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Home > Books & Journals > Journal Abstracts Last Updated: 14:13 03/24/2008
Journal Abstracts #301: March 24, 2008

Information, Communication & Society

Journal Name: Information, Communication & Society:
Volume 10, Number 6, December 2007

Online ISSN: 1468-4462, Print ISSN: 1369-118X


SENTIENT CITIES Ambient intelligence and the politics of urban space (p789-817)
Mike Crang (Geography Department, Science Site, Durham, UK); Stephen Graham (Geography Department, Science Site, Durham, UK);
Increasing amounts of information processing capacity are embedded in the environment around us. The informational landscape is both a repository of data and also increasingly communicates and processes information. No longer confined to desk tops, computers have become both mobile and also disassembled. Many everyday objects now embed computer processing power, while others are activated by passing sensors, transponders and processors. The distributed processing in the world around us is often claimed to be a pervasive or ubiquitous computing environment: a world of ambient intelligence, happening around us on the periphery of our awareness, where our environment is not a passive backdrop but an active agent in organizing daily lives. The spaces around us are now being continually forged and reforged in informational and communicative processes. It is a world where we not only think of cities but cities think of us, where the environment reflexively monitors our behaviour. This paper suggests that we need to unpack the embedded politics of this process. It outlines the three key emerging dynamics in terms of environments that learn and possess anticipation and memory, the efficacy of technological mythologies and the politics of visibility. To examine the assumptions and implications behind this the paper explores three contrasting forms of 'sentient' urban environments. The first addresses market-led visions of customized consumer worlds. The second explores military plans for profiling and targeting. Finally, the third looks at artistic endeavours to re-enchant and contest the urban informational landscape of urban sentience. Each, we suggest, shows a powerful dynamic of the environment tracking, predicting and recalling usage.

Keywords: Ubiquitous computing; ambient intelligence; embedded politics; consumers; military targeting; urban art; tracking; geotagging

CHARTING THE LUDODROME The mediation of urban and simulated space and rise of the fl‚neur electronique (p818-845)
Rowland Atkinson (Housing and Community Research Unit, School of Sociology and Social Work, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia); Paul Willis (Housing and Community Research Unit, School of Sociology and Social Work, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia);
Urban spaces have become blended even more seamlessly with their portrayal. Such representations are generated via a broad range of media which both influence and sculpt our sense of their constitution so that our sense of what the urban 'is' is inflected by a range of interpretations, atmospheres, inherited viewpoints, dialogues and scenarios derived from these media. In this paper this interpretive skew is looked at as generated through intense video gaming activity and from a particular simulated urban context, the city of the game Grand Theft Auto 3: Liberty City. The objective is to conceptualize the linkages between gamers' apprehension of the relative realism of this in-game environment and its influence on their experience of traversing 'real' urban environments. The authors suggest the notions of slipped and segued viewpoints as a means of understanding the differential degrees to which real and artificial interactive representations, based around violence, gang ecologies and dystopian urban space, bleed unevenly into the everyday urban life of these players. This sense of space appears to influence perceptions of risk, the navigation of urban space, and received understandings of social ecologies and stereotypes which overlap with the non-game world. Gamers move within what the authors call the ludodrome - a mediated space between immersion in urban simulation and a real world that is simultaneously generated, destabilized and blurred by the effect of such gameplay.

Keywords: Computer gaming; cities; real and virtual; urban simulation

David Beer (Faculty of Business & Communication, York St John University, Lord Mayor's Walk, York, UK);
This paper focuses upon the intersection between the MP3 player and the city. In particular it takes issue with arguments concerning the ways in which mobile music devices enable a 'recomposition' of the urban soundscape. Drawing upon Michael Bull's work on the management of the experience of the time and space of the city, as facilitated through various mobile music reproduction devices, this piece questions Bull's central claim that these devices may be used to screen out the urban soundscape. Here it is argued that these mobile music systems merely enable users to tune out of the immediate soundscape - by prioritizing the musical information overlay over the physicality of the urban environment - but that this is often interrupted by the complex imbrications of the pervasive sounds of the city.

Keywords: Sound; music; MP3; iPod; mobility; miniaturization; city; urban soundscape; aural ecology

The city in the age of web 2.0 a new synergistic relationship between place and people (p867-884)
Michael Hardey (Hull/York Medical School, Heslington, York, UK);
This paper examines how the development of Web 2.0 resources is providing new ways of seeing, experiencing and understanding the city. A particular focus is on the increasing role of user-generated geolocational data and the opportunities this affords to reimagine and experience the metropolis. It is suggested that the social and commercial nature of Web 2.0 resources together with the availability of government-owned data frame consequent opportunities to re-map the city. It is shown that blogs and mashups based on such material allow the metropolis to be depicted and experienced. Mobile technologies act as a conduit for such information that is configured for and around the individual user. It is argued that this generates a new 'synergistic relationship' linking individuals to data and localities they occupy or traverse.

Keywords: Web 2.0; geolocational applications; blogs; mashups; mobile technologies; cities

MAPPING DIGITAL NETWORKS From cyberspace to Google (p885-901)
Eric Gordon (Department of Visual and Media Arts, Emerson College, Boston, MA, USA);
This paper examines how the metaphor of mapping has been formative in the public's apprehension of Internet technologies since the early 1990s. It explores how cyberspace was represented as a map in popular films and novels as well as by popular commentators and thought leaders. Jean Baudrillard's contention that the 'map precedes the territory' is indicative of a view of cyberspace or virtual reality that was contained and separate from lived experience. But with the introduction of Web 2.0 technologies, this began to change. Frederic Jameson's conception of the cognitive map better describes how users have come to order and plot their lives into dynamic interfaces. Google Maps and the myriad of applications that followed brought the physical location of users and data into clear view. While location has promised tremendous freedoms for users, this paper questions whether or not those freedoms are outside the significant constraints of the consumer network.

Keywords: Social media; Web 2.0; mapping; everyday life; geospatial web; geography; cyberspace; virtual reality

CLASS PLACES AND PLACE CLASSES Geodemographics and the spatialization of class (p902-921)
Simon Parker (Department of Politics, University of York, York, UK); Emma Uprichard (Department of Sociology, University of York, York, UK); Roger Burrows (Department of Sociology, University of York, York, UK);
This paper argues that the 'spatial turn' in the sociology of class - the clustering of people with a similar habitus into what we might think of as 'class places' - is connected in a number of important ways with the ongoing informatization of place, particularly as manifest in the urban informatics technology of geodemographics. This is a technology concerned with the development of the classification of places to commercial and policy ends - the assigning of postcodes to a set of mutually exclusive and exhaustive categories, or 'place classes'. What interests the authors is the manner in which there is a strong concordance between the conclusions of academic sociologists working on the spatialization of class and those of - what might be thought of as - 'commercial sociologists' working in the geodemographics industry. Although the conceptual argot is very different, both have in common an interest in the codification and spatial mapping of habitus, and both arrive at very similar substantive conclusions about contemporary processes of sociocultural spatial clustering. But the authors' interest is not just in the observation that there is an analytic convergence in academic and commercial concerns with the relationship between 'class places' and 'place classes'; rather, it is in their possible co-construction. They argue that geodemographic classifications are not only sociologically important phenomena but also represent an interesting example of a new form of software-mediated recursive urban ontology.

Keywords: Geodemographics; software sorting; neighbourhoods; social class; space

WORK AND THE CITY IN THE e-SOCIETY A critical investigation of the sociospatially situated character of economic production in the digital content industries in the UK (p922-942)
Andy C. Pratt (Department of Geography and Environment, London School of Economics, London, UK); Rosalind Gill; Volker Spelthann (University of Trier, FBIV-Business Studies, Work-Employment-Organisation, Universitštsring 15, Trier, Germany);
The aim of this paper is to ground debates about the 'new economy' or 'e-society' in the practice of individuals and companies producing 'new media'. The uncontroversial starting point is to question the generalization in much theorizing, and the tendency to technological reductive accounts of social and economic change. The focus here is to point to the intellectual sources of much policy in this field. The authors present case study material of three very specific parts of the new media/digital content industries (film special effects, computer games and web design). The paper concludes that both technological reductive and agentic accounts have underplayed the continuing importance of the social and economic embeddedness of production, and of the situated co-constitution of technologies, people and places. The differences between industries associated with labour processes, labour markets, users and markets for goods are highlighted. These particularities begin to offer more robust accounts of location and organization.

Keywords: Film special effects; computer games; new media; location; production; space

WORKLESS PEOPLE AND SURVEILLANT MASHUPS Social policy and data sharing in the UK (p943-960)
Nicholas Pleace (Centre for Housing Policy, University of York, York, UK);
This paper examines the use of ICT driven surveillant assemblages in UK welfare policy by drawing on the results of empirical research conducted for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The focus is on one aspect of the growing role of surveillance in social policy: data aggregation on populations characterized by sustained worklessness. The implementation and implications of this form of surveillance are examined. The paper explores surveillance systems that were extant in 2005/06 and those that were being designed. The paper argues that there is an ongoing need for critical evaluation of the underlying logic of data mashing on marginalized populations.

Keywords: Surveillance; mashups; data aggregation; worklessness; social policy

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