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The Geography of Cyberspace

February 19, 1998

Back in September of 1993, just as public awareness of the Internet was dawning, the San Francisco Chronicle's columnist Jon Carroll had the following thought:

Very soon, everyone will be plugged in; everyone's neural networks will form an identity with the international network of the Internet, which exists everywhere and nowhere. Or something.

That is the fashionable thing now: To be everywhere and nowhere.
Cyberspace map Carroll was right on target: in the past five years the "everywhere and nowhere" idea has billowed up into a massive cloud of hype, rich in speculation about the demise of geography's importance in the Information Age. But fashions are fickle. Geography is back. As the resources collected at The Geography of Cyberspace make very clear, the effort to map cyberspace is well underway.

The Geography of Cyberspace is maintained by Martin Dodge, a researcher based at the Center for Advanced Spatial Analysis, at University College London. One of the many things Dodge has done is to collect references (and links, whenever possible) to relevant academic articles. The titles are revealing. "Distance is Dead: Long Live Geography!" "Visualizing Spatial Relationships Between Internet Objects." "Mapping the Virtual Geography of the World Wide Web." "Re-Territorializing Knowledge(s): Electronic Spaces and 'Virtual Geographies.'" "Notes on Mapping the Net: From Tribal Space to Corporate Space." "The Size, Content and Geography of Asian Cyberspace." The list goes on and on -- Dodge intends it to be "a somewhat eclectic list of information resources that help us measure and map these new virtual geographies of the Internet, the Web and Cyberspace."

Cyberspace map Without a doubt, the most interesting portion of what Dodge has put together is An Atlas of Cyberspaces, which provides samples of conceptual, geographic, and topological maps of the Internet and other major global computer networks. In addition to showing that there is indeed a "there" there in cyberspace, these samples make it clear that cartographers of the future will have plenty to do.

Mapping cyberspace may seem a quixotic enterprise, but a dedicated corps of cybergeographers evidently believes it to be possible. And why not? Surely mapping the Internet is no less plausible than, say, trying to archive the entire thing...

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