Since the Internet is considered as a space, is it possible to provide a complete graphic representation, to draw one or more maps? Artists and experts have been trying for a long time.
To find an answer, the first tool was Google. The results in French mainly show Internet maps seen from the outside. For those in English, we get some visualizations of the weight of sites in number of connections.
Boris Beaude, a geographer and researcher at the University of Lausanne, explains that mapping the Internet "makes it possible to better understand the architecture[of the Internet and its sub-areas, such as websites], the actors who produce them, the reality of what is happening there and the underlying power issues".
This is not a fundamentally recent idea, since he himself studied the subject at the end of the 1990s. He noted that "the continuation of TCP/IP protocols, or even packet switching alone, is based on essentially spatial considerations: how to make communication as efficient as possible on heterogeneous and vulnerable networks".
Beyond the researchers, some artists have also looked at the issue. An American designer, Chris Harrison, represented the journeys that data makes around the world. He explains his gesture quite simply: "Humans have always tended to represent graphically the spaces in which they evolve. Now the Internet, we walk around, it moves, there are millions, trillions of tools connected to each other".
Louise Drulhe was looking to represent the Internet for her diploma from the Ecole des Arts-Déco. She then faced two difficulties. The first is that the space in which we operate online is constantly changing. She explained to Numerama "it's terrible to want to represent cyberspace, because the speed at which it changes has nothing to do with geography. When I started working on my first maps in 2013, we were barely talking about the Chinese Internet, for example".
The second is the very low number of representations of the online space. "In 2013, I was working on a thesis on Internet space, but I quickly realized the lack of information on online space as I understood it. There were some old maps from the 90s. But it had nothing to do with the current cyberspace," says the young woman.
According to Boris Beaude, the lack of representations is explained by the fact that it is the "powerful imaginaries, which suggest that all the spatial vocabulary associated with the Internet is metaphorical". He attributes this mixture to "a materialistic conception of space". The territory and "the materiality of the ground on which our feet rest" would too often be confused with the idea of spatiality.
So what measures for an online space? For Boris Beaude, "distance is thought in terms of gaps, contact or interaction. This allows us to think about the relationship and how beings (and more and more objects) are connected and interact". And to show the architectures that facilitate these contacts.
Louise Drulhe has opted for a multiplicity of hypotheses that suggest a different aspect of the Internet. But all of them meet the same need: "representing the Internet helps us to understand the (geo-)political issues at stake".
The artist does not stop there since his last hypothesis is that of an Internet architecture that would be specific to everyone. It may not be possible to map the Internet for the simple reason that no road is used exactly twice in the same way.
Boris Beaude responds to this by opposing personal navigation and the power of the world's largest networks: "Google and Facebook are the two players with the greatest visibility on contemporary digital spatialities". Paradoxically, therefore, "while it is difficult to map the Internet because the relationships that constitute its space are so disproportionate and reticular, it has never been so simple for those who have mastered it to map the spatiality of individuals".
And to conclude that "politicians will have to ask themselves what they are trying to control: things[in this case, data, editor's note] or the movement of things and the architecture that makes this movement possible". A cross-border and disproportionate space par excellence.
Source : Numerama