A number of current hypotheses concern the effect of new means of communication particularly Internet-hosted networks and digital spaces on the experience of urban place, often referred to as the ‘network city’. Via the digital networking of spatially distant people, the new urban society is frequently illustrated as one where the physical basis of sociability is declining in favour of dematerialized, delocalized, far-ranging systems and networks. However, this may not actually be as recent a phenomenon as it first appears, as Melvin Webber described in his highly influential article “The Urban Place and the Nonplace Urban Realm” of 1964, urban life and urban experience were always synonymous with a partial dissociation from the constraints of locality. The prevalence of technology in daily transactions and relationships leads to a rich geography, yet inequalities continue to prevail in the ‘space of flows’ as coined by Manuel Castells. The mobility and connectivity of communities with niche interests may now be seen to have evolved ‘digital ecologies’ through their use of digital infrastructures that afford meaningful relationships. A key aspect of the position presented here is the use of such technology to develop instrumentality with which to facilitate ‘thick’ descriptions of digital networks and communities and contribute to our understanding of their spatiality. This paper therefore attempts to describe and explain this transformation and propose theoretical material to address some of the attendant issues.
|Keywords:||Urbanism, Infrastructure, Networks, Spatiality, Social Relations, Cultural Assemblages|
Principal Lecturer, Architecture, Manchester School of Architecture, Manchester, Lancashire, UK