lies & spin
page considers visualisation of the net - techniques for
mapping the web (eg by highlighting links between different
sites or the geography of servers and traffic flows) and
other parts of the net.
It covers -
Although cyberspace is famously "everywhere and nowhere"
it is feasible to identify -
physical infrastructure that underpins the net, for
example, servers, cables and wireless access points
volume and direction of email and other traffic, as
some parts of cyberspace are more visited than others
and online populations are clustered rather than evenly
spread across the globe
relationship between sites (and between documents)
relationship between online individuals, organisations
and other entities
thence construct tables, maps
or graphs. Visualisation of the four layers of the net
can be characterised as follows -
1. physical infrastructure
As we have noted in discussing Networks
& the Global Information Infrastructure, the topography
of much of the internet's infrastructure reflects the
construction of communication networks over the past two
hundred years (with for example some major fibre optic
cable laid along rights of way provided by railway and
It also reflects the broader pattern of human settlement,
with internet hosts
clustered in/around major cities (often in large-scale
'server farms' or 'web hotels' located in redeveloped
areas on the fringe of central business districts)
located in a handful of nations (the majority of sites
in some countries are hosted in New York) and a few
regions within those nations
Zook's 1998 paper
The Web of Consumption: The Spatial Organization of
the Internet Industry in the US - consistent with
indications from Australia and other nations - provides
a striking demonstration of how the supposedly 'spaceless'
internet industry is clustering in specific geographical
locations, in particular New York, LA and San Francisco.
The notion of 'critical information infrastructure' has
meant that detailed information about the configuration
of the GII and each country's national information infrastructure
is difficult to obtain. That is partly inertia - telecommunication
companies and other service providers have few commercial
incentives to publish detailed maps of their networks
(with Australia's discussed here)
- and partly a sense that denying information denies opportunities
for terrorism. Most publicly available maps are thus decidedly
The Cybergeography.org site features a selection of types
of maps relating to infrastructure cable
and satellite links, wireless
and other infrastructure. The Wireless
note elsewhere on this site identifies maps of wireless
access points in Australia and New Zealand.
Cyberspace can also be characterised as information flows,
with tables and maps for example identifying
information is going online (eg the clustering of domain
name registrations and hosts)
number of emails sent via particular ISPs
traffic across the GII (eg bytes from the US to Australia
over specific links versus bytes from Australia to the
quantity of spam received by particular ISPs or organisations
location of participants in local and international
link analysis and webometrics
Link analysis tools include
studies include the 2003 Hyperlink Analyses of the
World Wide Web: A review paper
by Han Woo Park & Mike Thelwall and the latter's Link
Analysis: An Information Science Approach site.
is server-side crawler, analysis and visualisation software
that provides co-link analysis of hyperlinks, locates
densely interlinked networks of organisations (pages)
concerned with a particular issue and visualises 'issue
networks' in circles and clusters.
Studies indicate that some users envisage the web as a
library, with sites, documents and other resources being
identified and accessed through a directory
(the basis for the early success of portals such as Yahoo!)
or a text-based search engine.
There is increasing interest, especially among experienced
specialist users, in using graphic representations for
the display of search results and interative maps in searching.
One example is the KartOO
mapping wired social networks and participation
Cyberspace is also a manifestation of social relationships
and activity, which can be represented in different ways.
It is clear, for example, that most posts on many newsgroups
come from a handful of subscribers - papers by Arnold,
Williams & Slater for example demonstrate that over
80% of posts on the Australian DNS List and LINK List
come from under 5% of subscribers.
It is also clear, as might be expected from studies of
patterns in offline citations, that links between individuals
and documents are not evenly distributed. Some documents
are more cited (or linked to) than others; some bloggers
are more linked to (and thus more likely to be read and
thus linked to) than others.
A range of social network analysis tools have been developed
since the 1980s for use on a stand-alone basis or in mapping
online relationships by for example crawling the web.
They include NetDraw, Pajek and UCINet.
Background is provided in Social Network Analysis
(Cambridge: Cambridge Uni Press 1994) by Stanley Wasserman
& Katherine Faust, Models & Methods in Social
Network Analysis (Cambridge Uni Press, forthcoming)
edited by Wasserman & Peter Carrington and in discussion
elsewhere on this site regarding social networks, such
as Hab Woo Park's 2003 'What is hyperlink network analysis?:
New method for the study of social structure on the Web'
in 25 Connections 1 (PDF).
studies and resources
Starting points for thinking about visualisation challenges
and mechanisms are the work of Edward Tufte, discussed
in the Design Guide elsewhere on this site, and How
Maps Work: Representation, Visualization and Design
(New York: Guilford 1995) by Alan MacEachren.
Cybergeographer Martin Dodge offers an excellent introduction
to mapping traffic and co-authored the outstanding Mapping
Cyberspace (London: Routledge 2000), which has a companion
The Electronic Space Project (Espace)
at Michigan State University complements the Geography
project. We recommend Information Tectonics: Space,
Place & Technology In An Electronic Age (New York:
Wiley 2000), a collection of papers edited by Mark Wilson
& Kenneth Corey and the associated maps
of hosts and access to telecommunications.
The Geography of Cyberspace project
supplies extensive maps and diagrams that represent internet
traffic, the geographical distribution of hosts and other
features of cyberspace. It also offers a useful bibliography.
A starting point in considering traffic analysis - of
significance for network design and peering negotiations
- is the 2004 Visualization Challenges in Internet
Traffic Research (PDF)
by Barbara Gonzalez-Carvalo, Felix Hernandez-Campos, J.
S. Marron & Cheolwoo Park. For other pointers to the
direction of traffic and growth patterns why not explore
& Novak research from Vanderbilt University about
the web in 1995 and the links on Hal Varian's
provides pointers for statistics buffs. The Cooperative
Association for Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA)
has a large range of papers and reports on bandwidth,
transfer pricing and the nitty gritty of traffic between
telcos and ISPs.
Zook's The Web of Consumption paper
is complemented by NY University's project
on information technology and the future of the urban
environment, in particular the mapping.