13 April 2010

Creating the Digital City: Geographies of the Internet's Infrastructure

(click on the image to enlarge)
A collage of photos of data centers and colocation points.  photos by author; left to right from top down:  Digital Realty Trust at 833 Chestnut, Philadelphia; 365 Main at 720 2nd St, Oakland (the large white building in center distance); 60 Hudson St, New York City; 365 Main at 365 Main St, San Francisco; Quonix Networks at 2401 Locust St, Philadelphia; Terminal Commerce Building (on the left) at 401 North Broad St, Philadelphia; Level 3 Oakland at 1313 53rd St, Emeryville.

This coming Sunday I will be presenting at the Association of American Geographers 2010 Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.  My abstract is below; the image above is a collage of some of the photos that make up my research over the past few months into the landscape of cyberinfrastructure.  If anyone reading this is able to come to the session, please introduce yourself.

Creating the Digital City: Geographies of the Internet's Infrastructure

is part of the Paper Session:
Theorizing the Digital City

The digital city is here, and although this space has been theorized for at least a decade, there is little research into the infrastructural networks that support these emergent urban landscapes. While geographers have critically examined the role of traditional infrastructures—water, sewer, streets, electricity, and telephone—in creating modern cities, little attention has been paid to the role of the Internet's infrastructure in creating urban spaces today. The geographers that directly study the Internet have traditionally done so either from an economic geography standpoint or from the perspective of the utility of the cyberspace itself. This presentation aims to address how the Internet reaches our computer screens and mobile phones via the infrastructural networks that ground the technologies in the urban landscape. This presentation will situate the social and spatial impacts of the digital city's physical infrastructure: the data centers and fiber optic cables as well as the hertzian spaces that merge to provide ubiquitous Internet connectivity for the contemporary city. For example, what is the historic development of urban data centers: where are they sited and why, and how do these businesses interact with their surroundings. The methodological utility of different theoretical approaches, ranging from urban political ecology to postmodernism, will be critiqued and then applied using central Philadelphia as a case study. Understanding how we conceptualize proximity and how the scale and interdependence of interactions are fundamentally changing within these networked ecologies is a needed component for studying urban spaces today and into the future.
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