Does the Internet control the world?

One point that I found interesting from this Week’s Galloway reading, was the idea that the availability of the Internet could be used as a sort of ‘weapon’ in future wars.

Galloway discusses the Domain Name System (DNS), which is an essential component of the functionality of the Internet. The DNS contradicts the decentralised nature of the World Wide Web, in a sense that it is hierarchical.

‘All DNS information is controlled in a[n]… inverted-tree structure.
Ironically, then, nearly all Web traffic must submit to a hierarchical
structure (DNS) to gain access to the anarchic and radically horizontal structure
of the Internet.’

So essentially this one element of the Internet is actually centralised. This means that North America (the country who owns the most important Internet servers in the world), could hypothetically ban a certain country from the Internet. The inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, claims that:

‘…they could do so very
easily through a simple modification of the information contained in the root
servers at the top of the inverted tree‘.

And without the Internet, a country would pretty much lose all connection with other countries. This would have a major effect on not only their importing but their exporting.

I always thought that this ‘withholding of resources’ tactic would be used in future wars, when things like fuel and water were scant; but I had never thought about it in relation to technology. I guess that’s what Russia is really doing at the moment with gas. Although, they’ve also got nuclear weapons…

‘Adrian Disagrees’

 Jane discusses something I have been wanting to post about for a while now – the Wikipedia game. I used to play this in class at high school as well. It highlights the idea of hyperlinking and almost proves that you can get from one ‘place’ on the internet, to anywhere else on the internet – simply through links.

I had to have a bit of a giggle at Kiralee’s running-commentry-like post about this week’s symposium. ‘Adrian disagrees’ (to something Betty has said)… well that doesn’t happen every week does it?

Ellen takes an oath that she’ll start to get her shit together for uni this week. I think I need to make the same one as well. Last week I got through two seasons of Modern Family and even now I’m writing this while watching Harry Potter with my housemates. Anyway, it’s getting to the business end of the year so I suppose I better knuckle down, just for a couple of weeks and try to make the most of my time. Here’s to hoping I actually do it.


In yesterday’s symposium, Adrian gave the analogy of a database being like a ‘box’ with information in it, that has rules so that one can find the pieces of information they want more easily. As soon as I heard this, I thought of algebra. In year seven I remember being taught that an algebraic equation could be likened to a box or a machine and when you put ‘something’ (a number) into it, it would churn out another ‘something’ based on the rules which ‘occupied’ the box. I’m sure most people would have been given a sheet of paper like the one below when they were beginning to learn about this strand of mathematics as well.


Anyway, I soon realised that the association I had made was based on more than just a similarity in metaphor. Algebra is really the basis for the formulas and algorithms which control computers and in turn databases. For instance, a person’s iTunes music library is a form of database – it is ‘box’ of information that can be ordered alphabetically and can be grouped by artist/genre/album etc. If someone uses the iTunes search bar to try to find a song they want to listen to, they may type the first few letters of the band in and in turn the computer utilises algorithms (rules) to find the corresponding information.

Thus, just as Betty concluded in our symposium, databases aid in ‘searchability’ – making it easier for us to find information efficiently.

Forms of Cultural Expression

The Manovich reading for this week looked at the differences between narrative form and database form. (According to the reading database form ‘is defined as a structured collection of data. The data stored in a database are organised for fast search and retrieval by a computer…’)

It contends that narrative form (as commonly found in video and print mediums) belongs to the modern age and that database form (found in ‘new media technologies’ i.e. computers) essentially belongs to the post-modern age. These different forms of ‘cultural expression’ are starkly dissimilar due to the fact that databases ‘do not tell stories; they don’t have a beginning or end; in fact, they don’t have any development, thematically, formally or otherwise, that would organise their elements into a sequence. Instead, they are collections of individual items, where every item has the same significance as any other.’ For example, the internet, or even a single web page encapsulates database form as they are simply ‘a sequential list of separate elements: text blocks, images, digital video clips, and links to other pages’. And because the internet always allows for users to add new elements to a page at any point in time, there is never one start, nor one end, only ‘middle’. This ‘openness’ differentiates it from film or print; because of the physical limitations these mediums present they must finish at some point and thus be ‘complete’ in themselves.

Ultimately the internet can be thought of as collection of information… a collection that has the potential to keep growing forever.

Peerin’ at my peers

So for a way better explanation of the 80/20 rule than my pissy description in my post ‘The Death of ‘Traditional Media”, head to Nethaniel’s blog.

On a different note, Evan brought up some interesting points about Facebook friends in his blog post ‘Remove Your Friends and Hide Your True Self’. It made me think a lot about the 1000+ friends most of us now have on ‘fb’. I mean, come on! As if any of us actually have 1000+ people we could safely call friends.

But then I realised that the term ‘Facebook Friend’ is exactly that, it’s not an actual friend, it’s a person we have connected with online, no matter how fleeting the connection is or might have been. OK so maybe ‘friend’ isn’t quite the correct term either – but I think it’s another one of those cases where technology is developing at a faster rate than language itself. Thus, there is simply no appropriate word to truly explain what a ‘Facebook Friend’ actually is.

Evan asks himself: ‘is it time to rekindle old friendships? Or is it time to dump the unnecessary weight and delete the people I’m no longer associated with?’ Maybe. But, I don’t necessarily think we all need to go around deleting everyone off Facebook just because we aren’t associated with them in the physical world any more. This is really the beauty of the social networking site. It keeps the possibility for you to reconnect with people if need be. For instance, a lot of people I have met travelling I would rarely speak to (in fact Facebook messaging would be the only way I would probably come into contact with them at all). However, in the future, just say I find myself in Berlin, I’ll remember that I met that German girl in that club in that town in Croatia and realise that she lives in Berlin and, next thing you know I’ve got myself some free accommodation! All because of Facebook. Not only that, I actually like having a few random Italians come up in my newsfeed – these are some of the only glimpses that I get of the language I learnt throughout school in my day-to-day life.

Anyway pretty much what I’m trying to question is the notion of treating Facebook like real life, when it is not.

Also I agree with Ellen in many respects about the whole ‘handing in a draft’ aspect of the upcoming essay for the course. I didn’t come to university to be treated like a high school student either.

The Death of ‘Traditional Media’

This week’s Networked Media Symposium helped me to gain a deeper understanding of last week’s readings on the 80/20 rule and ‘the long tail’. Prior to this discussion, I don’t think I completely understood how the 80/20 rule was linked to power law distributions. Adrian used the graph below with the example of the film industry, saying that if the ‘head’ was all of the cinema ‘hits’, which are roughly 20% of all films made, but make 80% of all the money in the industry; then the ‘long tail’ is the other 80% of all films made, otherwise known as the ‘misses’, which only bring in 20% of the overall market revenue.


Adrian also told us that ‘the most expensive thing in retail is shelf space’. Thus, it would only make sense for video rental stores to stock the most popular movies – the 20% that makes the 80% of the market’s income. However, ‘shelf space’ or even the idea of space in general, isn’t a limitation online (unless we’re talking hard-drive space). For example, it doesn’t cost iTunes any more money to ‘stock’ a Lady Gaga track as it does some obscure band’s psychedelic-indie-rock-hindu-dubstep-minimal track. It is for this reason that niche markets have flourished online and is essentially why ‘traditional media’ like newspapers, DVDs and CDs are dying out (have a look at the article Adrian posted about Music Streaming Revenues Overtaking CD Sales In The U.S.)