Tag Archives: space of flows

Augé, M. (1995). _Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity_. London and New York: Verso.

French anthropologist Marc Augé has had a career in three stages, moving from African research, to European, then global. This particular book, first an essay, describes first “place” in the anthropological sense — it is the link between space and social organization. “Place” gives us context (Dourish, 2001), and so long as a social connection can be made there, a space becomes place.

Augé’s non-places, by contrast, are the places where people move (highways), wait to move (airline terminals), or stay as they move (hotel rooms) around the world in this globalized world. These are the places people flow through as they operate on behalf of Castells’ (1989, 1996) spaces of flows, and, per Castells, these places often look like each other on purpose. One’s stay is too quick, too ephemeral, the purpose too uni-functional, and the place really too generic for any substantive experience to take place. Individuals may travel the globe via these non-places, but they don’t really see it.

“A paradox of non-place: a foreigner lost in a country he does not know (a ‘passing stranger’) can feel at home there only in the anonymity of motorways, service stations, big stores or hotel chains” (106).

Not exactly non-places, but similar, are Walzer’s (1986) “single-minded spaces.” In “Pleasures and Costs of Urbanity,” Walzer explains single-minded spaces are those design by city planners or entrepreneurial corporatists with a single thing in mind, “and used by similarly single-minded citizens” (ibid, 470). However, his condemnation, like Augé’s, is not absolute. These places serve purposes. However, the problem for Walzer is that “open-minded spaces,” those designed for multiple uses, anticipated and impromptu, and which contribute to culture-making, lose ground to the single-minded ones. Like Augé, he wants us to notice the difference.

“In the concrete reality of today’s world, places and spaces, places and non-places intertwine and tangle together. The possibility of non-place is never absent from any place. Place becomes a refuge to the habitué of non-places (who may dream, for example, of owning a second home rooted in the depths of the countryside). Places and non-places are opposed (or attracted) like the words and notions that enable us to describe them. But the fashionable worlds — those that did not exist thirty years ago — are associated with non-places” (107).

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Castells, M. (1998). _End of Millennium: The Information Age: Economy, Society, and Culture, Volume III_. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

Where Volumes I and II were examinations into macro economic, social, and political changes in the Information Age, Volume III is an analysis of the world’s macrotransformations, wherein Castells interprets the sociohistorical reordering enumerated in the previous books. Going from region to region, Castells traces the processes and the infrastructural changes wrought by the network society.

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Castells, M. (1996). _The Rise of the Network Society: The Information Age: Economy, Society, and Culture, Volume I_. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

Written with the aim of understanding better the economic, political, and social implications of globalization, the first (and necessarily most abstract) volume of Castells’ trilogy proposes we are in a network society. Here capital and information have collapsed into one another and become the same thing, spurring a transformation from modern capitalism into informational capitalism. In contradistinction to modern capitalism, informational capitalism’s production is knowledge-based productivity, wherein the mounting interdependence of economies and companies reflects the need for international and inter-corporate collaboration in order to stay competitive in the same global market.

The rise of the informational economy “is characterized by the development of a new organizational logic which is related to the current progress of technological change, but not dependent on it” (152). Indeed, corporations did not embrace information technology to advance their standing in the market but to copewith the meteoric changes and increase overall productivity. Labor’s role in this transition to the informational society underscores the shift from the industrial economy, as well as the fact that there is no one model of the informational society. Castells hypothesizes: “as the process of globalization progresses, organizational forms evolve from multi-national entities to [increasingly decentralized] international networks” (192).

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Castells, M. (1989). _The Informational City: Information Technology, Economic Restructuring and the Urban-Regional Process_. Oxford and Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers.

Like all Castells’ pieces, this book covers a large scope and does so with a lot of detail. In broadest strokes, this book is an analysis of (the then) new information technologies and urban-regional processes as they occur in a larger historical context. He identifies this new mode of development as the informational mode of development. His hypothesis: we are experiencing a historic set of transformations that relate to: capitalism as a social complex and capitalism’s restructuring (global capital flows), the informational mode of development, and IT as a potent operating instrument.

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