Writer/artist Ingrid Burrington has published a book called Networks of New York: An Illustrated Field Guide to Urban Internet Infrastructure, which sketches the physical extrusions of the internet into New York City's streets and buildings, and makes especial note of how much of that infrastructure has been built as part of the post 9/11 surveillance network that NYC has erected over the past 15 years.
The Intercept's Cora Currier went on a surveillance walking tour with Burrington, learning to decode the orange-sprayed surveyors' marks on the pavement and to spot the telltales on poles and building-faces that meant that something invisible and important was going on. I did a similar walking tour once, with journalist Henrik Moltke, when we were working on publishing some of the Snowden docs, and I can confirm that it's an experience to both open your eyes and blow your minds.
At each intersection, we looked for NYPD cameras and information-gathering devices owned by the Department of Transportation. Burrington pointed out green boxes sporting little domes; those are signal-control boxes that collect data from traffic cameras, EZ-Pass scanners, and microwave radar sensors, in order to track the movements of cars and regulate traffic lights accordingly. There are plenty of urban planning reasons for this data collection, but Burrington notes, “every camera that belongs to a city agency is essentially also an NYPD camera.”
A lot of internet infrastructure resides in buildings that once housed earlier modes of communication, and those building still bear the aesthetic of another era. Early 20th-century communications companies liked ornate decor, especially lightning bolts, in contrast to the bland or cutesy logos that today’s internet giants hide behind. We went to 75 Broad Street, once home to the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation. Over its doorway is a colorful mosaic of an angel with a lightning bolt and two globes showing the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Among other things, the building now houses a data storage center.
Networks of New York: An Illustrated Field Guide to Urban Internet Infrastructure
A WALKING TOUR OF NEW YORK’S MASSIVE SURVEILLANCE NETWORK
[Cora Currier/The Intercept]
(Photo: Jonathan Minard)
Dale Maharidge is a journalist and J-school professor who is dear old friends with the muckracking, outstanding political documentarian Laura Poitras. Jessica Bruder (previously) is a a writer and J-school prof who's best friends with Maharidge. When Laura Poitras was contacted by an NSA whistleblower who wanted to send her the leak of the century, she asked Maharidge for help finding a safe address for a postal delivery, and Maharidge gave her Bruder's Brooklyn apartment address. A few weeks later, Bruder came home from a work-trip to discover a box on her doormat with the return address of "B. Manning, 94-1054 Eleu St, Waipau, HI 96797." In it was a hard-drive. The story of what happened next is documented in a beautifully written, gripping new book: Snowden's Box: Trust in the Age of Surveillance.
An appropriate book for this time, Soviet-era dystopian fiction grandmasters Boris and Arkady Strugatski considered Snail On The Slope “the most perfect and the most valuable of their works.” Snail on The Slope is comprised of two separate storylines, taking place in and on the edge of The Forest. Together they paint a vivid picture […]
My buddy Ken Goldberg, a UC Berkeley professor of robotics, his 10-year-old daughter Blooma, and science communicator Ashley Chase wrote a delightful children’s book called How to Train Your Robot! Illustrated by Dave Clegg, the story, about a fourth grade robotics club, is a fun and understandable introduction to how deep learning can help robots […]
For wine lovers around the world, it’s all about discovery. Once they get a taste for the grape, oenophiles are rarely satisfied with even the most carefully curated, go-to vintages. There’s always a hunt for the next great pairing, the thrill of uncorking a bold new Tempranillo or sublime Moscato. That feeling is a jones […]
These toys and games can keep the kids busy while you’re all trapped inside. As rough as all this time cooped up inside the house is on us adults, it’s even worse for kids. All that borderline maniacal energy along with an unquenchable thirst for stimulation and attention make home sequestration like a life sentence […]
Python is everywhere. Just look under the hood of virtually every major tech player of the 21st century and you’re likely to find a whole lot of Python-based coding language staring back at you. Case in point: Netflix. You may not know it, but from its security protocols to its much-hyped recommendations, it turns out […]