Wednesday, January 28, 2004

My questions center around the future of urban places and their relationship to telecommunications.

1) Graham and Marvin talk about four ways the interactions of technology and urban places have been studied, of which only two were (according to them) worthy of attention. The first of these "serious" ways of looking at the issue concerned political economy and the various ways social, cultural, political, economic, and class interests shaped the ways technology was deployed. This approach, they say, seems to indicate that already existing institutions will perpetuate their own power by developing technology in a manner that serves their own interests, at the expense, perhaps, of a more democratic version of technology. Localizing this abstract concept, lets look at the computer labs here at UW, the ones that make you put in your student ID to use their cool little functions. Or the UW library system, another student ID. Isn't this an example of an institution perpetuating its own power by deploying technology to serve its own interests?

2) The second of the "serious" ways of thinking about these issues is the Socially constructed method, which contends that individual descisions and actions (agency) determines the course of technology, not the other way around. Couldn't Napster be thought of that way? One college student seriously changed the people accessed music (information). Seems to me the micro-level approach has some merit also.

3) Lastly, because this entire discussion has Marxist overtones, what do you think about the fact that while discussing telecommunications and and urban places, we are virtually ignoring the historical materiality and context as well ass the visceral matter that brings the technology to us. That is, while we discuss this and type it on a computer screen, we ignore that the entire exersise is powered by electricity, which needs a power plant, and needs actual physical workers. Or the motherboards manufactured in China where the average hourly wage is like 75 cents an hour.

Paul D. Medenwaldt


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