Academic journal article Spatial Practices

"It Is Always Another World": Mapping the Global Imaginary in William Gibson's Pattern Recognition

Academic journal article Spatial Practices

"It Is Always Another World": Mapping the Global Imaginary in William Gibson's Pattern Recognition

Article excerpt

Abstract: No account of the contemporary relationship between landscape and identity can afford to ignore the impact of globalization. Understanding the intricate imbrications of space and subjectivity increasingly requires a global perspective. This essay examines tensions in the global imaginary as they are articulated in William Gibson's novel, Pattern Recognition (2003). The framework for this reading is taken from Arjun Appadurai's essay, 'Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy' (1990), in which he divides the 'imagined worlds' of globalization into five overlaping categories: ethnoscapes, financescapes, technoscapes, mediascapes and ideoscapes. The heroine of Gibson's novel, Cayce Pollard, moves across and into each of these -scapes and finds herself positioned precariously in a complex economy of global flows: a node in the network of people and power, finance and commodities, art and machines, images and information.

Key names and concepts: Arjun Appadurai - Manuel Castells - William Gibson - brandscapes - consumer capitalism - global city - global imaginary - globalization - transnational - virtual landscape.

No account of the contemporary relationship between landscape and identity can afford to ignore the impact of globalization. Understanding the intricate imbrications of space and subjectivity increasingly requires a global perspective. A wide variety of connections have, of course, always existed between groups in far-flung places, but the contemporary era has witnessed a spectacular intensification of global socio-spatial interdependence. The movement of people, capital, commodities, information and images between regions, countries and continents is now taking place in magnitudes and at velocities which are entirely unprecedented. The Westphalian nation state is far from obsolete, but its once sovereign borders are now continuously crossed by transnational flows. As the identity of any landscape is progressively determined by its relationship with other places, axiomatic geographical markers such as 'here' and 'there' become permeable and even problematic.

The burgeoning critical literature on globalization is vast and variegated but, at the risk of caricature, we might say that it tends to point in one of two directions. On the one hand, many studies in this field have signposted the destructive consequences of globalization. According to this perspective, globalization involves the displacement of a vibrant regional particularity by the bland, the placeless and the homogenized. Traditional links between local geography and distinctive cultural identity are eroded by transnational capital and consumerism, tourism and telecommunications. Some of the most strident critiques of globalization equate this term with U.S economic and cultural imperialism: "coca-colonialism" or "McDonaldization" steamrollers diverse and indigenous locales to pave the way for standardized shopping malls selling standardized commodities to standardized consumers living in standardized suburbs. Alongside the discourse of anti-globalization (of which the preceding is of course only a crude sketch), there is a second and more sanguine critical perspective. A number of studies in the field have focused on the enabling consequences of globalization. Whilst not altogether denying the powerful shaping influence of global corporate empires and multinational media, this school of thought insists that homogenization is counterbalanced by "heterogenization". Developments in transport and communications technology have dramatically increased mobility and interaction between distant and different cultures. This has resulted in the evolution of unique and hybridized cultural identities, the expansion of social relationships beyond regional and national boundaries and a concomitant rise in global consciousness.

Despite their differences, these two perspectives on globalization often share a critical idiom: both agree that relatively fixed and linear structures have been superseded by "flows" and "flexibility", "nomadism", "networks" and "deterritorialization". …

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