Visualising the internet

The internet has been described in innumerable ways. At times, it is difficult to imagine the force which we interact we act with so often. Spending most of our days in front of a big screen and then the small screen in our pockets, my attention is certainly divided.

A couple of days back I read this wonderful book by Andrew Blum called Tubes. Blum became hung up on the lack of physicality associated with the Internet. The journey to find exactly what places support and connect with the Internet was triggered following an unusual interaction with a squirrel in his backyard.Once when Blum’s internet broke the cable guy came to fix it, he said something which appeared extremely preposterous to Blum.He said ‘I think a squirrel is chewing on your internet’. And this of course seemed absurd, because as all of you know the internet is the great changer of everything, it has changed revolutions, and dating and shopping and anything that you might imagine.And then Blum realised if he yanked off the wire from the wall, it had to go someplace. So, Blum went on an adventure to find the buildings, installations and people who make the Internet what it is today which ended up in completely unexpected but wonderful book.

Ben Mendelsohn explores this subject in Bundled, Buried & Behind Closed Doors, a short documentary on the internet infrastructure. He takes us inside 60 Hudson Street in New York City, a nondescript building that houses one of the major nodes of the Internet on the east coast of the US.

Timo Arnall,a designer and artist from London, has documented the hidden spaces,the series of massive servers, wires and equipment tucked away in high-security buildings in his project Internet Machine.

And, there has also been an attempt to visualise the immaterial, the network around us which carries multiple giga-bits of data around us in the immaterials project.

In the words of the designers, the Immaterials project emerged from the humble preoccupations of a few designers dealing with some of the invisible, immaterial, intangible stuff we had in front of us. These small experiments led to larger and more visually and narratively communicative work. In the end what I think we’ve developed is an approach to technology that revolves around material exploration, explanation and communication.

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