New Cultural Narratives for Submarine Internet Cables

“it behooves wired people to know a few things about wires – how they work, where they lie, who owns them, and what sorts of business deals and political machinations bring them into being.”

- Neal Stephenson, Mother Earth Mother Board, Wired Magazine, December 1996, Issue 4:12

“We cannot rely on narratives of connection and disruption alone to convey the significance of cables to governments, companies, or publics that have a stake in their development and operation.

“Creating new cultural narratives for undersea cables is critical to an informed public participation with the transnational Internet, especially in a privatized cable system where [...] public perception can affect the development of new networks. I outline two alternate forms—nodal narratives and transmission narratives—that extend beyond moments of establishment and disruption to portray cables as material infrastructures that must be operated and secured to channel flows of global information.”

- Nicole Starosielski, p68, The Undersea Network, Duke University Press, 2015

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Bronwyn Holloway-Smith Fibre Tours logo

It behooves wired people to know a few things about wires
Project for the Auckland Art Fair, 2016
Poster, Hollywood vanity lighting
470 x 710 x 100mm
courtesy of the artist

Once upon a time, our nation found pride in its connectivity. New submarine communications cables were commemorated with postage stamps and public artwork. But over time knowledge of this has waned. And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth.

With The Southern Cross Cable: A Tour, Bronwyn Holloway-Smith uncovers places where you can picnic and build sand castles, mere metres from the Cable, where 98% of New Zealand’s international internet traffic glows, on the iconic Muriwai and Takapuna beaches.

Turn off your screens. This is not a film.

Image: Bronwyn Holloway-Smith, Fibre Tours logo. Courtesy of the artist.

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