Tuesday, July 10, 2012

tubes: behind the scenes

Referencing the infamous Ted Stevens comment about the internet, Andrew Blum has written a book simply titled Tubes. 

The book may be of interest to some readers of this blog, not only for the title, but also because, according to the New York Times book review, it examines the materiality of technology. Here is a section from the book:
I have confirmed with my own eyes that the Internet is many things, in many places. But one thing it most certainly is, nearly everywhere, is, in fact, a series of tubes. There are tubes beneath the ocean that connect London and New York. Tubes that connect Google and Facebook. There are buildings filled with tubes, and hundreds of thousands of miles of roads and railroad tracks, beside which lie buried tubes. Everything you do online travels through a tube.

I haven't read the book but am intrigued, not only by Blum's pursuit of fibre cables, but also by another section of the book quoted in the book review, where Blum learns that the Internet in has a smell, "one he describes as 'an odd but distinctive mix of industrial strength air-conditioners and the ozone released by capacitors'". This reminds me of the smell of engine rooms I have visited to see the hub of pneumatic tube activity. So often the sensory dimensions of the internet are forgotten in the focus on the ephemeral and virtual, but this technology too, so this book promises to tell us, also has multisensory, material dimensions.

Thanks Andy for the link.

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