31 January 2012

Everyday Structures at the 2012 AAG conference in New York City

Just south of the South Street Bridge, a quonset hut houses the Springfield Beer Distributors, soon to be relocated due to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's push across the Schuylkill River, with a single mast cellular tower in the background.
The Association of American Geographers annual conference is in New York City this year. On Saturday 25 February, at the early hour of 8am, I will be presenting research drawn from fieldwork in the Philadelphia region over the last year or so. Attending the conference requires a paid registration, but if anyone readers out there can make it, please say hello afterward.

Here is a description of the session, Geographies of the Internet: Situating information and communication technologies in the urban landscape
As ubiquitous computing, broadband Internet, mobile communication, and the related information and communication technologies become more and more embedded in our daily lives, there is a need to examine the spaces of connection and dis-connection through many analytic lenses. This session will utilize qualitative and quantitative methodological approaches to studying the geographies of the network society, from examining the spaces of mobile communication infrastructure in the metropolitan landscape to mapping the accessibility of broadband Internet. The goal of this session is to critically interrogate the places produced by and through the "Net": these ephemeral and often obscured systems that are at the core of our daily lives as scholars and citizens.
And here is the abstract for my paper presentation, Producing mobile communication: situating digital infrastructure in the urban landscape:
Contemporary urban life is closely linked to the digital telecommunication connection provided by mobile connectivity. While the ethereal presence of the telecommunication networks is visible in the signal bars on a mobile phone, the less-visible physical presence of this digital infrastructure is creating a new utility within the urban landscape that needs to be considered as a component of contemporary urban life. This presentation interrogates one of the primary components of ubiquitous computing: the digital infrastructure of cellular antenna and the like that produces mobile connectivity; this presentation also  examines the communication infrastructure's relationship to the street itself. Using the case of Philadelphia, I address how connecting individuals occurs in spaces disconnected from the street and urban public space in general. I will discuss how to apply a methodological framework from brought out of critical urban studies can be combined with concepts from science and technology studies such as boundary objects to consider the co-production of the urban today through the built landscape of the city itself as well as the ethereal spaces of mobile communication. I argue that spatializing the infrastructure of mobile connectivity and is an important and undervalued component of understanding the twenty-first century urban landscape.

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