Metropolis Magazine
Issue #805 - Friday, Aug 28th, 2009
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Past Issues
804: Drama Scene
803: Heads, Tails & Snake Eyes
801: A Legacy of Emotion
800: Through the Monocle
799: Fighting spirit
798: Taking the Stares
796: Friends Don't Let Friends Become Salarymen
795: Fuzzy Democracy
794: Hung Jury
792: Highway to Hell
791: The Cartography of Cyberspace
790: Train Talk
789: A Confessions of a Teenager in Kimono
787: A Downloaded Question
786: Counterculture Shock
785: The Good Sensei
783: Me, Charisma Woman?
782: Stumbling Block
781: Paradise Lost
779: Half and Half
778: Road Rage
777: Dumb Luck
775: The M-List
774: Compatriotic Spirit
773: The Naked Truth
770-71: It Ain't Easy Being Green
769: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas in Japan
768: Japanese Lessons
766: Bad Credit
765: Chew on this
764: Red faced
763: Down and Out in Tokyo
761: Kicking the bucket
760: Thumbing It
759: Fixing the System
757: Smoke rings
756: Stalking the Predators
755: Banding Together
753: No Competition
752: Sex and This City
751: Let's Shogi
750: The Yasukuni Follies
748: Loud and Clear
747: I'll be back
746: Raiders of the lost SMAP
744: Magical Mystery Tour
743: Murder in Lotus Land
742: Stereotypes 'R' Us
740: The Mother of all Mothers
739: Crimes of Fashion
738: The Hafu Dad Brigade
737: The Green Team
736: Fight Club
735: The Paper Chase
734: The Wind-Up Writer Chronicle
733: Food For Thought?
732: Home and Away
731: The 2008 Nazi Olympics
730: The Two-Wheel Revolution
729: Gimme a Break
728: Power Play
727: Dying for a doctor
726: Footloose Revisited
725: Little Fish, Bigger Pond
724: Japan's Peace Monster
723: Language Abuse
722: Scumbusters "R" Us
721: First Action Hiro
720: The Return of Asashoryu
718-719: A Time to Give
717: My Homelessness Dilemma
716: The 30 Percent Solution
715: Past Imperfect
714: Killing the Kimono
713: The trouble with Tibbets
712: Surfing the Shinto-net
711: Falling Stars
710: Macho Man
709: Bad Impressions
708: Bloodsport
707: Our Last Word
706: Anonymocracy
705: The Air Up There
704: Read the Signs
703: The sky should not be the limit
702: My Year Zero Proposal
701: The Joys of Freeganism
700: Prada for the People
699: The Parasite Country
698: Washed up in Tokyo
697: Birthing's Not for Babies
696: On the Handlebars of a Dilemma
695: My So-Called Poverty
694: Get Out the Vote
693: The Ishihara Mystery
691: Let it Flow
690: Caf Culture
689: Oyaji Fashionistas
688: The Democracy of the Dysfunctional
687: Polite Disregard
686: Venting on Climate Change
685: Silent No Longer
684: To protect and serve?
683: Save the Sanshin building!
682: In the Realm of the Pond God
681: The Open Society and Its Enemies
680: Five-Ring Circus
679: Topic of Cancer
678: Pet Peeves
677: Why I am Banned in Japan
676: A long way to the top
675: Euro-vision
674: Child's play
673: Why I did it
672: I Love Japan
671: Running Crazy
670: Planet Apology
669: A peek behind the curtain
668: Opening Up
666: Pitching a fit
665: All wrapped up
664: Yule Rules
663: Field of Dreams
662: Save Lives, not Face
661: Why Do I Buy a Ticket?
660: Dying for a Nap
659: We, the jury
658: Grain of truth
657: Remembering The Maverick
656: A Rose by any Other Name
655: Heir today, gone tomorrow
654: Manhandled on the Metro
653: The bodyguards of the road
652: Separate but equal
651: Going for the gold
650: Being Audrey Hepburn
649: Not Sitting Pretty
648: Get Smart
647: Through foreign eyes
646: A failing grade in cute
644: Club Lands
643: Sayonara, Hide
642: The JET SET
641: What, me worry?
640: The Da Vinci Load
639: Making Waves
638: Final Cut
637: Resave the whales
636: Soccer Silliness
635: I, Smoker
634: The Ultimate Loss
633: Shoot the Messengers
632: The second sex
631: A Maverick Moves On
630: The curse of Baron Mitsui
629: Waiting for Heidi
628: Memoirs of a fake celebrant
627: Take it Outside
626: Wa? What wa?
625: A well-drawn life
624: St. Patrick the abducted
623: Bend over
622: The (Un)Late show
621: Oil spill
620: Ice Follies
619: Pride Goeth
618: Lost roles
617: Saying it with Cookies
616: Wrestling with foreigners
614-615: Blank Pages
613: Fretting Over Freeters
612: Farewell, Sensei
611: Sympathy for the wild ones
610: Back in Black
609: Out of many, one
608: Youth culture
607: The Russians are coming!
606: Meddle Detector
605: Tokyo, Mon amour
604: The Wailing Wall
603: Getting Abreast of Cancer
602: Willing Ally
601: New war,same story
600: The Big Chill
599: The Gray Zone
598: Jail break
597: Extremely Lost in Translation
596: Wounded Despot
595: History Lessons
594: Valhalla of the Imperial Army
592: Culture crash
591: Complaints Department
590: What lies beneath
589: Strange Games
588: Junk Science
587: The day the invaders came
586: The Test that Drove Me Crazy
585: Smile and say “lesbian”
584: Keep Article 9
583: The Great Divide
582: An ad for all seasons
581: Killing the Golden Goose
580: The other half
579: Give me back my bye-bye
578: Araki in Focus
577: Head out on the Highway
576: The hate that won't go away
575: Here's the beef
574: Yukking it up
573: Squatter’s rights and wrongs
572: The Trouble with Yokoso
571: Fire from the sky
570: Invasion of the gairaigo
569: Good company
568: Find Out What it Means To Me
567: Field of schemes
566: In the Name of Justice
565: Winner or Loser?
564: Staying Foreign
563: The Scare after Tomorrow
561-562: The Spirit of Things
560: War for remembrance
559: Storm damage
558: The Meaning of Godzilla
557: Who’s left to listen?
556: Paying respects
555: Gender Trouble
554: Coming clean at last
553: Go our own way
552: Hits of yesteryear
551: Heir apparel
550: Personal Reflections
549: Nuclear Reactions
548: Article of faith
547: Martyrs for the firm
546: A different anniversary
545: We, the jury
544: Wrongs & rights
543: Moore or less
542: Fair games
541: Developmentally challenged

By James Hadfield

The Cartography of Cyberspace
Mapping the internet is an exhausting business

James Hadfield is the editor of Metropolis

If you thought the Net was confusing, wait until you try to make a map of it. That’s what Oliver Reichenstein has done. Well, sort of.
Reichenstein runs Information Architects (iA), a strategic design firm with offices in Tokyo and Zürich. Last month, the company unveiled its fourth Web Trend Map (http://informationarchitects.jp), which takes the most influential sites and people on the internet and fits them onto the Tokyo Metro map. If you’re into this kind of thing, you’ve probably already seen it, and its predecessors. Earlier iterations of the map were sufficiently popular to crash iA’s servers when they were launched, owing to the amount of traffic they generated.

Reichenstein produced the first one on a whim on Christmas afternoon in 2006, intending it to be nothing more than a gift to his clients. That took four hours; the latest took four months. “In man-months, I think it was probably about ten,” he admits when I meet him for a drink at the standing bar across the road from his office in north Harajuku.
“I’m pretty exhausted,” he says. “I need to read four or five hours of tech news every day to stay on top of this.”

The effort shows. The Web Trend Map 4 is, for want of a better way to put it, pretty mind-blowing stuff. 333 internet domains and 111 people are positioned on a 3D grid where everything is painstakingly thought-out and interconnected.
Eparama Tuibenau

The lines of this virtual network are organized thematically, ranging from News (The New York Times, The Huffington Post) and Money (eBay, Bloomberg LP) to Opinion (Slashdot, TechCrunch) and Sharing (PirateBay, Creative Commons). Sites are rated for both success and stability, while their positions on the map often have added significance. Facebook, for instance, is in Ikebukuro, at the intersection of the Identity, Application and Entertainment lines. Google is Shinjuku, Wikipedia is down in Ebisu (near the source of the Knowledge line, naturally) and Amazon occupies the bureaucratic stronghold of Kasumigaseki.

Like any good geek, Reichenstein revels in the knowing touches. Social news website Reddit gets Roppongi: an area synonymous with sleaze, but which also boasts some of the best views over the whole of Tokyo (and its web counterpart, correspondingly, over the internet). Microsoft and News Corp’s central positions are as much a testament to how dull they are as how important—just think of the Imperial Palace.

One happy accident was the placement of The New York Times. The venerable broadsheet, nicknamed the “Old Gray Lady,” was awarded the septuagenarian shopping paradise of Sugamo. “Yeah, it’s ‘Harajuku for grannies’,” Oliver says. “I knew that, but I didn’t think about it when I put The New York Times there. I just noticed and was like, ‘Yes!’”

“Skype in Harajuku: that’s kind of a stretch,” he continues. “Funnily enough, nobody pointed that out. People point out, ‘Oh, Twitter’s in Shibuya...’ That’s not a stretch at all. That’s so fucking obvious. If you just open your eyes and read a couple of tech news [articles], you see that that’s where the buzz is right now. Maybe next year it won’t be like that at all, but right now Twitter is Shibuya, by far.”

Mapping the internet is one thing, of course; predicting where it’s all heading is another. Each year, the Trend Map has grown denser as its targets become more diverse. Traditional cartographers have the consolation of knowing that the parameters of their universe seldom shift, but the internet permits no such comfort. It’s all change: blogs are on the way out, while the appeal of the much-hyped Web 2.0 has faded since people realized that “it’s basically a lot of crap. Not everybody is a specialist: everybody thinks he’s a specialist, but most people, when they go online, they’re just dicks,” says Reichenstein.

Sites like Twitter are part of a move towards an internet that’s more personal. “The internet develops at a massive speed—because so many people develop it, and have the tools and knowledge and the information to develop it—that right now we are in a totally different stage already,” Reichenstein says. “There’s no real word for it, but they call it the ‘social graph,’ the ‘semantic web.’ Basically ... the internet’s becoming smaller again.”

This is reflected in the prominent positioning of key internet figures on the latest map, from Steve Jobs and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to usability guru Jakob Nielsen, YouTube-plundering musician Kutiman and Barack Obama.

“People are becoming as important as domains right now,” he says. “Actually, domains are pretty much out the window. Nobody would spend $100 million for Sex.com any more, because if you have a really good porn site, they’re going to find you. It doesn’t work like that. What’s much more important, if you want to build steam online, is that you know what you’re talking about—that you get good information.”

Though the Web Trend Map would appear to fit nicely into this picture, he admits that its days might also be numbered. “Maybe it’s the last of its kind, because maybe in a year the internet is going to be so atomized that it’s more about your personal connections than what it used to be.” He smiles. “That would be a great relief, because then I don’t need to make it even better.”

Got something to say about this article? Send a letter to the editor at letters@metropolis.co.jp.

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