Virtual Geographies: Bodies, Space, and Relations

Virtual Geographies: Bodies, Space, and Relations

Virtual Geographies: Bodies, Space, and Relations

Virtual Geographies: Bodies, Space, and Relations

Synopsis

Virtual Geographies explores how new communication technologies are being used to produce new geographies and new types of space. Leading contributors from a wide range of disciplines including geography, sociology, philosophy and literature investigate how visions of cyberspace have been constructed and offer a critical assessment of the status of virtual environments and geographies. Leading contributors set recent technological developments in both a historical and geographical perspective to offer a clearer view of the prospect ahead.

Excerpt

Whether framed through the more generalised notion of cyberspace, or the more specific phenomena of the Internet, the World Wide Web, Virtual Reality, hypertext and genres of science fiction such as cyberpunk, it is hard to miss the proliferating debates over the social and geographical significance of new technologies of computer mediated communication. For some, these technologies are seen as facilitating, if not producing, a qualitatively different human experience of dwelling in the world; new articulations of near and far, present and absent, body and technology, self and environment (for a collection of essays mostly in this spirit see Featherstone and Burrows 1995). For others, emphasis is laid on the capacity of digitalisation to integrate previously separate operations such as computation, communication and surveillance, with the consequent emergence of new informational networks and ‘spaces of flows’, with associated morphologies of connection and disconnection (see Castells 1996). in either case, what is at stake is, at its starkest, the suggestion that computer mediated communication technologies are ‘generating an entirely new dimension to geography… Virtual Geography’ (Batty 1997b:339).

This collection of fourteen essays is provoked by such claims. Provoked, in that we endorse calls to take the development and use of these technologies seriously, to subject them to careful conceptual and empirical scrutiny, and to be open to the possibility that they embody different kinds of spatialities to those hegemonic within theorisations of ‘non-virtual’ worlds; but also provoked by worries about the danger of falling into what Otto Imken, in his contribution to this volume, calls ‘cyperbole’, an overdrawn opposition of the real and the virtual, whether this be through the reproduction of the (self-) promotional rhetorics of committed cyber enthusiasts and marketers or the dystopian visions of cyberpessimists. Instead, this collection, whilst not without some claims for a radical transformation of social life as constituted through virtual technologies—Imken’s own chapter is a wonderfully engaging example—seeks to approach the virtual in ways that allow a serious analysis of particular socio-technical developments but also avoid their

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