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Cyberspace theory

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Patrick Collins

on 1 October 2013

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Transcript of Cyberspace theory

Geographies of Cyberspace:
Where we are...
We have learned that society and technology are highly interwoven
Cyberspace is the culmination of things that went before
That in the main, there are two ways of looking at the emergence of cyberspace – as something that is going to drastically change the way we live. Or as simply an extension of what went before.
Many different theories from different theorists
In the main - we can see them as divided into two different camps.
Space matters / Space Doesn't
Death of Distance
Geogrpahy remains
distance will no longer determine the costs of communicating electronically‘the fate of location’, no longer will location be key to most business decisions. Companies will locate any screen-based activity anywhere on earth, wherever they can find the best bargain of skills and productivity ‘global peace’, people will communicate more freely … the effect will be to increase understanding, foster tolerance...
“The digital planet will look and feel like the head of a pin. As we interconnect ourselves, many of the values of a nation-state will give way to those of both larger and small electronic communities. We will socialize in digital neighbourhoods in which physical space will be irrelevant and time will play a different role” (Being Digital, 1995)
cyberspace is changing space-time relationshipstheorised as ‘convergence’, ‘compression’, ‘shrivelling’Michael Goodchild argues, “distance is not disappearing as a basis for human organization, but the parameters that define its importance are changing, and new scales of organisation are emerging as a consequence” [source: Goodchild M, 2004, “Scales of cybergeography” in Sheppard E, McMaster RB (eds), Scale and Geographic Enquiry.]
Kevin Morgan argues that the notion that ‘geography is dead’ rests on overly simplistic reading of the impacts of digitalisation of transaction and the globalisation of commodities
3 key problems are
conflate spatial reach with social depth (strength of face-to-face social interaction)
forget that rapid diffusion of information and codified knowledge does not mean that tacit knowledge and understanding are so easily distributed
treat geography are a inert physical container. place needs to be conceived as a set of relations
All aspects of cyberspace production and consumption are organised unevenly across space, and work to further this unevenness.
Cyberspace is highly concentrated and has a tendency to increase concentration. digital inequality
Cyberspace changes socio-spatial relationships but does not dissolve them
Cyberspace is an embodied space.
That the Internet exhibits strong continuity with past communication technologies (Malecki 2002). Thus, it is suggested that the Internet is developing along traditional fractures of wealth, institutions and structural relationships that influenced the uneven territorial development of past communication services (Graham 1998; Kitchin 1998; Warf 2001; Zook et al. 2004).
Institutional Quality
Telecommunications Policy
5 factors influencing the spread of technology
Wealth - Connecting to cyberspace is money intensive - Compounding these supply-side constraints are demand-side ones with low income users less able to afford access charges and/or the electronic equipment required to interface with the Internet.
Levels of Education - Activities such as email, online chat and Web surfing require linguistic and computer literacy, which are likely to be found in greater abundance in better educated countries. In fact, because well educated users are better placed to fully exploit the commercial, leisure and learning opportunities provided by the Internet, it follows that demand should be greater in economies with higher levels of human capital
Institutional Quality - Where the institutional environment provides stable, secure and credible conditions for investment, and therefore assured returns, it follows that investors should be more willing to make capital outlays in telecommunications infrastructure. Conversely, in countries characterised by regulatory instability, corruption
Trade - Diffusion. Trade potentially increases the supply of new technologies, either directly via physical imports, or indirectly via technological spillovers. In doing so, it can lower the costs of new innovations, thereby increasing uptake by potential adopters. By enhancing competition in domestic markets (from imports) or foreign markets (for exporters), trade also increases the demand for new productivity-enhancing technologies (Saggi 2002).
Telecommunications policy - In particular, regulations fostering greater competition between service providers – for example, through mandatory unbundling and access to the local loop – have been identified as a positive correlate of Internet diffusion (Bauer et al. 2002; Guillén and Suárez 2005; Hargittai 1999). Most likely, this is because competition stimulates improved Internet services, functionality and lower costs for users, increasing uptake amongst potential adopters. Liberalisation and competition
History and Theory context
The idea of an information society started to appear in accounts of contemporary society in the early 1960s
Early analyses of the information society, from Fritz Malchup's groundbreaking study in 1962 of The Production and Distribution of Knowledge in the United States to Marc Porat's work on The Information Economy in the mid-1970s, focused on the United States.
In the early 1990s interest seemed to be on the wane, the emergence of the Internet as an increasingly mass medium has prompted a major expansion of interest in the information society
Daniel Bell - post-industrial society
Denoted by the shift away from manufacturing to services – Using technologies and emphasising creativity/knowledge
What would be distinctive about the post-industrial society is the change in the character of knowledge itself. What has become decisive for the organisation of decisions and the direction of change is the centrality of theoretical-knowledge - the primacy of theory over empiricism and the codification of knowledge into abstract systems of symbols that . . . can be used to illuminate many different and varied areas of experience’. (Bell 1974: 21)
Alvin Tofflers - Future Shock
He suggested that the feeling of dislocation and uneasiness many experienced in the late 1960s was directly linked to 'future shock', an inability to keep up with the accelerating changes of the nascent information age (Toffler 1970). This was, he later argued, because the post-industrial, information society was ‘not a straight line extension of industrial society but a radical shift of direction . . . a comprehensive transformation at least as revolutionary' as the industrial revolution (Toffler 1980: 366).
Marshall McLuhan - Global Village
‘Today, after more than a century of electric technology, we have extended our central nervous system in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned’ (1964: p.3).
‘As electrically contracted, the globe is no more than a village. Electric speed at bringing all social and political functions together in a sudden implosion has heightened human awareness of responsibility to an intense degree’ (1964: p.5)
Manuel Castells' Network Society
Where electronically mediated networks support the development and dissemination of knowledge and information allowing the acceleration of adaptation and discovery. He also suggests, as have others, that developmental processes have shifted from being based on physical resource to an increased reliance on the mobilization and coordination of knowledge and information. This is leading to information capitalism and the network society.

Space of Flows as opposed to space of places
A Social Revolution
New Economy
Information Politics
Decline of the State
Four central claims of the Information Society
A Social Revolution
As Bill Gates surmised, the ‘global interactive network will transform our culture as dramatically as Gutenberg's press did the middle ages' (1996: 9). Relatively ubiquitous computing (networked through the internet) will have ramifications similar to those of the printing revolution. In another frequent comparison, the computer revolution is ‘at least as major a historical event as was the eighteenth- century Industrial revolution, inducing a pattern of discontinuity in the material basis of economy, society and culture’ (Castells 1996: 30).
A new economy
At the centre of the 'Californian ideology' which underlies much writing regarding the information economy is the notion that 'existing social, political and legal power structures will wither away to be replaced by unfettered interactions between autonomous individuals' (Barbrook and Cameron 1996)
In the pre-internet discussion of the information society, the transformation of politics and community focused on the rise of experts and the power they might enjoy (as in Bell 1974). Marc Porat, for instance, claimed that ‘the manager-scientist-professional is the new knight, absorbing the old powers of the capitalist, the landlord, the general and the priest’ (1978: 79).
Thus, not only are new social groups appearing but they will mobilize widely dispersed individuals into effective (niche) interest groups who will have an increasing impact on the Political process.
Decline of the state
An underlying distrust of government in the discussion of information society often takes the form of an explicit argument that it will allow civil society to successfully confront the state, which is outdated and no longer (if it ever was) the most efficient way to organize society. While this does not necessarily suggest their complete dissolution, states will ‘have to become more open as the old hierarchical bureaucracies are becoming irrelevant to the new generation’ (Tapscott 1998: 265, 290). There may be a residual role for centralized political authority but this is much diminished in the information age.
Theorising Space...
Dictionary of Human Geography
Doreen Massey
"A three dimensional medium in which all physical things exist".
The production of geographical knowledge has always involved claims to know 'space' in particular ways. Historically, special importance has been attached to the power to fix the locations of events (places, people) on the surface of the earth and represent these in maps.
For Pickles (2004) the construction of these maps were inherently political and therefore falsifying our understanding of space.
Much of social science throughout the 19th century focused explicitly on Time...
Geography introduced Space as a causative factor.
The study of Globalisation
Contemporary theorisations of space in human geography:

The Integration of Time and Space - no longer points on a map but mobile processes
The co-production of time and space - T&S are folded into the ongoing flows and forms of the world. T-S emerges as a process of continual construction
The unruliness of time-space: Space is rarely coherent
The porousness of time-space: influencing each others power relations
Theories of Cyberspace

Where we have come from
The two primary schools of Thought
The central claims of the IS
Theoretical Historical Context
Space and Cyberspace...
Factors of new technology
Are physical space and cyberspace roughly equivalent concepts? Can we relate traditional philosophical arguments about physical space to cyberspace? And do these arguments tell us anything about the nature of cyberspace?
Space and Cyberspace
Are they equivalent?

According to Bryant (2006) there are four facets of Space
- Place
- Distance
- Size
- Route

Involves 'where-type' questions
Where things are situated in relation to ourselves and other things
These are 'how far' type questions
These are 'how big' type questions
they involve dimensionality

These involve 'navigation type' questions
Is cyberspace equivalent to physical space? We need only cast a glance at the terms which have entered into modern parlance to convince ourselves that we treat cyberspace as an essentially spatial medium (as the word itself suggests), and so on a par with physical space. We visit websites, we zoom along the information superhighway, we enter chat rooms and Microsoft advertising executives try to reel us in with the slogan "Where do you want to go today?"
Cyberspace, like physical space.
prompts us to ask "where-type" questions. On which server is a particular website located? To which email address should we send our message?
has us asking "how far-type" questions. How many transmissions between how many different computers will it take for information to reach the desired destination? I
we ask "how big-type" questions. We might wonder how extensive a website is, meaning how much information it contains and how many links to other sites it includes. Size is also a relevant factor for ftp – how large a file is will (partially) determine how long it takes to download from the host computer to your own.
involves "navigation-type" issues. My email lands up in someone else’s mailbox by following a specified route or set of connections, while Web browsers enable us to reach out from our own computers and explore the electronic universe, as we follow links, moving from site to site.

Having Cyberspace as an equivalent space means what?
- What of Utopianism (the extreme TD viewpoint)
- What of Social relations
- What of economic production
- What of political power?

- true postmodernism

one final aspect before moving on
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