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.