Sunday, September 30, 2012

@anyplace, @anytime

Reading through the Terranova, I was interested in the stakes of our inability to conceptualize the servers and routers that ground the space of the internetwork. As Terranova notes, “…if the abstract Internet space is a grid in principle equally accessible from all points, in practice [how we get from A to B] is determined by the relation and state of traffic between the servers” (45). Yet, as she also notes, the “Internet grid” seems to function based on the principle that one can travel to @anyplace, and that once there, one can access its contents at @anytime (46). Such a conceptualization thus entails a disavowal of the actual movement of information, the packet switching, the unequal bandwidths, etc. Accessing a webpage with a server based in the United States is different depending on whether or not one is in France or South Korea, not only in the geographical distance between the various points, but in the temporal distance determined by network speeds. @anyplace obscures the geographical distances, while @anytime negates the question of speed of access.

Why, I wonder, does there seem to be an inability to think through the physical structures that ground Internet space and time? There seems to be an ideological collapse that allows at @anyplace and @anytime to untangle themselves from the ‘real’ conditions of their existence (although as Terranova also discusses, the (im)probability that corresponds to the virtual is also very much at play). Is this meant as an ‘equalizer’ of sorts, an ideological push towards a view of the internet as an equal, even playing field that serves to obscure the protocols and power relations that govern it? Why do people not know more about the servers and routers that allow @anyplace and @anytime to exist in the first place?

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