Did you check your email while you were on the train or before you left home? If you’re reading this on a smartphone or laptop, does your reading history get stored in “the Cloud,” an all-knowing nebula of information that floats above us? What does the internet look like?
Those are some of the questions artist and author Ingrid Burrington asked herself, and the answers spawned “Networks of New York: An illustrated field guide to urban internet infrastructure,” a book from the presses of Melville House Books due out Aug. 30.
“In 2013, after a lot of the [Edward] Snowden stories started dropping, all of these [news] stories had the worst clip art and stock photos on them,” Burrington said. “Like a black screen with some green letters and a lot of arbitrary looking things like this one photo of the NSA that was taken in the 1970s, and I just kind of thought to myself, ‘I don’t know what the internet looks like, but I don’t think it looks like this.’”
Being just your average citizen, Burrington, who called Baltimore home before her move to Brooklyn, wasn’t able to interview top NSA officials or access hidden government data facilities. She said she was more interested in what she could see street-level and wondered about the complicated system that allowed her to do something so everyday, like checking her email while she walks down the street.