Review: Networks of New York

Ingrid Burrington’s Networks of New York combines accessible technical descriptions, aggressive journalism, and a subversive bent into an atlas of New York City’s informational and surveillance nervous system. She starts from a simple enough sounding question – “What does the Internet look like?” – and takes off into a city-wide census of construction sites and corporate history.  It’s engaging and enlightening, even if you know what the Internet looks like.

She starts from the very basics, the wires and fibers that pump our informational lifeblood.  Her approach is instructional.  There’s no easily accessible public map – if there is such a map at all – so she shows us how to infer one.  Construction sites mark the routes of the conduits, and she provides a key to interpreting them that lets the interested track the content and affiliation of the pathways.  The primer to this telecom argot opens the door to exploration in ways that a map would not.

The whole book is that way.  It’s both an informative tour the infrastructure and a HOWTO for exploring it yourself.  Along the way she expands her mandate from mapping the informational tubes to a bestiary of the data collection systems connected to it, from license plate detecting cameras to intriguingly located intelligence offices.

Networks is both an exportation and an invitation to other people and cities to explore their versions.

A must.

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