Technology, Time–Space, and the Remediation of Neighbourhood Life

Michael Crang, Tracie Crosbie, Stephen Graham
2007 Environment and planning A  
The authors would like to thank the ESRCs E-Society Programme (award RES-335-25-0015) for support which made this research possible. Use policy The full-text may be used and/or reproduced, and given to third parties in any format or medium, without prior permission or charge, for personal research or study, educational, or not-for-profit purposes provided that: • a full bibliographic reference is made to the original source • a link is made to the metadata record in DRO • the full-text is not
more » ... anged in any way The full-text must not be sold in any format or medium without the formal permission of the copyright holders. Please consult the full DRO policy for further details. Abstract Much theoretical commentary over the last decade addressed the likely impacts of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) on urban life works by opposing "virtual" spaces and mediated activities to "real" places. Drawing on recent theorising in media studies about "remediation", this paper attempts to move beyond a reliance on such unhelpful real-virtual conceptual binaries. The paper uses such conceptual discussions to consider more fully the multiple, subtle and interdependent spatio-temporalities which together work to constitute ICT-based urban change. While innovative work has traced the emergence of various online spaces and communities, our interest here is on the intersection of online and offline practices. Through a case study of two contrasting neighbourhoods in Newcastle upon Tyne, the paper explores in detail how social relations and grocery shopping are being affected by ICT use. It suggests that the remediation of everyday urban life through ICTs involves subtle shifts in the spatial, temporal, scalar and material processes which together help constitute urban change, and which are all too often overlooked in conventional and binary approaches opposing the "virtual" realm of new technologies to "real" urban places. Introduction: 'Beyond the Real-Virtual Binary' Many of the most influential and seminal commentaries praising or criticising the likely impacts of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) on urban space work by opposing "virtual" spaces and mediated activities to "real" places. By invoking such a binary, the ways in which the real-time and instantaneous interactions and transactions which constitute the virtual world effect the corporeal, physical domains of neighbourhoods and cities becomes the central object of theory, analysis, and speculation. The conceptual architectures of urban ICT literatures thus work to invoke an urban world constituted by two distinct and apparently antagonistic domains. One, filled with 3 instantaneous and real-time flows, transglobal interactions and collapsed distinctions between spatial scales, works to undermine and rework the pre-existing urban world of corporeal interaction, physical movement, and the traditional social constitution of the urban worlds of the street and neighbourhood. The language of these binaried world views permeated the key writings of the late nineties that first addressed the emerging significance of the Internet, new media and drew attention to possible impacts on urban life. We read, for example, of cyberspace versus "real" space (Slouka 1995), "real time" eviscerating "real space" (Virilio 1997; , "virtual" cities and "real" cities (Robins 1999; Nunes 2001) , the "space of flows" superimposed upon the "space of places" (Castells 2002), and the "city of bits" challenging the material city (Mitchell 1995) . Virilio posits the onset of a "tyranny of real time [where] the city of the past slowly becomes a paradoxical agglomeration in which relations of immediate proximity give way to interrelationships over distance" (Virilio, 1993: 10). The effect of the separation is not to suggest that the "virtual" has no "impact" but to set up the argument as just that -the scale of impact when these two distinct realms collide. An all-powerful virtual domain was thus widely portrayed as bringing with it an absolute spatio-temporal shift which, quite literally, "unglues" previous notions of embodied urban life. These real-virtual binaries compounded a range of familiar, even habitual divides in thinking between abstract space and lived place. Here, place "is always slower, more earthy, more concrete, more grounded, and more real than space." Space, meanwhile, "lends itself to speed, immateriality, abstractness, flotation, and relational disjointure" (Doel, 1999: 8). Such a deeply binaried conceptual architecture of urban-ICT relationships thus suggests a derealisation of the city and its replacement with "semantically empty" and generic places (Wakabayashi 2002) . Such portrayals relate to a scalar imaginary where the possibilities mediated communication offers for distanciated interaction come to be seen as implying a divide, even a conflict, between local (lived) and global (somehow not lived). Echoing Relph"s terms, one might argue that "the Internet is distinctively placeless. It is artificial, arbitrary, and seemingly "no-place"" whereas we wish to show how
doi:10.1068/a38353 fatcat:hiv5lysdubg5ppdyzxkhqovebe