Net Localities

Gordon and De Souza e Silva’s (2011) use the term Net Localities to describe a meeting of digital information and the city. They are interested in what happens to institutions, communities and places when networked data floods into physical spaces (p.13) principally via our mobile devices. Net Locality for them is “a ubiquity of networked information” (p.3) in other words, access to a global network of information while situated in a local street. As such, Net Locality means a change in how we experience scale, something they later describe as a thinning of the distinction between nearness and distancelessness. Net Locality is also shift toward the ordering of data by location, in short, “the organisational logic of the web is based on physical location” and “…the types of information we find and access online depend on where we are”. In addition to these factors the locational affordances of mobile devices mean that “virtually everything and everyone is located or locatable”, so Net Locality is also about what happens to individuals and society in that context.

If Net Localities describes a place in which there has been a shift from a world in which there was a clear distinction between atoms and bits (Negroponte ,1995) to one in which “the world we live in and the web can no longer be so easily separated”. (p.1) Having used a location based app this week I find this move toward a seamless blurring of boundaries between digital information and location contrasts with my experience, which was quite seam-full. Having first attempted to “Check In” on arrival at my Mum’s house, I found that my Mum’s house is not yet a Place. I needed to “Add this place to check in here”. I was required to type in the name and address and save these details so that in future my Mum’s house would be visible in the App. Bingham-Hall (2013) also has his doubts about conflating information and space as his an account of using a laptop in a public space in Kings Cross outlines; “… if someone were to ask me where I’ve been and what it was like I would surely describe the observable three-dimensional space of Granary Square. If I told them I’d been ‘in/at Facebook’ or ‘everywhere at once’ I’d be seen as having misunderstood the experience of communicating online.” He suggests we need to aim for “a much more nuanced and tempered understanding of the coming together of digital and urban that is based in, and can therefore help to shape, reality.” (Bingham-Hall, 2013)

Bingham-Hall, J,. (2013). On the Search for Space in the Digital City a Dispatch from Granary Square. Urban Pamphleteer, [online] Available at: < http://www.ucl.ac.uk/urbanlab/docs/Urbanpamphleteer_1> [Accessed 13 Dec 2013].

Gordon, E,. and de Souza e Silva., (2011). Net locality: why location matters in a networked world, Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Thin and thick trust is a really interesting aspect of Gordon and de Souza e Silva’s text  and chimes with Kio Stark’s Stranger Studies 101 (2010):
http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2010/09/stranger-studies-101-cities-as-interaction-machines/62315/

Also, their text brought to mind Benjamin Bratton’s iPhone City (2008), which talks about urban and mobile:
http://www.bratton.info/projects/texts/iphone-city/

Finally, this image by John Stanmeyer (2013) of migrants holding their phones up for an intermittent signal from a nearby country with cheaper rates, highlights that the ubiquitous networked info. that Gordon and De Souza e Silva discuss is still expensive for many people.

 Image source: http://www.worldpressphoto.org/awards/2014/contemporary-issues/john-stanmeyer

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