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The Undersea Network

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 charts 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 readers can trace cable routes, view photographs and archival materials, and read stories about the island cable hubs.
Product Details

Table of Contents

Preface. Edges ix Acknowledgments xv Introduction. Against Flow 1 1. Circuitous Routes. From Topology to Topography 26 2. Short-Circuiting Discursive Infrastructure: From Connection to Transmission 64 3. Gateway: From Cable Colony to Network Operations Center 94 4. Pressure Point: Turbulent Ecologies of the Cable Landing 138 5. A Network of Islands: Interconnecting the Pacific 170 6. Cabled Depths: The Aquatic Afterlives of Signal Traffic 198 Conclusion. Surfacing 225 Notes 235 Bibliography 263 Index 281

About the Author

Nicole Starosielski is Assistant Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University.


"This is a fascinating and deeply geographical piece of media scholarship.Starosielski's book is remarkably successful in demonstrating that the unstable materiality of the infrastructures it describes matters in all kinds of sometimes contradictory ways to those who construct these infrastructures, to those they connect, and to those who remain at a distance from their connective capacities." -- Derek P. McCormack * Cultural Geographies * "[A]n enthralling read for anybody with an interest in telecoms infrastructure and the way that it is presented in the media." -- Mike Conradi * Telecommunications Policy * "If you have ever wondered why infrastructure has suddenly become a buzzword in cultural anthropology and science and technology studies, then follow the signal. That is precisely what The Undersea Network does, brilliantly redeeming the promise of multi-sited fieldwork methods to highlight the connections and disconnection-historical and present-day-among far-flung people and places.... For anyone with an interest in Pacific studies, this book has plenty to ponder." -- Robert J. Foster * Journal of Pacific History * "The Undersea Network succeeds in introducing an environmental consciousness into one's imagination of digital networks and the ecological, political, financial, place-based contingencies that support, interfere with and maintain our global telecommunications system. It makes cables salient. ... The Undersea Network is required reading for students of media and network archaeology, communication educators, political and environmental scientists, the history of technology discipline, and readers within the cable industries and government." -- Emily Goodmann * International Journal of Media & Cultural Politics * "The multistranded analysis developed in the book provides a rewarding account that blends cultural history with investigative ethnography and along the way takes us to remote sites in Hawaii, Tahiti and Guam. Most importantly, Starosielski brings the infrastructure of undersea cable systems back into visibility, showing us in vivid ways what makes global communications possible." * European Journal of Communication * "Overall, the book brilliantly brings together the global metanarrative of mass communication with the local, material, and relatively immobile specificities of this undersea network.... Starosielski is extremely successful in rewiring our wireless imaginaries of a networked world. The depth and breadth of the fieldwork conducted is noteworthy as is the production of the book itself, which contains a plethora of images, graphics, and maps." -- Rachael Squire * Transfers * "A fascinating cultural assessment of global undersea cable networks that carry most of the world's trans-ocean Internet traffic. ... Great stuff!" -- Christopher Sterling * Communications Booknotes Quarterly * "The Undersea Network is a fascinating interdisciplinary look at the infrastructure that lets us communicate instantly across oceans.... [T]his book is a good read for anyone broadly interested in geography or communications." -- Eva Amsen * Hakai Magazine * "[A] fascinating book that is part history, part travelogue and part socio-economic memoir. . . . Starosielski's account makes for fascinating reading, drawing together the varied threads of history, technical complexity, economic power and political will that have shaped the world's cable networks. Despite the scale of the infrastructure under discussion, the narrative remains intensely personal, and one to be enjoyed." -- John Gilbey * Times Higher Education * "Starosielski offers a crucial intervention into theoretical conceptualizations of communications infrastructure. . . . This rich text also has profound implications for how citizens in an always-networked society and economy understand our lived realities. The Undersea Network makes us reconsider the `wirelessness' of our world by admonishing us consider it in terms of its peculiar and ongoing connectedness to geographies, cultures, and politics." -- Sara Rodrigues * PopMatters *

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