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Maps, Borders, and Networks

Artists use maps to tell stories about themselves and their views of the world.


Mapping the Internet

Barrett Lyon, The Opte Project
(American, born 1978)

2003. Digital print from photo file.

The Opte Project is Lyon’s free, open-source initiative that aimed to create a visual representation of the metaphysical spaces of the Internet. This 2003 image, Lyon explains, “was based on a technology called ‘traceroute,’ which actually goes over every sequence of the Internet and creates a visual trace. It would be like driving each road in the world systematically and then drawing that out.” Each line plots the communication between two Internet protocol (IP) addresses. The length of the line denotes the delay between the two nodes.

In this image from 2003, the lines are color-coded based on the Class A allocation of IP space to different registrars in the world—in other words, the color indicates location. For example, red lines correspond to Asia and the Pacific Islands, while dark blue indicates North America. The result is an otherworldly image of the worldwide network that is now integral to our everyday lives. Lyon’s visualizations can also detect the results of natural disaster and war, as indicated by large-scale Internet service outages.

A work of art made with a pencil, pen, crayon, charcoal, or other implements, often consisting of lines and marks (noun); the act of producing a picture with pencil, pen, crayon, charcoal, or other implements (verb, gerund).

In computer software, open source refers to source code that is freely available and may be modified. Open-source software is often developed publicly and collaboratively.

Transcending physical matter or the laws of nature. Metaphysics refers to the branch of philosophy that studies that fundamental nature of being and knowing.

Guide to Colors:
Red—Asia/Pacific
Green—Europe, Middle East, Central Asia, Africa
Blue—North America
Yellow—Latin America and the Caribbean
Cyan—RFC 1918 (private networks)
White—Unknown