Castells and the network society

Writing as a geographer, the notion of a new type of space is intrinsically interesting (as far as I can tell, geography seems to be quite similar other social sciences, but emphasizes space, place, scale, and a global-local dynamic). Castells proposes a transition from a space of place to a "space of flows" that produces coordinated flexible networks. This amounts to a new social organization of society and the institutionalization of instability ... a "normalized volatility."

Yet really whither place? Is it just in our academic analyses that we shift from place to flows? I am willing to give that a try for a while, if it indeed proves useful. But what about our experience of place, and our tendency to make place through daily narratives? Are we placeless, now that we've been integrated into these networks? I wonder if this distinction is a bit too strong. Perhaps what we're seeing is the shift from space of place to space of place-flows, whereby the meaning the place and how we imagine placeness now incorporates informationalism.

The suggestion that network society has dramatic implications for time ("timeless time") relates back to last week's discussions of modernity. Weber documented how new bureaucratic forms of rationalization contributed to a new mode of social life (modernity), among which was a changing sense of efficiency and time. Here we have a parallel analysis in that the new time regimes signal our transition into another mode of social life (a post-modern one, if you will).

One aspect of this literature that appeals greatly to my emerging analysis of on-demand and interactive web maps is the formulation of the new technological paradigm known as "informatinalism" (Stalder 28: 2006). For instance, the concept of recombination (the combination of different information into something new) relates to current advancements in mapping. This is evident in Google maps, for example, which are increasingly acting as an interface allowing the user to bring data from different sources into one place. Another example is the Travelosity DreamMap that uses the map as the front end for exploring a databse of airline fares. Such analysis is equally as informed by the notion of distributional flexibility, or the "endless reorganization of information flows." The ephemeral notion of on-demand maps assures the continual transfiguration of information representation and use.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i hear what you're saying man. thanks for the post.