Networkin’ it

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It may only be the second topic that we have taken a dive into, but this week’s look at ‘The Network Society Paradigm’ has definitely had me intrigued.  Our communications have taken a great shift from the centralised telegraph office and telephone switchboard, to the more decentralised and distributed networks that we see on the internet.

Centralised networks see all information pass through a central (hence the name) hub before being directed to the intended recipient.  One of the greatest problems we see with this system is the inherent threat of censorship or watchdog behaviour by those who control the hub.

A good analogy was brought up in this week’s tutorial about a telegraph office.  If a group of people were communicating through telegraph, the operator has to read and then encode the message so that it can be transcribed on the receiving end by another telegraph operator.  This system works fine until there is something that the telegraph operator does not wish to send.  They have the power and ability to alter or not send the message at all to suit their needs.

Decentralised networks function in sort of the same way that centralised networks operate.  There are still hubs through which information flows, but on a much smaller and more divided scale.  The Second World War saw the German army employ decentralised networks to issue orders to their soldiers in the field of battle.  ‘Blitzkrieg’ meaning ‘lightning war’, was used to quickly manoeuvre and adapt military tactics as situations unfolded rather than waiting for high orders from central command.  This meant that smaller hubs could control smaller units of soldiers making it more efficient. (But I suppose this is an argument against Decentralised networks, because we all know how the war ended hmmmmmmmmmmmmm)

The greatest problem that can arise with these networks is the destabilisation caused by an outage in the hub.  If there is a problem in the central processing node, the system falls apart as the periphery nodes do not contact each other.

Distributed networks operate on the principle that all nodes are created equally and that the flow of information is even across all parts.  There is no central hub for the distribution of information, and all nodes in the network have the ability to connect with each other.  The advantage of this is that if one node goes out the system remains fully functional.  The only way to completely close the network would be to destroy every single component.  The Pirate Bay is an excellent example of this, authorities may try to close down the website, but due to the distributed nature of the network it can’t be completely destroyed.  Like a Hydra, for every head to cut off, two more appear.

I hope this has make these ideas a little clearer with the use of the graphic and examples.

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