This chapter offers an overview of technology, rebuts the common myth of technological determinism and summarizes each of the forthcoming chapters.
Paul L. Robertson
Technological diffusion occurs when an existing technological artefact or concept is used for a different purpose, by a different person or organisation, or in a different location than it has been previously used at. Diffusion is a vital component of economic change because it is the mechanism through which new technologies spread to long-standing industries in developed countries, leading to increases in productivity and greater efficiency in resource use. Diffusion also underlies economic development on a global basis as existing technologies, and even entire industries, migrate from traditional centres of economic strength to less developed regions. This chapter examines technological diffusion between firms in the same industries and analyses the role of geography in diffusion within regional, national and international frameworks. It discusses factors that facilitate diffusion as well as barriers, and points out both benefits and possible losses that may result.
Jessica McLean, Sophia Maalsen and Alana Grech
Geographies of gender and technology relations are diverse, complex and intertwine public and private, social and cultural dimensions. This chapter provides an overview of some aspects of gendered relations in technology with a spatial lens. A partial narrative of particular facets of gender and technology that geographers have been paying attention to is presented. The chapter begins with an overview of histories of gender–technology relations before examining the current conceptual debates in the field. A brief case study of Destroy the Joint, a feminist online group, captures an example of how geographers have engaged with social movements in online spaces in recent research, and what a geographic perspective on gender–technology relations can offer. A cultural geographic approach points to the diverse entanglements that are embedded within, and emerging from, gender and technology relations.
Jordan P. Howell
Science and Technology Studies – or alternatively, Science, Technology, and Society (in either instance, abbreviated as STS) – is a field of academic inquiry that has emerged primarily in the United States and Western Europe since the end of World War II. STS scholars and practitioners seek to illuminate both ideological and practical dimensions of the creation and dissemination of scientific knowledge, asking incisive questions about the ways in which knowledge is constructed and translated for/by multiple audiences. This chapter focuses on the origins, trends and intellectual contributions of STS which are presented in light of the fruitful ways that the field might be combined with Geography. Many traditions of scholarship within Geography ask questions about the nature and construction of both scientific knowledge and technological systems, and this chapter encourages geographers to build on these frequently implicit mobilizations of STS’s ethos and more explicitly apply STS literature in their work.
This chapter considers the significance of computerisation and digital media in the production of space. The theoretical focus is on understanding the role of software and complex algorithms in automating people’s lives and bringing into being ‘code/space’. These are socio-spatial solutions to human tasks that depend on software to be working as intended. The powerful discourses underpinning the growth and diffusion of software in everyday contexts are outlined, followed by a discussion of ‘software studies’ where scholars are beginning to critically examine the social and cultural impacts of code. Two empirical case studies are then presented, firstly looking at the influences of software in the home and for solving domestic tasks, and secondly in terms of consumer software designed for self-surveillance and being widely used for monitoring bodily performance.
This chapter offers a comprehensive look at location-based services (LBS), which deploy users’ spatial locations to provide individually tailored outcomes. It summarizes the technical aspects of LBS, including RFID tags, and then turns to key applications. For individuals, LBS not only offers convenient information, but also can be used to track children or people with dementia. For businesses, LBS has become central to the so-called ‘sharing economy’ (e.g. Uber) as well as marketing and geofencing to delineate specified areas digitally. Governments also use LBS, such as for emergency management or to deploy citizens as sensors. The chapter also looks at concerns about LBS such as privacy, inequality and environmental sustainability.
Michael Batty, Hui Lin and Min Chen
Virtual reality (VR) has entered geography in various guises over the last 20 years, building on the basic notion that, when users of digital technology need to be immersed in the experience of computation, then special purpose technologies and environments must be built to make this possible. We review the brief history of this field and then focus on four distinct developments that mark contemporary technologies: 3D representations which are best seen in virtual city models, virtual worlds which mix humans, computable agents and geographic motion, virtual geographic environments (VGEs) which integrate model processes and users in integrated collaborative spaces, and augmented realities which mix the real and the virtual using analogies which incorporate mixed and blended virtual environments. We conclude by arguing that the use of VR in geography is by no means in a stable state and that we might expect quite profound developments in these technologies where users and computers are integrated in diverse and surprising ways in the not-too-distant future.
Fiber optics – by far the most important telecommunications medium in the world – form the core technology that underpins the internet as well as electronic funds transfer systems. This chapter summarizes the history of fiber optics and situates it within the contemporary information-intensive global economy. It examines the urban implications of fiber, and maps the world’s major systems that emerged over the last three decades. Finally, the chapter turns to some of the impacts of the massive global boom in fiber capacity, including the dot-com crash, excess capacity and the steady erosion of the satellite industry.
The Internet was invented in the United States in 1969 as a security communications system, expanding later into an academic information and communications system, and turning, as of 1994, into a universal communications and information system. However, there are still international as well as domestic gaps in its adoption. The Internet, by its very nature, constitutes a geographic technology, as expressed in several of its dimensions and implications. It has constituted a metaphorical imitation of real space since its inception. The Internet has gradually become the major channel for the mobility of information of all types and for the performance of both written and oral communications. Furthermore, the Internet has come to facilitate, monitor and control physical space operations. More recently, the Internet has turned into an action space by itself, thus complementing and competing with real space operations.
The literature on geography and radio is notably scarce. Though regrettable, the largely dormant study of radio in the geography literature is not unsurprising, owing to geography’s emphasis on landscapes over soundscapes. This chapter turns attention to the portable soundscape of radio. In particular, it presents the origins and historical context of radio, and theoretical perspectives on the study of radio by scholars across the globe. Further, it highlights conceptual debates about how radio has been studied by geographers. The spatial perspective of radio is outlined, and technological convergences in relation to radio are considered, with a particular focus on radio in the digital age. This chapter concludes by arguing that few studies devote sufficient attention to radio for what it is, a sonic medium. As such, this chapter advocates that future studies of radio should adopt a sonic geographical perspective to enable exploration of radio’s new sounds and forms, which comprise increasing creativity.