The Infrastructure Of the Internet
‘Bundled, Buried, and Behind Closed Doors’ is a documentary by filmmaker Ben Mendelsohn. The film explores the physical infrastructures that house networks. Or, in other words, where the internet lives in the real world.
During his research, Mendelsohn came across a particularly interesting address in New York City that was home to one of the world’s biggest Internet hub’s. That address (in case you’re wondering) is 60 Hudson Street, and it’s home to the Telx data center. That data center runs a lot of the world’s Internet, and it’s one of the best kept secrets in NYC.
The storage center is interesting enough, but what’s really mind-blowing is the fact that data centers like this one follow network routes of old.
The Infrastructure Of the Internet: The Internet Is Built On History – Literally
In an interview with Motherboard Magazine, Mendelsohn further explained what his definition of “Infrastructural Fixity” means. Essentially, “…the role of preexisting networks reveals the Internet as a technological evolution, as opposed to some radical digital revolution.”
Simply put, the Internet’s infrastructure runs along old “…landline telephony networks…domestic long haul lines often run along train routes, for example, and within cities cables can exploit other conduits like electricity, gas, sewer and so forth.”
While we tend to think of the Internet as a digital revolution, it actually exists on the back of older networks and lines – that’s some pretty fascinating stuff, right? Why does any of this matter?
The Infrastructure Of the Internet: Not Without Consequence
It’s easy to drink from plastic bottles, use vast amounts of electricity, or let the tap run without so much as a second thought. But if we did stop and think about it, we’d realize the environmental impact of these things. You can think of the ‘bones’ of the Internet in much the same way.
As Mendelsohn puts it, “…these are massive networks and systems that we rely upon every day. Digital communications can have an anesthetizing, dematerializing effect that makes us forget these ecologies—screens are kind of a portal out of our immediate surroundings, into some distant or imaginary space.”
In other words: you use the Internet every day, shouldn’t you know where it comes from? Or, where your data is stored? How it got there? Where that cheap hosting site you’ve just signed up with is located in, you know, the physical world? It’s all part of the world we live in. It all matters.
The Infrastructure Of the Internet: More About Infrastructure
Mendelsohn has created additional films since the original documentary mentioned in this article (his thesis, actually). All of them are related to infrastructure, and all of them can help you understand the parts of our world that we rarely acknowledge.
Did you know about the Internet’s infrastructure? Are you aware of where data centers like the one in NYC are located – or that they exist? Does any of this really matter? Should we connect our ‘screen world’ with the real world? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one!
Photo courtesy of Rhys A. via Flickr Creative Commons