Blog 2: Metaphors of connection & connectivity, or, blue dots and lines

Blog 2: Metaphors of connection & connectivity, or, blue dots and lines

In Blum’s chapter 3, we follow the author’s journey into Equinix, Inc., the corporate giant that powers data centers around the world. In Palo Alto, Blum spent most of his time chatting with Equinix founder Jay Adelson talking about one term we use almost on a daily basis: connection.

If you look up Equinix’s website, you will see that the term “connection” is sprinkled all over the pages. It’s as if Blum was doing the company free PR by emphasizing the term in his book. Even his chapter was titled, “Only Connect.”

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As I try to avoid getting too caught up with the technicality of internet connection, I have brought myself to thinking about the idea of connection/connectivity instead.

The meaning of connection is like a by-product of the internet. I can’t remember a time I speak of connection as in tying things together, or coupling people (ok, sometimes I do). But these days whenever I use the term I typically mean network connection. The imagery that comes with it is the oh-so-cliche world map (that has to be blue, mind you) with connecting dots and lines.

In my experience with words, “connection” has been used almost exclusively in positive light. Hardly do we speak of being connected as though it was a bad thing. Folks in computer science would say connection is all you need, so would the counselors over at career services.

We often think of being connected as being rich and resourceful. The metaphors of connection and connectivity are links, maps, bridges, or even the more abstract notions such as love and understanding. With such positive portrayals, the idea of “internet connection” could never go vile. Rather, it is desirable.

Consider such rhetoric (and I can’t wait for us to discuss the rhetorical appeals of internet technologies). Why do we popularize a positive outlook for internet connectivity? Who does this benefit most?

Then, in chapter 4, Blum introduces us to the concept of peering, which is a whole other way to look at connections. I would go on to geek out about P2P sharing and mutual benefits of “peers” but I am going to leave this entry here as it is.

My questions for this two chapters are:

  • What are the social implications of our overwhelmingly positive impression for internet connectivity?
  • What new metaphors might we use in the future to describe connection/connectivity? Think about the Internet of Things…

Blum, A. (2012). Tubes: A journey to the center of the internet. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers. [Chapters 3 & 4]


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