'Warning: Do not dig': Negotiating the visibility of critical infrastructures

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article highlights the visual traces of undersea cables, technologies that carry the majority of transoceanic telecommunications traffic, in order to make visible the material systems that support an 'immaterial' internet. The author documents the cultural production of these traces, recording how infrastructural visibility must be negotiated at points where cables cross through public spaces, including beaches, highways, and state parks. By examining the cultural conflicts over cables in California and O'ahu, the article shows how telecommunications companies reorganize visual space to protect the cable, using diverse media such as nautical charts and warning signs. The cultural specificity of these representations testifies to the ways in which global cable systems develop in relation to local spatial politics. The article seeks to broaden research on infrastructure's invisibility, disruption, and sensationalization to include the 'existing visibilities' of undersea cables as they are constituted in everyday life and material environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38-57
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Visual Culture
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2012


  • digital networks
  • global media
  • infrastructure
  • invisibility
  • materiality
  • undersea cables

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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