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Themesicon: navigation pathMapping and Texticon: navigation pathInternetmapping
Seeing inside the cloud: Some ways to map the Internet
Martin Dodge



What does the Internet look like? Conventionally, engineers have represented it as a cloud, a quick graphic shorthand to mask its complexity. In this paper I consider how cartographic maps and graph visualisations can be used to represent what›s inside the cloud. The paper reviews a range of illustrative projects that have sought to map Internet infrastructure, dividing the discussion into four sections, themed by map purpose: (i) maps for operational Internet management; (ii) maps for Internet marketing; (iii) maps for Internet policy and planning; (iv) maps for academic Internet analysis. 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 graduate 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 individual 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.


Power of maps

Conventionally, maps are material artefacts that visually represent a geographical landscape using the cartographic norms of a planar view (i.e. looking straight down from above) and a uniform reduction in scale. They have traditionally been used as static storage devices for spatial data and usually printed on paper, but now they are much more likely to be interactive tools displayed on a computer screen.

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