Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Technology and urban spaces: research challenges

Beyond the 'Dazzling Light': from dreams of transcendence to the 'remediation' of urban life (pdf) by Stephen Graham

"First, far from being a complete and revolutionary break with the past, new media maintain many intimate connections with old media, technologies, practices and (electromechanical) infrastructures and spaces (telephone, broadcasting, electricity, highway, streets, airline, logistics systems, and so forth)...

Second, new media research needs to engage much more powerfully with the complex intra-urban and inter-urban geographies that so starkly define the production, consumption and use of its subject artefacts, technologies and practices...

Third, and relatedly, new media research needs to excavate the often invisible and hidden material systems that bring the supposedly ‘virtual’ domains and worlds of new media into existence...

Fourth, it is now clear that the use and experience of new media is associated with myriad urban changes in different spaces, times and contexts. Indeed, one new media artefact – say an internet computer – can be used itself to sustain a wide range of uses by a range of different people at different times of the day and in different physical situations...

Fifth, as new media diffuse more widely and become more taken-for-granted and ubiquitous, it is increasingly apparent – at least in richer urban regions – that they are being used to reconfigure subtly the place-based worlds and mobilities of everyday urban life...

The sixth and final key research challenge, then, is to be acutely conscious of the growing invisibility of sociotechnical power in contemporary societies."

From cafe to parkbench: Wi-Fi and technological overflows in the city (pdf) by Adrian Mackenzie

"The problem of how to keep data moving in a way that is synchronised with the movements of a person is leading to the development of many different kinds of habit, anticipation and systematisations of mobility. One analytical response to this situation is to introduce a new theoretical abstraction to explain communicative praxis. The idea of the Hertzian landspace is one such response. Similar ideas run through much futurological and policy work on telecommunications today. Such responses risk making the same 'mistake' made by earlier responses to the Internet. New patterns of information movement are treated as detached from or of a different order to existing forms and practices of everyday life. A more critical response draws on geography, sociology and cultural studies to argue for a new hybrid discipline, 'urban new media studies,' which would locate movements of data in relation to everyday practices in the city. The nexus of ‘urban’ and ‘new media’ already signals a localisation and specificity of analysis that the Hertzian landscape mostly lacks...

The feeling that the mobile Internet is ‘what comes next’ runs strongly throughout corporate, governmental and art projects associated with Wi-Fi. In this respect Wi-Fi recycles and remediates many of the same claims, beliefs, images, values and emotions associated with earlier new media and digital culture – the promise of pure fluidity, absence of obstacles or constraints. On the other hand, the three kinds of overflow discussed above mix images of movements with practical negotiations of movement within everyday urban settings. In each case, the image of movement without obstacles encounters practical obstacles, to which different responses, forms and social-technical formations arise. This is the chief problem that confronts urban new media studies – how to analyse the mutual contextualization of images of movement and movement itself, particularly when movement itself becomes an image."

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