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Mapping Internet Networks

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I recently received a copy of Elsewhere:Mapping New Cartographies of Networks and Territories, a collection of essays about mapping. Janet Abrams and Peter Hall, the book’s editors write in their introduction: “Mapping has emerged in the information age as a means to make the complex accessible, the hidden visible, the unmappable mappable. As we struggle to steer through the torrent of data unleashed by the Internet, and to situate ourselves in a world in which commerce and community have been redefined in terms of networks, mapping has become a way of making sense of things.”

Certainly mapping has been applied to many non-geographic spheres, some more successfully than others. One such area is that of the Internet. Network backbones and servers all have some geographic location but in the world of the Internet where these things are is less important than the network connections being made. the Cooperative Association of Internet Data Analysis has attempted to map the Internet’s topology. Using what it calls a skitter graph, CAIDA plots locations of servers and backbones using only their longitudinal coordinate. All such locations are plotted along the edge of a circle and connections between sites are made within the circle. There are 156 MB animations showing the development of the Internet using skitter graphs over an 18 month period but expect a long wait the file to download. Also available on the site are more traditional looking maps, animated to show the world wide spread of vairous Internet viruses, as well as links to a number of applets and programs for mapping Internet related networks (see the visualization section).

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