Saturday, September 20, 2014

The map of the Internet

I imagine that many clever people have attempted to map the Internet in a variety of ways. But since I assume these are mostly analytical, mathematical, graphical and literal mappings I can't be be bothered to look too far into it. This is because I am thinking of a different sort of map of the Internet, an analogical one, a metaphorical one, my kind of map, a map that can help us to visualize and see. Let us translate the inconceivable Internet into a landscape we can begin to understand.

Yes, this is my spoken map of the Internet.

Feel free to use it to get around. I think it will help.

Let us begin appropriately for a creation like the Internet, one that is so incorporeal, and even more appropriately for a map, by slowly descending to the Internet from above. There it is laid out below us. It is vast and clean and sort of featureless from a distance. And the cleanliness is like a hospital from a dream, or a vast new city just built that no one has moved into yet. It is pristine because nothing ages or decays there. It is only as we drift down closer and closer that we see what this means; the endless piles and accumulation, not of the garbage dump, it is not fetid. It is fresh frozen, and ever accumulating without loss or compression.

Ah, now we make out the surface, that great strange sea, gaining in texture as we come near. Almost at a single moment the bright colors come clear: candy! The whole surface of the Internet is candy! Cheap, familiar, brand name candy, Hersheys and Kit Kats and Butterfingers and Almond Joy and on and on. Oh, there are chips too, sour cream and onion flavored Pringles and Lays and Ranch Doritos. All the sleek, perfect, opulent, colorful packaging. Eat all you like! You could never exhaust this fecundity of junk food.

"But, is there any good candy on the surface of the Internet?" You ask.

What do you mean? Look at all the colors! It is a rainbow! Do you dislike the sweet? The Salty? Have you forgotten how delicious a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup is? Eat a thousand!

Okay, that is the whole of the inexhaustible surface of the Internet. But an aerial view can only tell us so much. There is more, much more under this packaged candy strewn surface.

So we reach down and find...

Only more candy, pictures of candy, tales of candy, offerings of candy, directions to candy, candy.

This surely can't be all. And it isn't. This is why a normal map would just not do.

Without intention one cannot get past the candy, but pick something. Go ahead, anything. Did someone say Japanese Musicals. That will do indeed! Now we are looking for Japanese Musicals and suddenly we can see them, studded underneath among the endless candy. Reach for one. Ah, just candy. Concentrate. Try again. Japanese Musicals. Here is one, no, wait, it changes to candy before our eyes. Once more, concentrate with all your might. Yes. We have done it. We have broken through to the second layer of the Internet. Well done! Information, history, news, art, philosophy, analysis, archives!

Wait! No! Don't move! Arrrgghhh!

No, don't worry, it's okay. It's an important lesson. All paths on the second level of the Internet go up, almost like escalators, back to the candy level, and the paths are everywhere.

Concentrate again on Japanese Musicals. Let's get back to the under candy level. Good. Now the only way to move from here is again with attention, specific focus. It is better to get even more specific. Figure that if you are not going deeper you are going back up to the surface. Let's try Japanese Musicals of the early post war period. Yes, you will still find candy spilling down. You must ignore that. And this, you ask, what is this thing. Don't worry too much about it. It is a corpse, but they are far less menacing and horrifying down here where they don't decay, much more like wax dummies. Lots of these down here, much dead, much forgotten, all perfectly preserved exactly in place forever. Occasionally they have something useful on them, but mostly you just want to move on. Yes, there are indeed many corpses, and when you get even deeper down, it's mostly corpses.

So bit by bit we work our way down with early post war Japanese Musicals, poking ever deeper with our more and more specific searches. We're looking into the movie Tokyo Kid and director Torajiro Saito. We use translation pages so we can search further in Japanese. We have made it to the edge of the third level. Don't move. Don't even breathe. Everything is cliffs here, gaping holes, dead ends, things that will fling you back to the surface, and bridges out everywhere. The surface of the Internet is so shiny and sweet and full and endless, but by the third level one can easily see that everything here is under construction, partially done, unfinished, and abandoned. Everything now is about getting around. Sometimes we must even build the Internet ourselves just to get from one place to the next. We make our own ladders now. How deep does it go?

It goes much deeper, but this is the end of our map. A small guide. It is a map and not the thing in itself.

And yet, oddly, it also is the thing itself, for this is a blog post, and so of the Internet indeed. And I have taken you to the edge of the third level. Watch your step on the way out.

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