Laura Bliss is a staff writer at CityLab, covering transportation and technology. She also authors MapLab, a biweekly newsletter about maps (subscribe here). Her work has appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, Los Angeles magazine, and beyond.
A peek at the global rhythm of Internet usage.
Princeton's Engineering Anomalies Research Lab has long maintained that the Internet might one day act as a global consciousness, unifying planetary outpourings of emotion.
Sounds... creepy, but by certain large-scale measures, the Internet does have certain attributes of a living thing. Take, for example, the latest study from USC's Information Science Institute, which shows the "sleep" patterns of Internet connectivity worldwide.
Co-author John Heidemann and his associates pinged nearly one billion IP addresses all over the world every 11 minutes for two months, noting day-to-day patterns. They found that the U.S. and most countries in western Europe were consistently "on," while many regions in Eastern Europe, South America, and Asia, had strong diurnal access, with connectivity waning with the sunset. This could be related to certain governments' restrictions on use. The GIF above demonstrates a passing day for the Internet, with red patches showing greater connectivity and blue patches less.
Researchers say that understanding the Internet's wake cycles could help scientists and leaders better understand and develop tools for emergency Internet outages, like New York's web blackout following Hurricane Sandy.
For a deeper dive into the sleeping, bleeping giant, an official video below: