virtual terraforming

According to network topology, the topology of any directed network – such as the internet – consists of four continents: 1) a central 'core,' whose sites are highly interconnected, 2) an 'in' region, whose sites link to the central core, 3) an 'out' region, whose sites are linked to from the core, and 4) 'tendrils' and 'disconnected islands,' whose sites aren't linked to/from the core, or are completely disconnected from the rest of the internet.

This topology affects how we surf the web. The continents give some surfing spots more gravitational pull than others. And the uni-directionality of links creates swells, for example from the ‘in’ to the ‘core’ and from the ‘core’ to the ‘out.’

Imagine if a smart mob of netizens inhabiting the 'in' continent broke their hrefs to a particular site in the ‘core,’ and re-directed them towards a ‘disconnected island,’ effectively bringing the ‘core’ site ‘in’ and the ‘island’ ashore. Or if linkbacks and reverselinks were deployed to create bi-directionality and alter the swells of internet topology (yes, this is my self-reflexive way of landing my blog on Greg Niemeyer's website).

So what? Think about what search engines do and don’t find. Think about the power law distribution of website traffic. Think about news, political campaigns, e-commerce. And think about more at the website of network topologist named Albert-Lazslo Barabasi.

Then taste a hint of virtual terraforming in the Passively Multiplayer Online Game (PMOG), where you can use lightposts to choreograph web surfs and link previously unlinked web pages together. Imagine if the web, as terraformed by PMOGers, were search-able with Google's search algorithm. How might search results differ between GOOG and PMOG? Imagine if treasures and mines could be deployed not only on web pages, but in the links between them. What might it say about a page if all the links that pointed to it were laced with mines? It starts to sound something like semantic web-weaving.

Although it can either network or notwork, hyperlinking becomes political. And it's this politically-motivated hyperlinking for purposes of shaping internet topology that I call virtual terraforming. Though you could also call it cyber-landscaping or other things. (Note that this is closely related but not the same as Google bombing/Googlewashing.) A revolution in virtual terraforming feels nigh as linking undergoes the trajectory of categorization. They're even talking about it here on Wikipedia.