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Professor Robert Gehl delivers Keynote at the University of Calgary

On March 1, Professor Robert W. Gehl gave a keynote at the University of Calgary's School of Languages, Linguistics, Literatures & Cultures, titled "A Deep Dive into the Marianas Web: Surveillance, Information, and Mythologies of the Dark Web." The talk's abstract is:

No matter what you think you know, no matter the facts that you're presented by the media, no matter what our leaders or so-called "experts" say, the Truth is just out of reach. It is hidden behind a veil made of lies and obfuscation. But, if you dig deep enough, and if you're skillful enough, there are parts of the Internet that will reveal the Truth to you.

This is the logic behind a powerful Internet myth: the "Marianas Web,"

A layer of computer networking resources that lies deeper than the "surface" Internet. It's even deeper than the "Deep Web" or the "Dark Web" – that is, deeper than even Tor hidden services. Starting sometime in the 2010s, an infographic meme has circulated the Internet, describing the Marianas Web as only accessible with advanced programming languages or quantum computers. With such technology, the infographic promises, one can find all the answers to all of our burning questions about global conspiracies, computer hacking, corporate or government surveillance, or celebrity gossip.

Rather than dismissing the Marianas Web as a joke, this presentation considers the cultural power of this meme. Why do hundreds of people take to Internet forums (including on the Dark Web) and ask how to reach this deep layer? Why do security experts reference it? Why do oceans, immateriality, and the Truth haunt our Internet visions? In short, what keeps this myth alive? I argue that the power of the Marianas Web arises because of key contradictions identified by scholars of modernity and digital culture: namely, the more information we have access to, the less certainty we have. The more we are monitored by governments and corporate social media, the less we know about each other and ourselves. Thus, myths such as the Marianas Web derive their power from their capacity to provide answers in a "Post Truth" age of politics and doubt.

Last Updated: 3/8/19