The unknowable voids of deep web hyper topologies

Deep cyberspace is a void of opaque unknowns. Beyond the surface web, the 0.0018% that Google indexes and returns, lies the deep web. Exponential petabytes of bits, its databanks hum with vibrant activity. Through dark fibres and private pipes sinews strengthen and flex. It mediates, marshals and manages more and more. The infosphere-without-us emerges in these recesses.

Although this vibrant activity is not intended for all of us, if we look, it is still there for all to see. It is not indexed because it is not commercially useful to return it, particularly as machine-to-machine data and services constitute much of this activity. If the scale of the human-centric surface web to the machine-centric deep web is a sign of things to come, the M2M IoT, then its predominance is evident. Yet these machines openly communicate, they announce their APIs, their ports, their protocols. What of the internet that is not there? The addresses that respond with nothing when probed, the machines that return silence?

In 2012 an anonymous researcher created a botnet using vulnerable and misconfigured internet devices. This network of zombie machines was used to interrogated all manner of ports and services including a simple ICMP ping of every possible IP (v4) address. The resulting data was released as a torrent called ‘The Internet Census’. These images visualise every address that returned a response.

x y z
IP 192 168 0 1
r g b

IP addresses are 4 dimensional numbers from 0 to 255 (e.g. 192.168.0.1). Each of the first numbers, n.x.x.x, contains roughly 16 million addresses. These large blocks, /8 blocks, where originally reserved for, and are often still owned by, single large organisations. Taking the first number as a separate dimension leaves the remaining 3 numbers to map directly into x,y,z and r,g,b values. Thus each /8 block becomes a colourful 3 dimensional point clouds.


Scrubbed of axis and keys, the representative language of proper data science becomes half-tone Gibsonian topologies and pointillist portraits of cyber-cosmic pessimism.

These images are only given character and form by their negative space, the opaque unknowns. In a domain of pure information entirely of our own making there are still unknowable voids. The question lies, are these voids the infosphere-without-us accelerating past and subsuming what is humanly knowable or are they the covetous, furtive, hoarding logics of capital.

Since IPV4 depletion occurred, there are no more ‘free’ addresses. The market value of single address (bought as part of a large block) is around $12 and rising. Someone owns this dead space. Do they sit idle and unoccupied, driving enforced scarcity or are these the machines that return silence?

This project originated as a full dome film which has been screened at the Greenwich Royal Observatory Planetarium, Jena Film Festival and Sidney Cooper Gallery. A 4K version is available below.


As the deep web bouys the surface, the silent space environs the addressable.