Renowned journalist Andrew Blum took to the stage at The Next Web Conference 2013 in Amsterdam today to talk about his inspiring journey to discover the physical infrastructure behind the Internet.

Blum used to write about architecture by visiting beautiful buildings and documenting their structural innovation. But following the release of the original iPhone, he found himself experiencing more and more of these places through a screen.

“I was spending all of my days – as most of you do – sitting in front of the screen, and then at the end of the day I was getting up and looking at this smaller screen in my pocket,” Blum said. “My attention was divided.”

The writer became hung up on the lack of physicality associated with the Internet. The journey to find exactly what places support and connect with the Internet was triggered following an unusual interaction with a squirrel in his backyard.

“My internet broke and the cable guy came to fix it,” Blum said. “He followed the wire from this dusty clump behind my coach, out to the back of my building in Brooklyn, and there he saw a squirrel running along the wire.”

“He said something to me that changed my life. He said ‘I think a squirrel is chewing on your internet’. And this of course seemed preposterous, because as all of you know the internet is the great changer of everything, it has changed revolutions, and dating and shopping and anything that you might imagine.

“But I got a very clear image in my head, and I realized that if I yanked the wire from the wall, it had to go someplace.”

Blum went on an adventure to find the buildings, installations and people who make the Internet what it is today. The results were extraordinary and in many ways, completely unexpected.

Blum also took the time to speak with The Next Web one-on-one after his keynote presentation. Check out his comments below, along with all our other #TNW2013 coverage.

Image Credit: Julia Deboer/Flickr