Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Internet as Metaphor

The Internet is a powerful metaphor for heterarchical linking.

To understand the metaphor, it helps to understand the Internet.

There is no single Internet - it is a network of networks, with a series of voluntary specifications (called RFCs) of how the networks interconnect.

Email messages, World Wide Web pages, instant messages, everything sent over the Internet is digital in form and is reduced down to a packet - a group of characters or bits. Each packet has a payload - the contents, and headers, which include the From address and the To address.

There is no center of the Internet - and no central control system. Institutions and corporations each operate their own parts of the Internet. Special computer-operated interconnect switches called routers switch these packets across the Internet to get closer to their destination. In order for the routers to know the location of other addresses, routers exchange information with each other.

The topology of the Internet is a perfectly described by the term heterarchical. The relationships between the various institutional and corporate networks can be described as partnership.

The Internet fosters and encourages heterarchical linking and partnership thinking.

No comments: