Last night my partner Lucrezia asked me, “Is the Internet real?”
She was kidding but it’s a reasonable question. The Internet is mind boggling in its scale. Where do we really go when we go online? Does the Internet work only because we believe (like housing values and Tinkerbell)? She said she was asking how the Internet really worked. I answered with a bit of history about the Internet, how it was designed as a fault-tolerant communication systems that would continue to effectively route information even if parts of the network failed, even if parts of the networked failed during routing.
But it’s one thing to say we are all connected and another to see it, as Obama campaign volunteers make tangible their redundant connectivity by extending balls of strings between different districts they knew to show the connections.
This photo, I said to Lucrezia, is the Internet. This is what the Internet looks like between computers, between people. The Internet embodies, increases, and makes continuous the links we’ve always had between us.
The first politicians to use the Internet are only the first. The microscope and the telescope changed only what we could see about our world. But seeing that which was previously hidden from our vision increases our understanding, our agency. Internet-style Transparency gives us a different way to see our government and how it works and increases our understanding of and agency in our government.