The Geography of the Internet

When I first had access to the Internet, I asked for some information on something. I can't remember what it was but it doesn't matter that much anyway. The fact is that the information I retrieved came from a university in Hawaii (No it wasn't a question on surfing the net!!). What impressed me, and still does impress me, is that I can gather information from wherever in the world that has the information. Although I possibly could have got the information eventually from the local library, It was the fact that mentally you are travelling to that place when you access the information is the extra dimension. That is the true virtue of the Internet. The information can be stored relatively near the place of invention instead of travelling in many different forms to the reader.

A few weeks into having this capability I was trying to impress a colleague on the ability of the Internet to obtain any information I desired. At the time, for whatever reason, I needed to know something about Postcodes. I made a great show of finding the information, using Yahoo I think. Found what I wanted and began downloading lots and lots of information I think it was around 1/2 Mb at the time on a 14,400 bps modem thatís courage for you. Needless to say when I had downloaded this huge amount of data I found to my dismay and to the delight of my colleague who still thought punch cards should be kept just in case of a rainy day, the Postcodes were for Australia.

Locality is important. In many cases, information is only relevant in certain areas. I know the world is getting smaller but the geography is still as big. How many times do we here in Britain bemoan the fact that many searches of Alta vista and the like bring back American links. It's no use if you want to know where the local Pizza Hut resides.

CAM Sites are a typical example of the geography of the Internet being more important than the content. No I am not talking about GirlyCAMS, but live pictures from somewhere remote from us in the world is fascinating to us. It is the adventurer in us all not only in intellectual discovery but Geography as well. If it were just down the road we wouldn't be as interested. Even when it just a view out of some office window in Seattle it's of interest. It's being there! The Mars landing Internet site was an even better example.

Distance is also important for the anonymity of it all, and chat lines etc come with different human views from different localities in the world.

Although it brings people together from many parts of the world, many locality based informational needs are sometimes ignored. Bringing people together those that live within a locality, whether it be national, regional or local is just as important. Local Radio was the natural evolution of National Radio because bodies cannot be all things to all men (and women) no local content no connection.

The Internet it already spread out in different localities and even though there are many that would dearly love to control the whole it would inevitably fail not because of intellect but because of geography. The more the Internet spreads into our lives the more it must address local custom and information.

Information need not travel from point of origin but each locality can be published or broadcast, or is it thincast, to the world. Imagine you want to know what a particular Greek island looks like. Instead of brochures and even internet 'brochures on these islands you could actually 'go there' with live CAM to the beach or straight to their server on the middle of island and interrogate at first hand the information available. The closer the information to the event the more accurate and up-to-date the information is.

The original mappers of the world showed a line shape of the area. Coloured to denote trees or grassland. Later contours were added to indicate height around the area, maybe later climate and farming and some indication of the inhabitants. In some areas where the inhabitants whether human or otherwise are of interest or where there is some natural landscape of particular interest there probably is a book or some information on it somewhere. Whether it is up to date or totally misleading is for you to guess. For the most part though, the geography of the world is surprisingly piece-meal and sketchy and usually out of date. Even for those who live there the history surrounding the place would equally be piece-meal and sketchy.

Look at a map of your own locality. Is it Accurate? Is it out-of-date. Is in enough detail to show the character of the area? What about information about your locality, is it readily available. Is it detailed. Going back to the holiday brochures. Were they accurate? Where they in enough detail? What about places you want to go. Have you enough detail to form an accurate opinion of the place. Do you know the street name of the place you would like to stay and the nearest place for Yoga class? No! Perhaps we should change that. By the way Yoga is advisable if you wish to find anything with such a hit and miss approach as most search engines. It teaches patience.

Eventually everywhere will have it own depository of information and like the libraries of today, will be best operated locally. The closer the information to the event the more accurate and up-to-date the information is.


R.G. Alker

Gnosall Web:) The Community Website for Gnosall. A small village in the heart of Staffordshire, UK

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