This is a book about real places on the map: their sounds and smells, their storied pasts, their physical details, and the people who live there. For all the talk of the "placelessness" of our digital age, the Internet is as fixed in real, physical spaces as the railroad or telephone. You can map it and touch it, and you can visit it. Is the Internet in fact "a series of tubes" as Ted Stevens, the late senator from Alaska, once famously described it? How can we know the Internet's possibilities if we don't know its parts?
ReviewWho has never wondered what the internet is actually made of? We know it's there, somewhere, but is there an actual place the internet can be found? This question answers Andrew Blum in his book Tubes and the title (almost) reveals it all.
If you're anything like me, namely pretty clueless as to why technical things in general work, yet willing get a better understanding about why it's even possible to surf the net by the click of a mouse, you will certainly find this book as appealing as I did. It was easy for me to empathize with Blum, following his journey to map the place called the internet. Conversationally written, the author knows how to set the mood for the rather technical topic, embedding his personal perceptions into the information he gathers along the way. Despite the fetching narrative the exploration of miles of fibre-optic cables and vast data-warehouses was admittedly a bit on the dry side. Then again, I should have realized this would be the case earlier on, so I can hardly blame the author for that. Overall I found this trip into the world of the tactile side of the internet, well written and interesting enough to keep my attention almost all the way through, and I bet that those more amenable to this topic will definitely find it to be an enjoyable and informative read.
In short: A tech-heavy look behind the scenes of what makes the virtual of the internet tangible!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Penguin. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.