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An internet map of Twitter responses, but web search reveals more

Everyone knows about search histories, but most will not realise that an internet map reveals far more than a list of sites called at. The journey across the web, the process, reveals our thinking in a different and psychological way.

Lohar Zahar described a journey of his own across the internet on Wired as ‘dorking around on the Internet. But it also reveals something important that would otherwise be invisible. It shows how I think.’ This is the internet map he describes.’

One recent one I did began with a story about Sicily and the mafia, which led to the wonder of how criminals had such strong family values, to the cost of everything and the price of nothing. Or was it the other way round? Then on to confused thoughts for comedic purposes.

So what difference does it make? Well, the journey, the internet map shows up the way my mind thinks.

Zahar explained: ‘We’ve all gotten very good at sharing things we find online. From Evernote to WeChat, our tools are great for saving or broadcasting our findings, but they don’t help us recall how we found them.’

He cited computing pioneer Vannevar Bush who thought those pathways were the most important part. His 1945 essay “As We May Think” in effect ‘essentially predicted the Internet.’

Zahar said that Bush ‘envisioned a desk-like device he called a memex that would display documents and pictures on a screen and let you create hyperlinks among them.’

Sharing Your Trail

Bush seemed intrigued by the fact that a trail can be shared, ‘the steps that took you from one document to another.’

Sharing the process was very different from sharing the results of research. ’You’d also be sharing the process, a glimpse into the normally invisible life of a mind at work. Bush imagined a class of superusers called trail blazers.’

And as it happens, there is now Trailblazer ‘a Chrome browser extension that creates spiderweb maps of your online activity you can revisit and share.’ The slogan on their site is ‘Wander widely. Never get lost. Trailblazer is your map to the web.’

It allows someone else to see into part of your mind. An internet map is a tool to collaborative working. Zahar reports on teenagers researching online to build Minecraft structures which led directly to it being used for school work.

Psychologists call this process ‘metacognition’ or thinking about how we think, ‘an X-ray view of my own mental activity.’ A series of loosely connected memes can lead to a useful and fully fledged research outcome with all sorts of applications.

If this is done on social media it now has the description, ‘falling into a Twitter hole.’ If internet maps become the norm, then joke pathways, revenge circuits and revisiting the past will all become easier. Whether that is a good thing or not.

Internet Maps of the Dark Web

Research is ongoing to find a new search engine for the dark web and ‘uncover patterns and relationships in online data to help law enforcement and others track illegal activity.’ This is according to Kim Zetter who reported on Wired via Twitter in February.

Currently search results are influenced by advertising and popularity. Everybody is driven by an obsession to climb higher up the search rankings. It is thought that this captures only about 5% of the internet.

The project called Memex is aiming to ‘build a better map of more internet content’ where one-size-fits-all is dropped. Instead, Memex will scrape content from millions of web pages ignored by commercial search engines and ‘chronicle thousands of sites on the so-called Dark Web—such as sites like the former Silk Road drug emporium that are part of the TOR network’s Hidden Services.’

There is a demonstration of Memex from CBS news. So, this will not be an internet map as such, but it will be an advance for opening up every corner of the web, which may in turn drive those who prefer to operate in the dark, shadowy corners to come up with something new.

Necessity can truly be the mother of invention.

Other blogs about the internet, webs and related matters:

The Dark Side 2. The Darknet Just Got Darker With Grams Searching Powers, 20 May 2014

Rise of the Darknet Is Raw Cyber Criminality, Not Some New Video Game, 8 May 2014

If You Like My Thoughts, You Must Be on the Facebook Telepathy Button! 22 July 2015

Fighting to Hold On to Your Personal Data, 9 March 2015

Exploring the Year Through the Eyes and Ears of Twitter, 6 January 2015

Has the Internet of Things Already Become an Obsession? 22 September 2014

Net Neutrality Could Be Dying if It’s Not Dead Already, 3 September 2014

The Internet Is Outdated, So Welcome to the Outernet, 8 April 2014

Image: Eric Fischer