The Underwater World of Networks


Image credit: TeleGeography’s Submarine Cable Map

While exploring CUNY’s Academic Commons, I came across an announcement on the CUNY Digital Humanities Initiative blog about an upcoming talk at the Grad Center:

At the Edge of the Network: A Talk with Nicole Starosielski

The post immediately caught my attention because I had seen announcements of Nicole Starosielski‘s book The Undersea Network on Twitter, and her work inhabits one of the more fascinating fields of interdisciplinary inquiry, sometimes referred to as Media Archaeology. I had my own exposure to how cool this field can be when I went to visit the Media Archaeology Lab at UC Boulder last Spring. So when I saw the the Grad Center was hosting a talk with professor Starosielski’s research on the underwater infrastructure that undergirds the digital network we come to take for granted made me a bit jealous I’m currently on the other side of  the Atlantic. So I searched out resources about the book, and I came across this hour long interview by Carli Nappi in which Starosielski discusses her work in some detail.

The interview does an excellent job of embedding the cultural and colonial significance of these cable networks within specific environments and ecologies. She explores the relationship between two ostensibly unrelated histories such as telecom and fishing, not to mention the ways in which the transoceanic history of colonialism maps on top of the 21st century network of underwater cables that drive the “cloud.”  The networks of power that can be traced through this material underwater network provides for truly compelling and relevant media archaeology for the world we live in. The interview also pointed me to an interactive site,, the authors created as a companion to the book, or as Starosielski suggests, the book is a companion to the website. The site provides an interactive map of this underwater network, giving the curious user various points of entry into this submarine network.

The Underwater Network companion site:

The Undersea Network‘s companion site:

This is an fascinating topic, and I have ordered the book because kind of broader inquiry into the importance of the materiality of networks for edtech, something I had the good fortune of listening to Audrey Watters speak about brilliantly in Barcelona, is essential to a broader understanding of the work we do. I went searching for other talks or interviews about this topic/book on the web and came up with nothing else. So, I hope the folks at CUNY’s Digital Humanities Initiative consider getting and posting a recording of the talk and discussion because they would have at least one viewer/listener in Italy. That’s an immediate global audience 🙂

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