Landscapes in Internet/Computer Networks

                                                                                                                                                                                        Jung-Hua Liu (

1.      Motive

After its birth, Internet/computer networks (hereafter ICNs) develop so fast and many artists and scientists want to depict the landscapes they created. The images of landscapes are helpful for understanding the development of ICNs; but it is more important, as Juanita Brown (2005) proposed “[w]e live inside the images we hold of the world”, the images present the change of ways to “see” and “conceive” in our world. How do we understand and theorize the world that the images depict?


2.      Objective

This paper will analyse the related images via the change of ways of seeing and human body concept. The objective is to figure out the images claim ICNs are a world where we live by our brand new body - cyborg body. 


3.      Literature Review

Raymond Williams (1974) said, “It is often said that television has altered our world. In the same way, we often speak of the new world…… that we can fail to realize their specific meanings.” He analysed television as a particular cultural technology to point out television is not a pure technology. Television is a cultural form because television is produced under the social institution and cultural background. The representative ways and contents of visual images or sequences in television are formed by different cultural and social activities which are involved class, gender, power and identity. After twenty years, ICNs have become new cultural forms.


ICNs are similar with television as cultural form and they create their particular landscapes, TV programs and cyberspace, via representing images of our daily life. By experiencing the simulated situations, James Clifford (1997) pointed out that watching different ethnic groups’ life in TV programs can strengthen the identity, like Arjun Appadurai’s (1996) mediascape (media content) , technoscape (physical technology ) and ideoscape (ideology) which describe the landscape of media and ideology under globalization.


ICNs are forming special “liminal landscapes” other than geographical landscapes, because they are the combination the real world (technoscape and mediascape) and cyberspace (mediascape and ideoscape). “Liminal landscapes” are like the landscapes in video games and they were decoded and understood by “guessing at causal relations between actions and results, building working hypotheses about the system’s underlying rules” (Johnson 2001 : 176-177).  Artists and scientists create “liminal landscapes” to guess and build the rules. In the beginning of ICNs, the relationships among terminals are often depicted as a constellation of computer on a net and every computer is a node where lines converge (Beranek & Burlington 1977). Besides “net” images, some artists mapped computers’ IP addresses as latitude and longitude to create an “Internet earth coordinate system” (Krautgasser et al. 2002). These images reduce the differences among the points/nodes to produce even and equivalent network images.


Recently, the popularity of Wi-Fi access points stimulates us to imagine “range-based” network other than “point-based” network and they construct noticeable urban landscapes (Wasielewski 2007; Boingo Corporate 2009). Wi-Fi hotspot maps often showed hotspots as individual node which does not interrelate. In the same time, the distribution often related to the functions of locations, such as houses, transport stations or cafés. ICNs didn’t only exist in the cyberspace but also in the real world. Because they are related to our life in both worlds, network devices becomes personal “biographical objects” (Hoskins 1998) and they were integrated into our life as parts of our body. The integration makes us becoming cyborg and breaks the boundary of human/machine and cyberspace/real world.


4.      Methodology

This paper will apply cyborg theory and body anthropology to analyse ICNs landscape images. As anthropologist Marcel Mauss said, “[t]he body is the first and most natural tool of man” (Mauss 1950), the landscapes are conceived and interpreted by our body as interface, and the landscapes are not seen by naked eyes but with the mechanic devices, our “cyborg body” (Haraway 1991;Hayles 1999).

Our cyborg consciousness is like Nigel Thrift’s “technological unconsciousness” because it is not “‘in’ the body, but in the very signifying process through which that body comes to appear.” (Thrift 2004:187) and ICNs images are the presence of the cyborg body. Above all,  I will discuss and analyse the presence and metaphor of cyborg body in the images by body anthropology to explain how these images argue  that “liminal landscapes” are a seen by our brand new body - cyborg body.


5.      Images




This map shows the topology of ARPANET in March 1977. It was scanned by Larry Press from the ARPANET Completion Report, Bolt, Beranek and Newman, Burlington, MA, January 4, 1978”(


Figure 1. ARPNET map



IP-III is a visualization application for mapping the online user presence in the Internet. The basic idea is to create a space typical to the Internet, which does not refer to the usual geographic information of online users (compare traffic visualization tools), but rather derives directly from the Internet specific code of the IP numbers. If the binary code of the IP addresses is transposed into spatial coordinates, a space constructing structure can be produced, which corresponds to a spatial language inherent to the Internet.


Figure 2. IP-III





This was a year long project which revolved around access to wireless internet networks and the socioeconomic implications for those who have internet and those who don’t (the information rich and poor). The Chicago public transportation system, the elevated train or “L”, is the facilitator of access to the various parts of the urban landscape. Utilizing the framework of the “L” system, I mapped wireless internet network accessibility throughout the city of Chicago. I initially began with highlighting the division between the North Side and the South Side of Chicago in terms of availability of wireless networks, using the Red Line (the “L” line which runs between the two halves of the city). I eventually mapped wireless networks (noting whether they were locked/secured or open) throughout the entire “L” system. The resultant works I created were hand-held maps which were distributed to “L” riders and directional card maps which were placed in the train cars where the usual maps are located. The new maps were identical to the old ones except that they displayed how many wireless networks were available near which station and whether they were open or closed. This project had an impact on the average “L” rider in that it provided a practical guide to where one might pick up an unsecured wireless internet signal. The project also was able to highlight to the public how important internet (especially wireless internet) is to being part of the wealthier neighborhoods of the city.(


Figure 3. Wireless along “L”




This project is to present the identity in both cyberspace and real world. By visualizing the Wi-Fi access point’s information the user provides, the user will have a colorful journey diary with a cyber-real world map.(


Figure 4. Colourful Life




Figure 5 Walking in Urban Wi-Fi Landscape



6.      Reference


Appadurai, A. (1996). Modernity at large. Minneapolis, Minn. :, University of Minnesota Press.


Beranek, B., Newman Burlington (1977). "ARPANET Logical Map." Retrieved 08/24, 2009, from


Brown, J. (2005). The World Café. San Francisco, CA :, Berrett-Koehler Publishers.


Clifford, J. (1997). Routes. Cambridge, Mass. :, Harvard University Press.


Corporate, B. (2009). "Boingo Wireless. One Account. 100,000+ Hotspots. One Low Price." Retrieved 08/24, 2009, from


Haraway, D. J. (1991). Simians, cyborgs, and women. New York :, Routledge.


Hayles, N. K. (1999). How we became posthuman. Chicago, Ill. :, University of Chicago Press.


Hoskins, J. (1998). Biographical objects. New York :, Routledge.


Johnson, S. (2001). Emergence. New York :, Scribner.


Krautgasser, A., Rainer Mandl, Sepp Deinhofer and Michael Aschauer (2002). "IP-III." Retrieved 08/24, 2009, from


Liu, J. (2009). "Colourful Life." Retrieved 08/24, 2009, from


Liu, J. (2009). "Walking in Urban Wi-Fi Landscape." Retrieved 08/24, 2009, from


Mauss, M. (1979[1950]). Sociology and psychology. Boston :, Routledge and K. Paul.


Thrift, N. (2004). "Remembering the technological unconscious by foregrounding knowledges of position." Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 22: 175-190.


Wasielewski, A. (2007). "Wireless Chicago Along the 'L'." Retrieved 08/24, 2009, from


Williams, R. (1990[1974]). Television. London :, Routledge.