game scholar. Would you consider yourself an Internet history scholar?

I consider myself a witness to Internet history.  I’m a former industry professional and have a very different academic background than my colleagues on the faculty.  They are the trained scholars.  I’m hoping our work at INC@NYU catalyzes professors in a range of disciplines to start asking more questions and conducting more research about how the Internet and network cultures are transforming global society.

What do you find to be the most fascinating about studying the internet?

Keeping up is tremendously challenging. I’m never bored.  Ever