Presented at Altered States, University of Plymouth, August 2005
Most visualisations of the internet are created from router nodes and there are many maps showing this flow of data in numerous variations. But what lies between these nodes? Does virtual space have some kind of atmospheric materiality that is, perhaps, something like air? According to transfer protocol, the data doesn't 'leave' node 1 until after it has 'arrived' at node 2 so in a sense it is not going anywhere at all. Another interpretation is that since data travels at the speed of light, any time taken occurs not during the journey itself but is added in by the routers and modems which process them. But then, in a further contradictory complication, it could be said that the data is indeed travelling, only not in a physical sense, but inside an 'internet cloud'. Shunryu Suzuki says 'When we inhale, the air comes into the inner world. When we exhale, the air goes out to the outer world. The inner world is limitless, and the outer world is also limitless. The air comes in and goes out like someone passing through a swinging door.' To paraphrase Suzuki, perhaps what we call 'I' is just a swinging door which moves when we write or read into the virtual space of the internet. There is no doubt that the 'internet cloud' is the most intensely compelling environment of the contemporary world. Is virtuality, like air, simply a property of the encompassing world in which humans - like all other beings - participate?