Martin Dodge

Seeing inside the Cloud: Some Ways to Map the Internet

Lecture given at the symposium "Mapping"

Martin Dodge

Martin Dodge

Media Files


What does the Internet look like? Conventionally, engineers have represented it as a cloud, a useful graphic shorthand to mask its complexity. In my presentation I consider how cartographic maps and graph visualisations are used to represent what’s inside the Internet cloud. Maps are powerful because they do not just represent space, they are also active in the construction of space inside peoples heads. This is especially so in the construction of peoples cognitive conceptions of the Internet, as the infrastructure is largely invisible and intangible in everyday life.
Over the last thirty years or so, a huge range of different maps of the Internet have been produced, with diverse forms and function, from simple geographic plans of cable routes to complex real-time 3D visualisations. They have been produced for a number of distinct purposes from planning network deployment, operational management, to prove academic theories, as grad student projects, for market research, for setting policy and monitoring outcomes, and to try to sell things. And, of course, many have been motivated to map the internet for no particular reason other than because it is there. There are many different aspects of the internet that have been mapped from physical infrastructure, logical layers and protocols, traffic flows, user demographics. The maps cover a range of different scales from individuals, single buildings up to global scale. Many of these maps are beautiful and many more are really rather ugly. A few are actually quite useful, but many more are not very helpful at all. However, all the maps provide a fascinating picture of what the Internet looks like, or rather they provide some insights into what people think the Internet should look, once the clouds have cleared.

Artists / Authors



Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe (ZKM)


Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, Lorenzstrasse 19, 76135 Karlsruhe, Germany

Partners / Sponsors

Goethe-Institute and the German Ministry of Research and Education BMBF.




, Apr 21, 2004



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