Wednesday October 08, 2014

Douglas Coupland digs into the colossal, faceless company that keeps the internet running

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Artist and writer Douglas Coupland believes Alcatel-Lucten reshapes humanity's inner life as it maintains a huge part of the internet. (Olivia Arthur/Magnum)

The internet can be a fabulous and powerful thing but follow it to its core - as Douglas Coupland did - and you'll find wires. In his latest book, Douglas Coupland explores cyberspace and the very tangible offices of Alcatel-Lucent, one of the most important internet companies you've never heard of.


"They ask young people what do you think the cloud looks like? They use almost religious terminology to describe it when in fact the internet is just a bunch of data farms on the Colombia river or routers in a room in suburban Ottawa. Everything's beige."

Douglas Coupland on Alcatel-Lucent
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(Olivia Arthur/Magnum)





Back in 1993, few would dream of sending a fax from the beach. Now the thought of being on a beach without downloading, Facebooking, google-mapping and checking the news from home on a smartphone seems as antique as ...well... as a fax.

AT&T didn't turn out to be the company to deliver the future. A company that did play a huge -- but largely invisible -- role is Alcatel-Lucent. It's a transnational company at least partially responsible for the design and maintenance of the internet. And it's the subject of Douglas Coupland's latest book.

Perhaps best known for his 1991 best-selling book, Generation X, Coupland has chronicled our culture for decades. He is also an accomplished visual artist. His new book is called Kitten Clone: Inside Alcatel-Lucent.

As part of our By Design series, Douglas Coupland joined us in Toronto.


Douglas Coupland's "Gumhead" sculpture in Vancouver, B.C

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The 7-foot sculpture is a likeness of the artist and has been outside the Vancouver Art Gallery all summer. People have been encouraged to apply their chewed gum to it so it would transform and eventually obscure the artist's face. (CP/Darryl Dyck)


How do you inoculate yourself against change, protect yourself from the internet?

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This segment was produced by The Current's Kristin Nelson.