The Geography of Technology: Space, Place and the Embedded Environment


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By Guy Rintoul for BarCampLondon4. Bit rough around the edges :)

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The Geography of Technology: Space, Place and the Embedded Environment

  2. 2. Agenda <ul><li>Mapping space and place </li></ul><ul><li>New ‘virtual’ space </li></ul><ul><li>Interaction of virtual and real </li></ul><ul><li>Software and space </li></ul>
  3. 3. Space and Place <ul><li>Traditionally fixed: </li></ul><ul><li>Same or tightly linked </li></ul><ul><li>Can be mapped </li></ul><ul><li>Telephone or postal networks </li></ul>
  4. 4. Space and Place <ul><li>Technology makes them fluid: </li></ul><ul><li>Not necessarily linked </li></ul><ul><li>Can’t always be mapped </li></ul><ul><li>Internet </li></ul>
  5. 5. Brief History <ul><li>1969 – First two nodes connected </li></ul><ul><li>1970s –APRANET (US DoD) expands across continental US </li></ul><ul><li>1980s – National Science Foundation takes responsibility. Forms links to Europe and becomes Internet </li></ul>
  6. 6. Brief History <ul><li>1989 – Tim Berners-Lee invents the Web </li></ul><ul><li>1991 – CERN publicizes this new project </li></ul><ul><li>1990s – Web grows at rate of 100% per year. Explosive growth in 1996 and 1997 </li></ul>
  7. 7. Old Space <ul><li>Phone or postal system: </li></ul><ul><li>Dedicated circuit or delivery routes </li></ul><ul><li>Call or parcel travels only one route </li></ul><ul><li>Space and place can be mapped </li></ul>
  8. 8. New Space <ul><li>Internet: </li></ul><ul><li>Multiple delivery routes to destination </li></ul><ul><li>Data split then reassembled (TCP/IP) </li></ul><ul><li>Each packet can take a different route </li></ul>
  9. 9. New Space <ul><li>Mapping: </li></ul><ul><li>Place is still fixed – start and end points </li></ul><ul><li>But new, space is fluid, fluctuating </li></ul><ul><li>Data follows constantly changing paths </li></ul><ul><li>Historical bias to US hubs, but these are just ‘concentrations in the cloud’ </li></ul><ul><li>Physical cables don’t affect space </li></ul>
  10. 10. New Space <ul><li>Perception: </li></ul><ul><li>The cloud </li></ul><ul><li>Place but no physical space in between </li></ul><ul><li>One large virtual, fluctuating space </li></ul><ul><li>Entire space of their own </li></ul>
  11. 11. Real-World Space <ul><li>Influence of virtual space: </li></ul><ul><li>New space feeds back into old </li></ul><ul><li>Old space being built on new (e.g. VoIP) </li></ul><ul><li>Three interfaces between real and virtual </li></ul><ul><li>What does this mean for the future? </li></ul>
  12. 12. Interaction with New Space <ul><li>Graham (1998), writing just after the explosion in Internet use: </li></ul><ul><li>Substitution and transcendence </li></ul><ul><li>Co-evolution </li></ul><ul><li>Recombination </li></ul>
  13. 13. 1. Substitution & Transcendence <ul><li>Media, telecoms and communication converge until distance no longer matters </li></ul><ul><li>Full Service Networks (FSNs) create an interactive virtual reality which replaces the non-virtual </li></ul>
  14. 14. 1. Substitution & Transcendence <ul><li>Approximations include Second Life (money interchangeable) and World of Warcraft (gay rights protest) </li></ul><ul><li>Discredited. Criticized as ‘technological Utopianism’ – still need to eat, sleep etc. </li></ul>
  15. 15. 2. Co-Evolution <ul><li>Technology and space co-evolve together </li></ul><ul><li>Doesn’t assume universal distribution or access to technology in a capitalist world </li></ul><ul><li>Produce more material spaces rather the all-engulfing cyberspace of the first theory </li></ul>
  16. 16. 2. Co-Evolution <ul><li>New technologies reflexively shape real-world space, with both influencing each other in their design and incorporation </li></ul><ul><li>Includes capitalist power struggles (e.g. ‘smart’ vs. prepayment power meters) </li></ul>
  17. 17. 3. Recombination <ul><li>Boundaries between humans and technology become less defined </li></ul><ul><li>Actors and networks, both human and non-human, influence the development, use and interaction of the other </li></ul>
  18. 18. 3. Recombination <ul><li>Does not suggest that technology absorbs the real world </li></ul><ul><li>Players interact in complex ways, rather than in an absolute time-space arena </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Fuzziest’ of Graham’s three theories – somewhere in between the other two? </li></ul>
  19. 19. Most Likely? <ul><li>Possibly too early to tell, as technology is in its comparative infancy </li></ul><ul><li>Likely – flexible interaction between the theories of co-evolution and recombination </li></ul>
  20. 20. Most Likely? <ul><li>Valentine and Holloway (2002) study Internet use of 11-16 year olds: </li></ul><ul><li>Incorporated online worlds into offline ones (e.g. friendships and social networks) </li></ul><ul><li>Also with offline worlds into online ones (e.g. class and gender identities) </li></ul>
  21. 21. Software and Space <ul><li>Mentioned hardware but not software </li></ul><ul><li>But cables are useless on their own </li></ul><ul><li>Hardware may define the place, but how does software affect the space? </li></ul>
  22. 22. Software and Space <ul><li>Thrift and French (2002): </li></ul><ul><li>Study how software changes society </li></ul><ul><li>Software as a ‘new set of textualities’ </li></ul><ul><li>Includes everything from the binary code to the information produced using it </li></ul>
  23. 23. Software in Context <ul><li>Historically: </li></ul><ul><li>Software and hardware separate entities which performed separate tasks </li></ul><ul><li>Increasingly engrained in real-world space </li></ul><ul><li>Software was discrete – now ‘wideware’ </li></ul>
  24. 24. Software in Context <ul><li>Software often unnoticed, while hardware that enables it is seen as ‘the technology’ </li></ul><ul><li>For example, over 30% of an executive car’s value is in the software (EIU, 2000) </li></ul><ul><li>Millennium bug highlighted this ‘software writing space’ (Thrift and French, 2002) </li></ul>
  25. 25. Software in Space <ul><li>Dodge and Kitchin (2005) propose three ways in which software (code) is found in geographical , real-world space: </li></ul><ul><li>Code/space </li></ul><ul><li>Coded space </li></ul><ul><li>Background coded space </li></ul>
  26. 26. 1. Code/space <ul><li>In this type of relationship, the problem cannot be solved without code </li></ul><ul><li>For example, if the code is a stereo does not work properly, it won’t play CDs </li></ul>
  27. 27. 2. Coded Space <ul><li>In this type of relationship, the code allows extra functions or features but the main system can still work without it </li></ul><ul><li>For example, CCTV in a shop. If the cameras stop working, the shop can still function without them </li></ul>
  28. 28. 3. Background Coded Space <ul><li>In this type of relationship, the code allows a solution to work, but only when purposely activated </li></ul><ul><li>For example, mobile phone signals are always present as background coded space. When the phone is used, a signal is required and so it becomes code/space </li></ul>
  29. 29. Software in Space <ul><li>Technology is all around us – not just hardware, but software as well </li></ul><ul><li>The hardware is what’s noticed, but the software also plays a pivotal role </li></ul>
  30. 30. Summary <ul><li>Technology is changing space and place </li></ul><ul><li>Increasingly, fluid ‘virtual’ space and fixed real-world space interact </li></ul><ul><li>But technology is all around us, not only in the form of ‘obvious’ hardware, but as hidden software too </li></ul>
  31. 31. Questions? Guy Rintoul