In our "wireless" world it is easy to take the importance of the undersea cable systems for granted, but the stakes of their successful operation are huge, as they are responsible for carrying almost all transoceanic Internet traffic. In The Undersea Network, Nicole Starosielski follows these cables from the ocean depths to their landing zones on the sandy beaches of the South Pacific, bringing them to the surface of media scholarship and making visible the materiality of the wired network. In doing so, she documents the cable network's cultural, historical, geographic, and environmental dimensions. Starosielski argues that the environments the cables occupy are historical and political realms, where the network and the connections it enables are made possible by the deliberate negotiation and manipulation of technology, culture, politics and geography. Accompanying the book is an interactive digital mapping project, where listeners can trace cable routes and hear stories about the island cable hubs.
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A Series of Tubes, Indeed
No technical content, no compelling story
The book is written like a conference paper and the author shows absolutely no talent for making or telling an interesting story about the topic. The book is a mishmash of facts and analyzes with a structure that is extremely hard to follow (I will assume there was a structure , and that I just wasn't able to follow it; maybe the audiobook format is inappropriate for this kind of book).Moreover, the description is misleading. The author spends no time discussing any of the technical aspects of undersea cable communications (which could fill in several books by themselves). I should have checked her bio, she's into human sciences, not engineering.
- Damien Teney