Department of Geography
University of Turku
Livingstone (1993: 4) states that stories of different traditions are always told by storytellers. The
subject of geography is no exception in this regard. The field of geography has expanded from the
earlier years of the discipline. The important work of mapping the world and exploring new
countries and continents has changed to the abstract and difficult interpretation of information
technology, analyses of flows of financial attributes and goods, and evaluation of the ever
accelerating and transforming social and cultural realm of postmodern society. The tellers of the
geographical story have changed, but in the end the very essence of the subject is still the same -
to explore the world we know in the past, present and future. As Johnston argues (1994: 87), the
work of geographers relies on three major concepts: space, place and environment. These very
same components are the ones that I am operating with in this study, which deals with a new idea
of electronic environments and spaces.
Indeed, the geographical tradition has gone through several phases, and Kuhn's (1962) ideas of
scientific revolutions in the form of paradigms are clearly identifiable. The creation and
development of the key-concepts, theories and, in a word, the geographical tradition, do not need
to be dealt here in detail, but I would like to point out the significant transition from the strict
positivist paradigm to more qualitative and diverse approaches in our field of science. Today, the
dynamic adoption of challenging new realms of information technologies and their spatial
implications are visible and concrete evidence of the potential that the science of geography has at
the dawn of the new millennium.
This study is about evaluating the theoretical concept of space in the context of cyberspace, a
term that was introduced by William Gibson (1984) in his classical science fiction novel
Neuromancer. This 'collective hallucination', as Gibson puts it, has had an enormous impact on the
academic interest of social and cultural scientists during the final years of the second millennium.
These aspects have been evaluated in more detail in studies I, III and IV. I approach the issue
both through theoretical evaluation and qualitative empirical evidence. It is essential to recognise
that at the moment, in the postmodern reality, the life spans of individual studies, especially in the
field of rapidly changing information technology, are often very short. However, the purpose of
this research is to evaluate the 'cyberspaces' of today and critically examine the factors behind the
visible in order to present a geographical idea of space in the electronic world.
New research interest in network geography at the dawn of the new millennium
The research on networks has a history that originally derives from the quantitative era of human
geography. Initially, the analysis of networks concentrated on minimising the distances between
nodes and, on the other hand, maximising the efficiency of flows. The connection to economic
geography and pure economics is evident (see Isard 1960; Armstrong and Taylor 1993). For
instance, Kellerman (1993) analysed the significance of telecommunications and network
structures in order to build a world map of flows. These flows contain primarily financial
attributes and monetary transactions.
The development and expansion of telecommunication networks brought the concept of the
'shrinking world' to public knowledge, an idea derived from McLuhan's (1964) concept of global
village. The convergence of telephone, fax and in the '90s, the computer has raised a wide range
of discussion in the social sciences. These discussions deal with the issue of societal
transformation towards an 'information society'. Castells (1985) edited one of the early works on
this field. In that particular work the tradition of descriptive analysis and interpretation of
information structures is clearly present. In general, ideas concerning the philosophical and
theoretical basis of the information society were rare until the clear break within the field of social
and cultural geography that can be timed to the change of decades between 1980 and 1990. Such
publications as Postmodern Geographies (Soja 1989), Remodelling Geography (Macmillan 1989)
and Collapsing Space and Time (Brunn and Leinbach 1991) are some of the 'classic' products of
the presently ongoing era. The ideas of diversity, fragmented realities and subjective - unlinear
reasoning started to expand. Still, it was not until the expansion of the Internet in the mid 1990s,
originally generated from the U.S. military network Arpanet (Starrs 1997: 199), when the
analyses of experiences of networks, their meanings to users, their operability and other
qualitative issues related to the communicational information systems started to gain more
relevance to academic interest.
The new area of geographical research sought its form during the years 1990-1995. Much of the
literature of that time was based either on evaluating mail-listings or conversation groups on the
Internet dealing with one or two particular fields, or on assessing the possibilities for the future in
the form of artificial intelligence, hyper-reality and fiction. An example of these approaches is an
article written by Brunn et al. (1997), in which the geographical mail listing is analysed through
description. On the other end, an example of 'futuristic' literature is a work by Wooley (1992). In
his approach Wooley has a healthy critical attitude to the issue and he does not 'embrace the
hype', as do some other early theoreticians, wandering after the Gibsonian spirit of cyberspace
(see Bukatman 1993: 103-108; Featherstone and Burrows 1995: 7).
The development of data-transaction speed and the enormous increase in users resulted in the
Internet being known as the 'information superhighway', the 'electronic frontier' or the 'virtual land
of expression' (Adams 1997: 155). The appearance of analyses of metaphors and their 'inner
meanings' was a clear sign of the transformation inside the genre of networks. The direction was
towards a more abstract level of reasoning. Naturally, the scope of research expanded and
fragmented considerably. The appearance of philosophical analyses of spaces in cyberspace, their
importance in the identity building process and the emergence of communities or cyber-societies
did not lessen the strength of other, more traditional forms of research. On the contrary, the
importance of network technology was quickly recognised within many fields of science (see
Harvey 1989; Robins and Hepworth 1988; Miller 1995). The implications of these impacts in a
geographical context will be explored in more depth.
A broad perspective: a diverse field of approaches and scales in the research of
To be a geographer and to study something related to 'information' systems leads directly to the
idea of combining the two into geographical information systems - GIS (see Worboys 1995).
Therefore, the notion of separating three main genres is of the utmost importance if this area of
research is to be understood. These three genres are 1) GIS and the idea of mapping, 2)
traditional approaches in human geography, and 3) new areas of cultural geography and the
virtual embodiment of the human actor. In this classification there is a strong similarity to the
classification presented by Kitchin (1998: 388-399). He separates the geographical genre of
technological, or as Kitchin puts it 'cyberspatial', research into the economic section on the one
hand and the social, cultural and political sections on the other. I would argue that the weakness
of that classification, and what I am trying to avoid here, is that it compresses too wide areas of
discussion into a too narrow 'boxed' type classification. This leads to the situation in which the
complex interaction between and within different sets of concepts is dealt with by 'surfing the
surfaces', and the overall context and argumentation remains beneath a shallow fog of uncertainty.
GIS and the technology of mapping
The idea of 'electronic mapping', strongly related to the traditional geographical passion for
mapping, uses the information system as a tool. The importance of technology is measured
directly through the analytical capacity that provides the power to handle massive amount of data.
The dynamic possibility of real-time data updates with a large number of variables creates the
instrumental utility that information technology has. However, I would argue that on the
philosophical level of scientific argumentation the instrument of action should be irrelevant. The
important factor is the interpretation of a phenomenon - not the measurement of it. GIS-software,
such as MapInfo or ARC-view, are basically similar to the statistical SAS or SPSS programs for
example. They provide efficiency and the new computerised way of describing the environment,
but the real understanding comes from the researcher. The danger of appreciating and relying too
much on GIS is the 'trap of endless description'. Convincing work in this respect has been done in
a collection edited by Pickles (1995), who argues:
"impacts of GIS in hyper-modern world of generalized information and communication,
geographers have adopted a relatively limited range of critical positionsGIS represents a
reassertion of instrumental reason in a discipline that has fought hard to rid itself of notions of
space as the dead and the inert, and as Soja (1989) has argued, to reassert a critical understanding
of the sociospatial dialectic." (Pickles 1995: 25)
However, GIS is more popular for doing geographical analysis among physical geographers. This
is quite obvious because of the nature of the data that is to be processed. Some human
geographers have also used GIS in urban planning projects or when studying the spatial dispersion
of diseases for example (Gatrell and Löytönen 1998), but evidently, in geographical analyses the
greatest impact of GIS is on physical geography.
Real-world oriented research interests in technological geography: three approaches
The traditional research branches of human geography have also begun to expand their own areas
of research to areas provided through technological advancements. I will delineate three large
groups of research interests in this context. Firstly, there is the research concerning globalisation
and financial concentration. This branch derives from the notion that economic geography
continues to play a major role in the analysis of networks. Studies in this area are strongly
connected to the expansion of the world market and to analyses of monetary flows in the
McLuhanian spirit - the idea of the 'global village' becomes a reality. As Dicken argues
"Although technologies, in the form of inventions and innovations, originate in specific places,
they are no longer confined to such places. Innovations spread or diffuse with great rapidity under
current conditions. Indeed, one of the most significant sets of innovations is in the sphere of
communications, which itself facilitates such technological diffusion Technology is, without a
doubt, one of the most important contributory factors underlying the internationalization and
globalization of economic activity." (Dicken 1998: 145)
Analysis in this area is usually done by evaluating the directions and volumes of transactions. The
economic decision of making the transfer is often referred to as liberated from location, and
therefore real-time communication has overcome the delay caused by distance. We are living in a
wired world, where distance has lost its meaning and the knowledge incorporated into the
decision making reflects the climax of informational techno-society (Mitchell 1995: 8-9; Batty
1993: 615-616; Gillespie 1992: 67-69). In his influential article, Graham crystallises the main
argument as follows:
"Human life becomes 'liberated' from the constraint of space and frictional effects of distance.
Anything becomes possible anywhere and at any timeAll information becomes accessible
everywhere and anywhere." (Graham 1998: 168)
I define the second 'traditional' area of geographical interest as the politics of networks. This
relates to the ideas of surveillance, political regulation, civic influence and their future
developments. Firstly, a connection can be drawn to the initial ideas of George Orwell's classic
book Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). In this novel the classic idea of 'big brother is watching you'
was introduced, and the 'big brother' is the elite of government. There have been several
discussions in the media about the possibility of individual surveillance. This is connected with the
convergence of the mobile phone, computer and GPS (global positioning system). The
geographical location and past time paths of a person's movements can be traced, even today, and
the technology seems to be developing so quickly that personal privacy might be in jeopardy
(Bogard 1996: 9; Batty 1996: 253-254; Graham 1999: 135; Shattuck 1996: 645-646). The best
probable way to prevent the misuse of network information is to create more comprehensive
legislation to protect the rights of the individual. In any case, the Orwellian horror vision of
totalitarianism seems to be improbable, and in the end, the technological development itself does
not cause the 'surveillance' - the people who use the information and, therefore, carry the
responsibility of their actions do (see Collins 1995).
The second important aspect in the 'politics of networks' theme is related to the ideas of 'free
speech', civic influence and democracy in the networks. Reference is usually made to the Internet,
as it is the climax of the present network development. There are several works and articles
concerning these ideas (Holmes 1997; Breslow 1997; Grossman 1998; Varley 1998). The debate
is concentrated on a question of social and political equality, possibilities provided by the net to
increase public participation and direct uncomplicated communication between ordinary citizens
and decision makers. An important branch in this area of study is the question of free and
unregulated self-expression on the Internet (see Shade 1996: 24). However, there are several
authors in this field of study, so there are almost as many discourses and interpretations of the
results. The final outcome often depends on the general attitude and standpoint that the researcher
has on IT (information technology). Two opposing positions in this respect are to 'embrace the
hype' or 'refuse the hype'. Generally, the potential of networks and electronic democracy are being
acknowledged, but the strongest critique addresses the fact that computers and informational
systems are not yet tools for everyone. Computer hardware is expensive, Internet connection fees
are rising, and finally, the knowledge and ability to use these systems is not a basic skill that is
mastered by everyone. The polarising effect that IT might have on societal structure has been of
particular interest in the field of social policy and welfare sociology.
Thirdly, some authors have wanted to merge IT and its developments to be part of 'societal
evolution' as a whole. Therefore, all of the main genres of human geography should be
incorporated into the analysis. Perhaps the best known 'big boy' in the contemporary field of this
'mixed and minced' type of research is Manuel Castells (1996; 1997; 1998), who, in his influential
trilogy, introduced several ideas concerning the networked realm of globalisation. Analyses of
networks and their social, cultural, economic and political impacts have lead to the notion of
space of flows and space of places. Briefly, the first of these notions refers to the transition in
which the structures of society are being absorbed into various network-systems, and because of
this the space of flows expands and regenerates. Castells sees this idea of global network-space as
separate from the daily routines and actions carried out in the second concept of his framework -
the space of places. This refers to everyday actions and to the spaces in which normal life is lived
and experienced. The ideas provided by Castells have had a great impact on the contemporary
study of society. He has a holistic and critical research method and he strongly emphasises the
relevance of history and past developments in his studies. This is the important reason that I have
classified Castells into this genre of traditional approaches - even though many of his ideas are
new and in a many ways, non-traditional, the main focus is on assessing the development of
historical and capitalistic western society, using a clear neo-Marxist approach.
Many researchers from the traditional fields have continued their original interest, and the
evolution that IT brought to their analyses was the adoption of the new situation, fast connection,
efficiency profits and so on. In this light, IT can be evaluated as a new method or means of
understanding the world economy, world politics or societal evolution and their developments.
Unfortunately, in many cases technology is an uncontested, given parameter. The essence of the
net itself is therefore very often forgotten. Another factor common to studies of this area is that
they are very narrowly focused, analysing the phenomenon from the standpoint of certain
parameters and present knowledge. Therefore, in one sense, this category can also be called the
'applied approach', whether it is used to gain maximum utility or to find a coherent explanation for
the existing society.
Exploring the virtual: electronic space and emerging new geographies of the net
Finally, the third and last of the 'main genres' is something that I define as the 'new areas of
cultural geography and the virtual embodiment of the human actor'. This means the subjective and
theoretical interpretation of actors, conducts and spaces that are not only generated, but also
regenerated through the networks. I will separate two loose discourses in this genre. They are 1)
'actor - body - identity' analyses and 2) 'cyberspace - virtual space - collective mental space'
oriented analyses. A similar distinction has been made indirectly by Wood (1998: 1-11), Holmes
(1997: 2-3) and Turkle (1995: 9-10). Briefly, the first type of analysis refers to the mental idea of
'self' and to its complex (and dynamic) composition. The focus is on why, how and in particular
where human actions, observations and insights take place and how they are experienced both by
the actor - the self, and by the acted - the other (Turkle 1995; Seidler 1998; Argyle and Shields
1996; Bromberg 1996; Platt 1998). The latter analysis, on the other hand, operates with one
particular area of geographical interest - the concept of space and its definition. The main
questions are related to different theoretical constructions of cyberspace, virtual spatiality and to
the creation of virtual communities (Hockenberry 1998; Willson 1997; Rheingold 1993; Light
1999). These emerging new misty spheres are dynamic in their nature and a new concept of
telepresence has been introduced. Heim (1995: 70-71) argues in this context that telepresences
are not representations. Telepresence can be seen as a visualisation of cyberspace where entities
are transported and transfigured into certain types of cyber-entities. Indeed, "When a virtual world
immerses a user, the entities encountered in the virtual world are real to the user - within the
backdrop of cyberspace. The user inhabits the world and interacts with virtual entities" (Heim
Generally, these ideas and research interests are connected to the identities used, with strong
relation to psychological and mental imaginations of virtual space. It is of the greatest importance
to recognise that the research subject, or an arena of research, has been generated inside the
network, and the interest lies in actions, parameters and experiences that are produced in the
network and their consequences. Naturally, these consequences can occur either in the network or
in the real-world.
All different approaches described here briefly merge together into a fragmented and diverse
genre of geographical information technology analyses. As has been demonstrated, the holistic
nature of geography is in its essence very much the same, whether the subject of the study is
traditional urban planning or the abstract mental creation of virtual space. The divisions of
research presented here are overlapping, and many aspects of these viewpoints can be found in
one study. However, three main categories can be justifiably identified from numerous articles.
The overlapping becomes stronger with more precise levels of classification.
Internet fact: expansion and geographical distribution of the global net
The evident climax of the network society today is the Internet. By referring to 'the Internet', I
mean not only the WWW (World Wide Web) but also email and news services. More theoretically
the Internet can be regarded as a symbol of Barlovian cyberspace, the networked entity of
computers (Featherstone and Burrows 1995: 6-7). The exponential expansion of this symbol of
the 'techno-boom' era began approximately in 1994 and 1995 (www.mids.org 1999a). Naturally,
there were 'homepages' on the net before that, but public interest and the mass media started to
pay more attention to the issue after 1996. The expansion is still, at the beginning of the second
millennium, very strong and the range of different network applications is widening all the time.
At the moment, there are 56 218 000 hosts connected to the Internet worldwide (ISC 1999a). In
Fig.1, included to demonstrate the massive growth, the exponential (log-scale) growth of the
Internet hosts is clearly visible (see also Ogden 1994). Excellent data has been provided by Matrix
Information and Directory Services Inc. (www.mids.org 1999b).
Figure 1. From the ARPANET to the Internet: the historical development and an estimation of
future growth of the global network
The information provided by Fig. 1 is easy to interpret. However, it should be noted that the two
graphs do not actually tell anything about the level of Internet usage. The only information they
provide is the number of the hosts. Therefore, the transaction volumes, usage times and all other
measurable information related to the issue are excluded. Still, two conclusions can be drawn, of
which the first is the fact that the Internet is expanding continuously at a logarithmic rate. The
lower graph demonstrates the actual growth, which has been relatively steady on the log-scale
after 1985. The second conclusion is that the growth in the near future will continue, as has been
estimated in the upper graph. There are four different estimations being made by using different
methods (see www.mids.org). They all point to one clear conclusion, which is the continuing
For a geographer an equally important object of study is the global distribution of Internet hosts. The situation in January 1999 is demonstrated in Fig. 2. It is of the greatest importance to notice the logarithmic echelon in the legend that demonstrates the number of hosts in a certain location.
Figure 2. The geography of the Internet world (http://www.mids.org/mapsale/world/index.html)
An evident conclusion that can be drawn from Fig. 2 is the uneven geographical distribution of
host concentrations. In recent literature a common notion is that the contrast and gap between
high-tech western societies and less developed countries is increasing. Arguments have been made
(e.g. O'Connor 1998: 270) that technological advancements are creating the threat of further
world division into the 'winners' and the 'losers'. There are convincing statistical analyses, which
show that nation-state usage of Internet correlates strongly with GNP (www.mids.org. 1999c;
Starrs 1997: 208).
Cole and Cole (1997: 348) argue in the European context that one of the main concerns between
the EU and developing countries is how to strengthen policy and performance to reduce this
development gap. Technological innovations are of importance in these developments. Still, it is
not only the gap between industrialised and developing countries, but also the regionally unequal
development within 'developed' areas. These issues are tightly connected to the idea of 'remote
work' and regional development projects. In general these two macro-level tendencies lead to
research dealing with the widely used concepts of globalisation and localisation. It is widely
argued that technology and its social implications are enhancing both of these developments
(Scholte 1996: 571-581; Ray and Talbot 1999: 152-153).
In Fig. 3, two unambiguous maps have been presented, which demonstrate an image of estimated
transaction volumes measured by amount of bytes transferred through telecommunication
networks in Europe. Indeed, the 'Castellian' notion of flows in a geographical realm has become
visualised. These flows can be analysed using quantitative methods. There are two main facts that
both pictures a) and b) in Fig. 3 are telling us. Firstly, on both the continental level and on the
global level the major world cities are the connection nodes. This information can be related to
global host concentration, presented in Fig. 2. The overwhelming dominance of Europe and North
America crystallises in picture b. Secondly, in the European context, the traditional power triangle
concentration of population, traffic and financial attributes can be identified. This refers to an area
that is inside the triangle formed by London, Paris and Berlin (Dicken 1998: 58; OECD 1996).
The idea of core - periphery position is quite evident (e.g. Watts 1987: 76; Myrdal 1957).
However, it should be remembered that the map tells nothing of the importance or relative sizes
of the flows. By this I mean that even though the actual number of bytes flowing from e.g.
Scandinavian countries is small, their economic, political or informational importance may be of
relatively greater importance. In addition, Finland, for example, is the leading European country
as far as Internet connectivity is concerned (Starrs 1997: 203; ISC 1999b; RIPE NCC 1999). The
map presented in Fig. 3 creates quite an opposite impression of this fact, when operating with
absolute amounts of traffic. On the other hand, world-node dominance similar to that seen on the
European continent is identifiable on the global level.
The transatlantic concentration of information flows is clearly noticeable. Therefore, arguments related to the idea of the global village, derived from McLuhans' (1964) and Janelles' (1968) early arguments, and the end of distance proposal (see Mitchell 1995: 8-9) seems to be quite inappropriate. The illustration shows that in the case of Africa global connectivity is far from complete, and the distance, whether interpreted as a physical, social or financial, is very much a reality.
Figure 3. a) European telecommunications traffic flows in 1995 and b) global transaction volumes
in 1993. [Picture a) by permission of Telegeography Inc:
http://www.telegeography.com/Resources/europeLG.gif; b) by permission of Steve G. Eick,
Visual Insight: http://www.cybergeography.org/atlas/census.html].
Where do we stand now? The present situation in the field of electronic geography
Substituting the reality and the end of space?
In the following some notions of technological solutions and their methodological impact in
human and cultural geography are explored more thoroughly. Graham (1998: 167) argues that at
the present moment there are three broad dominating perspectives of research analysing relations
between information technology, space and place (see also Graham 1996; 1997; Graham and
Marvin 1996). The first is the perspective of substitution and transcendence. The core of this
approach is a utopia that areal territoriality, spaces and places and their dynamic production could
be substituted and replaced by using new technological innovations. Kling (1996: 53-54) argues
that the commercial actors, the business world and the media, often produce articles and
information that have a strong utopian spin, and this same information dominates in the public
idea of computerisation. Therefore, sophisticated professionals and researchers should be specially
aware of the strengths and limitations of technological analysis. However, the idea of 'substitution'
has also crashed in the science of geography, and some authors have a strong belief in the power
of IT. For example, in architecture and urban development sciences Ostwald (1997: 129) quotes
Virilio (1991), who has argued that:
"From here on, urban architecture has to work with the opening of a new 'technological
space-time.'Instead of operating in the space of a constructed social fabric, the intersecting and
connecting grid of highway and service systems now occurs in the sequences of an imperceptible
organization of time in which the man/machine interface replaces the facades of buildings as the
surfaces of property allotments." (Virilio 1991: 13-14)
Graham (1998: 169) points out the similar fact of this technological 'Holy Grail' and integrates the
idea to the convergence of telematics, computers and television. Praises for virtual shopping and
other 'cyberspatial' services have had a strong impact on spatial sciences. The most dedicated
substitution authors have argued that space itself has become 'unnecessary', and that we all are
able to live in a 'spaceless city' in which the integrated broadband systems are the highways of
knowledge (Baldwin et. al. 1995: 1-3; Mitchell 1995: 6-9; Virilio 1994: 7-9). From a critical point
of view I would argue that it is appropriate and necessary to evaluate earlier arguments with
The real and the virtual: the idea of the parallel evolution
The second perspective can be defined as the tendency of "the parallel social production of
geographical space and electronic space" (Graham 1998: 171). This approach recognises the
complexity of societal evolution and treats IT as a part of that evolution. Therefore, technology
and society are forming a dualistic relationship through which different new advancements,
spaces, places and actions are produced and reproduced. Indeed, informational cyberspace and
real-world space are not separate and competing entities, but a simultaneously growing and
evolving unit - the sphere and the scene of human existence. This genre of co-evolution can be
divided into three sections.
Firstly, the articulation between place-based and telemediated relationship has been
acknowledged. There are a number of authors dealing with this type of analysis that includes
chat-site and IRC-relations, identity creation processes and the ideas of self and the net.
Generally, it is a question of taking the ritual and communal aspect of human behaviour into
account when an analysis of communications is made (Sawhney 1996: 308-310; Sherman and
Judkins 1992: 126-127; McCafferey 1991: 8). Secondly, Graham distinguishes the role of
telecommunications in the evolution and development of cities. However, these ideas can also be
applied to a wider concept of space as a lived environment. Graham (1998: 172-175) processes
telematics and telecommunication as one factor in the complex creation of dynamic practices of
everyday city-life. Therefore, the connection to the ideas presented by Castells (1996; 1997) is
clear. The city is in a parallel relationship with IT and they are evolving together (see Thrift 1996;
Graham 1996; Knox 1995). The final co-evolution aspect is the question of spatial fixes and the
production of space. The theoretical background is in the critical political economy and the ways
in which telematics are being bound together with the production of new social and economic
geographies. The crucial aspect is the rejection of a 'shrinking world' and the adoption of
perpetually evolving and changing realities. This refers to the globalisation-localisation tendencies
and their spatial implications. There is strong emphasis on Trans National Corporations (TNC),
their global usage of telecommunications and the spatial processes that are generated and
regenerated through this usage. The political sciences aspect is clearly present in Graham's (1998:
Actor networks and the context
Finally, the last discourse of writings according to Graham (1998: 177) is the recombination
approach and the widely used idea of actor-networks. The actor-network theory has been
comprehensively used and discussed in academic forums. The central idea is to recognise the
relational interactions between actors and to acknowledge the contextual nature of
human-computer relations (Law and Hassard 1999: 1-16; Bingham 1996: 30-34). The focus is on
assessing the diversity of human interactions and their differences through different sets of human
actor-technology recombinations. The emphasis is on the creativity of humans to consolidate
certain kinds of relationships in different spaces with different persons. Therefore, technology is
evolving into specific parts of interactions, and the boundaries between the human actor and the
machine have become blurred (Pile and Thrift 1996: 37).
As Thrift (1996: 1480-1485) argues, the spatial processes and practices are hybrid outcomes of
specific and differentially extensive actor-networks. These networks create their own time-space
configurations, and therefore the pointlessness of pursuing the meta-truth of social practices
through technical cause-and-effect is realised. Indeed, the danger of technological determinism in
human-machine relations must be acknowledged because the processes are not linear and
therefore the outcomes can not be linear either (Turkle 1995: 43; Wood 1998: 3; Goffey 1998:
As we have seen above, the geographical standpoint in today's fast growing technological sphere
is very fragmented. I would argue that it is very difficult to combine different 'schools' of thought
related to the analyses of networks. The diversity results from variety of phenomena that are to be
explored. The division of the three perspectives presented by Graham is justifiable, but it can
always be criticised on the grounds of the research substance. This means that the subject of the
study can vary from subjective and immeasurable human behaviour to quantifiable and measurable
transaction volumes. For example, Kitchin's (1998: 386-400) similar division of geographical
implications, which is based more on the substance, tends to be more flexible in this respect.
However, the researcher's own values and beliefs determine whether he or she emphasises
substitution, co-evaluation or the actor-network perspectives. I always count these perspectives
as a part of 'cyberspatial' analyses. Indeed, the concepts are overlapping and certainly most
articles in this area have influences from all three modes of thinking.
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