The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis


CASA Working Paper 83


1 September 2004

Net:Geography Fieldwork Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the Net:Geography FAQ about?

  • It is a set of answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) regarding the geography and unseen, ‘inner’ structures of the Internet. It provides a practical ‘fieldwork’ guide for understanding the Internet.
  • It gives hands-on suggestions of techniques and freely available software tools and Web resources that can be used to actively explore both the internal topology of connection and the external geography of infrastructure. By revealing the operation of the Internet in terms of where things are located, who owns them and how data travels, the FAQ helps foster a more critical engagement with the media. The goal is to contribute, in a small way, to changing users of the Internet from passive consumers to more informed and active citizens of their network.
  • It is possible to learn a lot about the Internet from critical writing, popular discourses and secondary published data. However, for real understanding, there is no substitute for doing your own fieldwork.
  • It is not necessary to be a network engineer or computer scientist to begin to ask critical questions about the structure and operation of the Internet. Anyone can do some Net:Geography fieldwork.
  • It does not require a large investment in expensive, specialised tools to undertake some Net:Geography fieldwork because the Internet can be used to measure and map itself. Many of the tools and techniques used in Net:Geography fieldwork were actually created by engineers for the practical purposes of ‘debugging’ network problem. However, they can also be re-used in politically challenging ways, providing tactical knowledge of the media that can not be gained in any other way.
  • The practical examples given in this FAQ were tested using Windows 2000 PC on a university network, but most of the software tools and all of the techniques discussed are sufficiently generic that they should work in most situations. Although specific details may well vary, depending on the PC configuration and the type of connection to the Internet being employed.
  • The Net:Geography FAQ comprises four sections: (1) finding out about your place on the Internet, (2) determining the location of components of the Internet (3) measuring distance across the Internet, (4) charting the routes of data through the Internet.

This working paper is available as a PDF. The file size is 6.34MB.

Authors: Martin Dodge, Rob Kitchin

Publication Date: 1/9/2004

Download working paper No. 83.