Images courtesy of the artist
This article was originally published on May 29, 2014 but we think it still rocks!
If you imagined the internet as a sprawling illustration, how would you picture it? Probably a hodgepodge of cats, pornography, and a variety of photos, social media iconography, pop culture, and memes—plus, infinite amounts of information. One artist has attempted to create such a drawing. Benjamin Redford's Internetopia cyberspace—it's all glowing digits and infinity grids. The idea of cyberspace is still a human construction and it kind of annoyed me that it rarely displayed the messy sprawl of our own cities. Where's the crazy dude throwing his cup of wee around?" His aim was to encapsulate the people behind the screens around the world, and experiment with what a more human cyberspace could look like.
To create a populist representation of the web, he made a Kickstarter page where people could pledge $1 for a "cube" of space on the drawing. Backers could reserve as many cubes as they'd like, and they could be asked for anything to be drawn, leading to 3,012 cubes getting bought by 220 people.
Requests ranged from a cocktail bar with a chicken buying an olive martini from a pig, to a sign reading "NSA spying not welcome here." Some people tried to self-promote by asking for Redford to draw their Twitter handles, while others asked for physical locations such as Boston to be doodled. Seven separate people asked for Where's Waldo to be included, and only two backers asked him to draw penises.
"I wondered how people might react to those taking up more space on the paper by pledging for more cubes," the artist writes in an email. "Some contributors complained when the employees of a company all clubbed together and bought a whole bunch of cubes. That was petty interesting. A bit like the whole net neutrality debate going on at the moment, which I think is extremely important." The company ended up being nice and agreeing to spread their purchased drawing space thorughout the whole picture. "Let's just hope the internet service providers will be as amicable," he jokes.
When asked if he thought someone could approach his project without context and still understand that it's a representation of the internet, Redford said no. "Although I wanted it to be a drawing of the internet, it's not really." He says a real picture of the web would be "just a whole bunch of underground pipes" and added that Interntopia should probably be titled What Some People On The Internet Decided To Have Drawn On A Large Piece Of Paper In Early 2014.
"If your view is that the internet is basically just animals doing funny stuff, I think [my drawing] absolutely nails it," the artist said. Ultimately, Redford knows that the internet is impossible to capture in an illustration, not dissimilar to the Borges short story about a perfect map of the world that is detailed to the point where specific cities are the size of the real place. It wasn't an attempt at a flawless recreation, but rather a dive into popular understandings and perspectives about a pan-global tool. "I think it's really cool that you can't put the internet in a box like that," he said. "Hopefully it will stay that way."
For more information on Internetopia, visit the project's website where you can buy prints and explore the illustration in full.