research design laboratory


Like many other web-savvy folks of my generation, I am guilty of mocking Ted Stevens, the former Alaskan senator, by chuckling to myself each time I refer to the internet to as a series of tubes. I'm sure that Mr. Stevens did not anticipate his senate floor tirade inspiring such a legacy of humour, but as Ivor Tossell illustrates in a recent article in the Walrus, his metaphor might not actually be that far off. And while we use it everyday, the Internet is a hard thing for a lot of people to understand and even harder to explain. The average person doesn't need to know how the Internet works, they just need it to work. But the metaphors we use affect the way we understand it and will ultimately shape the policy that governs it moving forward.

While it's easy to laugh at an old man from Alaska who likely gets his interns to print off his emails, it's actually hard to come up with a better metaphor (note, it's not a superhighway either). The next time you see a cynical 25 year old chuckle to themselves as they refer to the internet as a series of tubes, ask them if they have a better metaphor.