A global nervous system: from the telegraph to cyberspace

Humankind has forever felt the need and purpose to communicate. It is an essential way of life, for even those who are incapable of forms of speech, sight and/or sound development methods to counter this, as such as the need for all forms of communication. As per the title borrowed for the theme for Week 2 of DIGC202, you could state that communuication is the global nervous system.

To add to this, we need go no further than to A Short History of the Internet by Bruce Sterling. Published in Febraury 1993, we could happily say that this is an out-of-date article, but that would ignore the fact that history is often the greatest mentor. Sterling recounts that the “idea” for the internet came when “the RAND Corporation, America’s foremost Cold War think-tank, faced a strange strategic problem”. Such is the importance of communication COUGH Global Nervous System COUGH that instead of worrying about the environment, or the rebuilding of civilisation, instead our ability to communicate with whoever was left was deemed as Priority #Uno.

One point stood out to me significantly though, and it was when Sterling stated

“The Internet is also a bargain. The Internet as a whole, unlike the phone system, doesn’t charge for long-distance service. And unlike most commercial computer networks, it doesn’t charge for access time, either. In fact the “Internet” itself, which doesn’t even officially exist as an entity, never “charges” for anything. Each group of people accessing the Internet is responsible for their own machine and their own section of line.” (pg.3)

Needless to say, I am disappointed however that the article did not mention the most important factor in the creation of the Internet- Al Gore.


Oh Al.

As referenced in the lecture, the fact that our forms of communication form a global nervous system are reinforced by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hawthorne states- “…by means of electricity, the world of matter has become a great nerve, vibrating thousands of miles in a breathless point of time?” Hawthorne is correct, when the first electric telegraph was enacted in 1837, the world as we knew it would forever change. 20 Years later, in the 1850’s, the South Australian government appointed Charles Todd from the United Kingdom to become their first Telegraph Superintendent. The telegraph was revolutionary not only because it created quick, direct communication between individuals via Morse Code; revolutionizing the communication transport system of horse-riding letter deliveries or the crowded mail services within the Colony. Todd (great name btw) dreamt that by establishing a formidable telegraph system within Australia it  would be ‘a step in the direction of our ultimate telegraph communications, via India, with England, a scheme vast and difficult (which)… will, we doubt not, at no very distant date be carried out’.

Such 19th century dreams would come to fruitation soon enough, and now we strive to evolve and strengthen our communication channels, from the materials and matter used through to the efficiency of connection and speed; communication truly is a global nervous system.

Stay Classy UOW,




  1. I thought you did a great job of summarising the key points of this week’s topic, lecture and readings. The Sterling quote you posted also stood out to me in terms of how he differentiates the Internet from all of the other communication technologies. It really shows the way that communication technology has advanced throughout time and now allows its users to take control of their access time and the way that they perform said accessing. Perhaps you could have added to your blog post your personal opinion as to why you believed this quote was significant. I would like to hear your view and interpretation on what point exactly Sterling was trying to get across from that statement.

    I love your meme. Isn’t it interesting how many people have chosen to use a meme in their blog posts this week? I love that meme’s are so simple, yet have the ability to be deep. In only an image and text you’re able to convey humour, as you did in yours. I found this link explaining the background behind your “Bitches love X” meme. http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/bitches-love-smiley-faces
    It’s quite interesting to note how it transformed from a line from ‘The Boondocks’ “I sent that bitch a smiley face, bitches love smiley faces,” to now being used in so many different contexts, with different images and text. Again, a great example of how communication technologies have advanced. Who knew that one day you would be able to communicate through memes?

  2. Very insightful post about the way communication has evolved and transcended through history and kept very informative with your account of the findings in Bruce Sterling’s A Short History of The Internet. You raise some very interesting points that Ted spoke about in the lecture content The memes you use also keeps this post very fresh and adds humorous insight to your points and your post. The way you concluded was also very to he point and left this topic open to debate, I like that. Communication is definitely a global nervous system, striving for faster connection and quicker channels.

  3. Your blog was engaging and interesting
    I thought you did a great job summarising the key points from the lecture and putting them in a way that is simple and easy to understand
    its crazy to see how far technologies specifically the internet has come and how much of an impact it has on people
    Overall great blog and I look forward to reading more blog from you!

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