One of the most common expressions in geology is “not well understood”. Which is understandable, because most rocks were formed millions to billions of years ago, often under conditions, and in locations, that can only be guessed at. One of the reasons I love geology is that the detective work is of a very high order. The work is both highly scientific and highly creative. Also, it will never be done. Its best mysteries are rooted too deeply in the one thing humans — relative to rock — severely lack: time
Anyway, I’m here to suggest that two overlapping subjects — infrastructure and internet — are not well understood, even though both are made by humans and can be studied within the human timescale. The term “infrastructure” has been in common use only since the 1970s. While widely used, there are relatively few books about the subject itself. I’d say, in fact, that is more a subject in many fields than a field in itself. And I think it needs to be. Same with the Internet. Look it up on Google and see how many different definitions you get. Yet nothing could be more infrastructural without being physical, which the Internet is not.
Anyway, as I write and think about this stuff, I like to keep track of what I’ve already said, even though I’ve moved beyond some of it. So here goes:
- World of Ends: What the Internet Is and How to Stop Mistaking It for Something Else (10 March 2003, with David Weinberger)
- Making a New World (2006: my chapter in Open Sources II, O’Reilly Books)
- The Giant Zero: How the Internet Eliminates Distance, Costs Nothing and Supports Everything (19 October 2006, a CITS talk at UCSB)
- Is free and open code a form of infrastructure? (10 August 2007, Linux Journal)
- Understanding Infrastructure (19 April 2008, Linux Journal)
- Making the World Safe for Infrastructure (20 April, here)
- Studying off-grid infrastructure (25 April, here)
- Comparing hard and soft infrastructure (1 May 2008, Linux Journal)
- Framing the Net (16 May 2008, Publius)
- Forward with Fiber: An Infrastructure Investment Plan for the New Administration (30 October 2008) Publius)
More from allied sources:
- The etymology of Infrastructure and the Infrastructure of the Internet, by Stephen Lewis (22 September 2008)
And now I have to fly to Paris, to have fun at LeWeb. We’ll pick up this and other subjects there.