Sunday, March 12, 2006

Neighborhood Watch and Traffic Planning

A recent New York Times story about piggybacking shows how the social fabric of densely populated areas may become frayed by the casual theft of wireless signals from nearby neighbors. I live on a heavily wired block and recognize many of the wireless signals from my fellow householders. "Tomatoe" died recently; his signal went out a few days after the coroner came. "Casa Bonita" is new in the neighborhood; I feel like I should send over a plate of Internet cookies. Like most on the block, I've piggybacked and have been piggybacked upon. None of us seems to be building cyber fences, although there are strangers in the neighborhood, occasionally ones with laptops, so I suppose we could end up needing a version of neighborhood cyber watch.

In the innovative online journal Vectors, I learned about how Wi-Fi Bedouin Julian Bleecker uses a wireless transmitter in a backpack device to subvert the connectivity of those who piggyback on his signal.

In cyberspace, our online visitors are often more remote and must travel long distances to our URL's. When it comes to graphic or three-dimensional images of this Silk Road of Internet traffic, the blog Collision Detection covers some of the most interesting examples of envisioning of information in the growing field of cyber-mapping. Science writer Clive Thompson introduced me to both the commentosphere, where comments from a single writer on multiple blogs can be tracked, and the singular 3-D View of Website traffic, which presents web traffic reports in the form of a CGI fly-through of a virtual city in which you can zoom in on individual netizens.

For a darker view of how Internet traffic can be geographically surveiled, see the truly amazing website on Data Mining for Subversives. Check out the map in which you can zoom in on the houses of individual readers of 1984.



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