Today, technological networks are more accessible, more ubiquitous, and more mobile everyday. The always-on, always-accessible network produces a broad set of changes to our concept of place. These changes are not simply produced by technology; on the contrary, the development and practices of technology are thoroughly imbricated in culture, society and politics. This particular image depicts a network mapping of the world’s global internet connections. However, with connection there is also disconnection.
> Simultaneous Place
> Simultaneous Place
|+ Connection = Disconnection [CTW 2010]|
The city is itself a communication device having been shaped by the telephone and television. Until recently, the two primary means of browsing the city have been by foot – the flaneur’s method – and by car. Public events now occur simultaneously, in two different places: the place of the event itself and that in which it is watched and heard. Mobile phones can be used as ‘territory machines’, redefining public space by transforming a seat, a pavement, a bus stop, into the user’s own personal paradise; using mobiles to create a private virtual world through which we maintain constant interpersonal contact.
Society is moving toward more networked forms of organisation. Far from the mythical distribution ideal that ideologists of technology claim it to be, the network has its own physicality and material presence. Areas and populations outside of this logic are subject to the tunnel effect: they virtually don’t exist as far as the network and the dominant world economy is concerned. Does virtual existence impact upon actual existence? It’s been suggested that the network has to be seen as part of an opposition between “the Net and the self”, in which individuals relentlessly try to affirm their identities in a rapidly changing world. This identity formation increasingly happens within networks that are both physical and virtual, filled with individuals who both produce and consume, taking advantage of new kinds of online cultural production.
|+ Networked Publics - the 'Networked Human' [CTW 2010]|
Despite the inescapable truth that global network connectivity equates to local disconnectivity, two emerging technologies are poised to bridge the gap between the network and the local – the geospatial web and ubiquitous computing. This meshing of the virtual and physical is intended to reduce local disconnectivity whilst maintaining global/virtual connectivity, with the model of non-place being turned on its head in the creation of social connections via mobile networking technology. The convergence of the geospatial web with locative media and mobile networking technology will enable society to read, and leave behind virtual traces on the world, re-creating physical place as a digital map – the virtual has become grounded in the real. This overlay of virtual data over place will enable society to have access to a whole web of locally applicable information, thus enhancing local connectivity and the social significance of place. However, it could also render place a prisoner of memory and ‘someone else’s’ experiences. It may also exacerbate the issue of ‘tunnelling’ for those without network access, leading to an increase in social exclusion. And, of course, the rise in locative media will undoubtedly result in an ever-expanding surveillance culture within a ‘virtual police state’ society.