“Have you ever wondered what a data packet might actually look like as it zips along the phone line? What physical form might it take? The operation of the digital communications layer of the Internet is mysterious to most of us. We simply plug our modem into the phone jack, configure some software, dial into our ISP and then (usually) data flows back and forth. The basic protocols of the Internet mean that the nature of data communications remains completely invisible to us.
However, if you wanted to explain this invisible, high-speed digital communications, it would be useful to be able to visualize data packets, network links, routers and the like. Of course data packets do not have a physical form, so one has to invent an imaginary form for them. Creating this imaginary, visual vocabulary to explain the inner workings of the Internet was the challenge tackled in the 1999 short film, Warriors of the Net . The artist and animator of the movie, Gunilla Elam, drew on a range of physical analogies to show the typical journey of Internet data packets in a tangible, accessible fashion for lay audiences. She imagined the Internet as a mechanical world with data packets being hulking, rusty steel trucks moving on conveyor belts.”
Image: A data packet being loaded.
(Courtesy of Ericsson Medialab)