January 2013 Archives

There is a distinct difference between the physical world and the Internet. That difference should be honored. It is strange that uncovering the 'real, concrete, and verifiable' Internet fascinates Andrew Blum, but I realize that his inspiration to visit these real-world places and spaces is valuable to him only because he is enjoying the physical world in the process, which is a sacred part of life we must protect.

Blum asks, "I longed to see its most significant places, but were its places really places at all?" (p. 38) The 'places of the internet' that enable it to function are not significant because the places do not hold all the Information; there is no meaning there. The tubes, light, broken packets of info, wires, satellites, And the Internet is about ideas, communication, knowledge, scientific progress, relaxing enjoyment, sharing, and being in the intellectual world.

"It's about you and me talking." (p. 49) Yes it is, and this communicative and social aspect of the Internet is endlessly valuable. But recognize that talking using the Internet is painfully void of body language, real facial expressions (emoji can only do so much), vocal intonation, 'uhhms' and pauses, the endearing brush of an arm, the fresh scent of the speakers gum or ugly morning breath, sense the essence of their aura, see their tears, hear their laugh... communication using different Internet media is inferior to interpersonal speaking and engaging in the physical spaces around us together.

So since Blum is motivated to understand the Internet through his unique "Tubes" lens, I get why the visit described in Chapter 2 was so valuable to him. On page 46, Blum describes the Google image of Boelter Hall "where the Internet had once been fully containable" as not being enough. He wanted to visit the place and meet Kleinrock in the physical world. "I could have reached him on the phone, we could have video-chatted." (p. 46) His desire to go shake his hand is a perfect example of how we experience our passions fully in the real-life physical world.

"I had set out in search of the real, the concrete, the verifiable, but I was greeted at the door by the historiographic equivalent of a comments thread." (p. 36) The way the Internet operates, especially in terms of person-to-person communication and group collaboration, is so different than in real time and space. The physical world is irreplaceable and more magical than the Internet, always.

[Side end note:] As a student pursuing a professional Public Relations career, it's very true that sitting (or standing as I sometimes prefer) at a screen is totally necessary and genuinely productive. I love the seemingly infinite benefits offered by the Mother of All Media: Internet. But I also hate it. What do I DO while sitting at various screens for often far too long? Attend to and manage emails, complete assignments, research interests, fulfill work responsibilities, apply for things, plan for my future, reach out to friends... But know what is most valuable? Getting to use the Internet to find new ways to go BE in the physical world. The real world.
Like right now. I used Google search to double check the schedule at my favorite yoga studio. I am a passionate yogi, and practicing yoga is one of many awesome ways to enjoy movement and the physical realm. So did the internet just enable me to make better use of the physical world? Are they connected in that way? I stand by that there is a distinct difference between the two worlds, but not always a distinct separation.

Before this book I never really put much thought into how physical the Internet really is. As naive as that may be, growing up in a world that has always been connected and information has been extremely accessible whether by your portable laptop, iPod music device or smart phone, I've never had to think about it much. As Blum states, the Internet is a "tangible" object (which he commonly uses to describe the Internet throughout the book), and finding out where it comes from and to understand how it all fits together was his main purpose through Tubes. I believe he does a good job at showing the geography and many different pieces and people that connect throughout the world in order to create the Internet.
Although the Internet works because of fiber-optic tubes, routers, and a variety of connection hubs throughout the world, the Internet truly wouldn't exist if it wasn't for the people. It took people years to realize in order to create a system to connect everyone around the world, every network would need to come together to connect and to make a better Internet. Behind all of these physical connections are also the connections of different companies and people, all working together.
On p. 102 Blum said, "There are different kinds of connection. There are the connections between people, the million kinds of love. There are the connections between computers, expressed in algorithms and protocols. But this was the Internet's connection to the earth, the seam between the global brain and the geologic crust". I personally thought it was a good description of how everything works together. From the people, to the more electric and "virtual connections", to the actual physical piece which is the earth, without one of those pieces, the Internet couldn't exist.

Tubes and first blog entry!

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When I bought the book "Tubes" for our class I had no idea why a book about the internet should have this name. I have never been much of a person who sits on the internet or on a computer at all. My view of it was simply, yes it's there now show me how to use it. I was always into sports and being outside and had zero interest in sitting behind a computer screen. However, that changes quickly! When I started high school a lot of our assignments were on a computer or something we had to email or load up to a website. This was extremely frustrating at first, but all of a sudden I knew how to type and I did not have to look at the keyboard anymore. It's funny to me when I see older people struggle with this, because it is so easy now and kids know more than adults. But I never gave one thought as to where an email actually travels before it shows up on someone's computer or phone.
After starting this book it completely changed my view. Who would ever have such a thought that the whole internet is a huge map of tubes, going from country to country, or even continent to continent? Any why and how would you ever create these maps?
I am originally from Europe and would email my family here in the US after that whole thing exploded and everyone had it at home. I still remember the waiting time while the phone dialed up, just so we could connect to the internet, until we finally got wireless and it was basically always connected. I would just turn the box on, open a file and send an email which would appear in seconds to someone else's computer. It is fascinating to me that someone would want to find out where exactly this file goes before it ends up there.
On page 77 there is a quote "it was a long time ago in Internet years." I liked this particular quote because it kind of shows you how fast everything is evolving especially after the internet phenomenon exploded. I guess this is when people just accepted that internet was a thing and how it actually worked was not that important. The "Tubes" book now has opened my eyes and made me, a non-internet loving person, intrigued and I want to know more as I am reading.

I am just want to end by saying that I am not 100% sure what you want from us on this blog post, but I focused mostly on the reading and how it appeals to me personally.

I have always felt lucky to be born at this particular period of time. I've personally witnessed the infancy of the internet from the time of Netscape all the way to its explosive, and potentially limitless, growth today. But I will always wonder what it was like to be there, at the birth of network communications. What would you have thought it could become? Most people wouldn't even be able to imagine the possibilities that the Internet could offer. As Kleinrock said on p48-49, "I thought it was going to be computers talking to computers or people talking to computers. That's not what it's about... what I missed was the social side."
I love the quote that Thomas Friedman, author and columnist for The New York Times, made back in 2011. When preparing for his newest book he checked the index of his previous book, The World Is Flat, which deals with globalization, and noticed something was missing. "Facebook didn't exist; Twitter was a sound; the cloud was in the sky; 4G was a parking place; LinkedIn was a prison; applications were what you sent to college; and Skype for most people was typo. All of that changed in just the last six years."
I feel this book does a wonderful job of explaining the real beginnings of how the Internet started and how it grew. From that first humble IMP communication, "Talked to SRI host to host", all the way to our "gigs" of data shooting down fiber optics at the speed of light. Although this book singularly focuses on the physical aspects of the Internet, to me what is on the web is so much more important since all of those tangible pieces were only built to meet the demand of its users. The Internet has allowed us to work online, bank online, game online, and communicate with anyone, anywhere, at any time, instantly all online. Over this short time, as we have revolutionized the Internet, in turn, the Internet has revolutionized us and it wasn't due to a hub at MAE-East or the invention of fiber optics, it was due to how amazing the Internet itself really is.

This will be the place for your blog assignments. Looking forward to reading your work!

If you are looking for the Public Evernote Notebook for this class, here is a link.
-Josh

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