Home >Documents >Space of Flows

Space of Flows

Date post:26-Oct-2014
View:74 times
Download:2 times
Share this document with a friend
Manuel Castells' work on the flow of spaces and time. He looks at the effects of globalisation on the spatial and temporal constructs and how their perception has changed since.

Space of FlowsManuel Castells

Geographical Approaches 26/01/2006 Marieke Francke S0520039 Else Ham S0520047

Contents1. Biography ................................................................................................ 3 2. Introduction on Space of Flows.................................................................... 4 3. Manuel Castells & Space of Flows................................................................. 5 3.1. 3.2. 3.3. 3.4. 3.5. The New Industrial Space ................................................................. 5 End of Cities?.................................................................................. 6 The Informational City...................................................................... 6 Space of Flows ................................................................................ 8 Places and Non-Places...................................................................... 9

4. Other Thinkers .......................................................................................... 10 4.1. 4.2. John Urry ....................................................................................... 10 Anthony Giddens ............................................................................. 10

5. Space of Flows in Everyday Life ................................................................... 11 Sources 12

BiographyManuel Castells was born in Spain in 1942. He grew up in Barcelona where he studied law and economics at the University of Barcelona from 1958 until 1962. As a student activist against General Francos fascist dictatorship he had to escape to Paris. He continued his study in Paris in order to obtain his PhD. Based on statistical analysis of location strategies of high-tech industrial firms in the Paris region, his doctoral work alerted to two issues that would continue to preoccupy Castells over the next three decades namely, the emergence of new technologies and the changing form of cities. Working in Paris at this time brought Castells into contact with leading Marxist theorists. Expelled by the French government, because of his participation in the revolutionary fervour of May 1968, he spent periods in Chili and Canada before returning to Paris in 1972. Castells first major work The Urban Question: A Marxist Approach was also published in 1972. It was announced as a remarkable and pioneering attempt to bring Marxist concepts and perspectives to bear on the urban question. In Castells opinion, Marxist theorists had yet to analyze cities in a sufficiently specific way. This work inspired a generation of geographers to engage with theories of political economy and utilized the insight of Marxist theory as a means to explore the urbanization of injustice. Castells thus found himself at forefront of the new urban sociology. In 1989, Castells published The Informational City which is an analysis of the urban and regional changes brought about by information technology and economics restructuring in the United States. It highlighted changes in the nature of urban governance that were contributing to the dual city where poor, immigrant workers serviced a more affluent elite, working in hi-tech and knowledge rich industries. This served as a forerunner to his three-volume treatise on The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, comprising The Rise of The Network Society (1996), The Power of Identity (1997) and the End of Millenium (1998). In The Rise of The Network Society, Castells introduces the term Space of Flows.


2. Introduction on Space of FlowsThe global economy is organized around command and control centers able to coordinate, innovate, and manage intertwined activities of networks of firms. Advanced services, such as finance, consulting, design and scientific innovation, are at the core of all economic processes. They all can be reduced to knowledge generation and information flows. Advanced telecommunications systems could make possible their scattered locations around the globe. New activities concentrate in particular poles and that implies an increase of disparities between the urban poles and their respective hinterlands. The global city phenomenon cannot be reduced to a few urban cores at the top of the hierarchy. It is a process that connects advanced services, producer centers, and markets in a global network, with different intensity and at a different scale depending upon the relative importance of the activities located in each area vis--vis the global network. Inside each country, the networking architecture reproduces itself into regional and local centers, so that the whole system becomes interconnected at the global level. Furthermore, globalization stimulates regionalization. The growing internationalization of economic activities throughout Europe has made regions more dependent on these activities. Regions have established networks of cooperation between regional institutions and between region-based companies. Regions and localities do not disappear, but become integrated in international networks that link up their most dynamic sectors. Cities, or rather, their business districts, are information-based, value production complexes, where corporate headquarters and advanced financial firms can find both the suppliers and the highly skilled, specialized labor they require. Factors that seem to contribute to strengthen the concentration of high level activities are the reluctance to move by corporations because of the investment in real estate, and the necessary face-to-face contacts for critical decisions. Furthermore, major metropolitan centers still offer the greatest opportunities for the personal enhancement, social status, and individual self-gratification of the much-needed upper-level professionals. The global city is not a place, but a process. A process by which centers of productions and consumptions of advanced services, and their ancillary local societies, are connected in a global network, while simultaneously downplaying the linkages with their hinterlands, on the basis of information flows.


3. Manuel Castells & Space of Flows3.1 The New Industrial SpaceThe New Industrial Space is a concept Castells uses to describe the changed formation of space as a consequence of technological innovations. This space is characterized by the technological and organizational ability to separate the production process in different locations while reintegrating its unity through telecommunication linkages, and microelectronics-based precision and flexibility in the fabrication of component. High-technology manufacturing is organized around two predominant groups of roughly similar size; a highly skilled, science- and technology-based labor force and a mass of unskilled workers engaged in routine assembly and auxiliary operations. Castells describes four different types of locations for each one of the four distinctive operations in the production process. R&D, innovation, and prototype fabrication were concentrated in highly innovative industrial centers in core areas; Skilled fabrication in branch plants was generally located in newly industrializing areas in the home country; Semi-skilled, large-scale assembly and testing work that from the very beginning was located offshore, particularly in South East Asia; Customizing of devices and aftersales maintenance and technical support, which was organized in regional centers throughout the globe. A key element in the location pattern of the high technology industry is the decisive importance of technological innovation production complexes for the whole system. This is what Castells calls milieux of innovation. By milieu of innovation he understands a specific set of relationships of production and management, based on a social organization that by and large shares a work culture and instrumental goals aimed at generating knew knowledge, new processes, and new products. Castells argues that for information technology industries, spatial proximity is a necessary material condition for the existence of such milieux. Milieux of innovation are the fundamental sources of innovation and of generation of added value, in the process of industrial production in the information age. High-technology-led industrial milieux of innovation, which are called technopoles come in a variety of urban formats. In most countries, the leading technopoles are contained in the leading metropolitan areas. Major metropolitan centers around the world continue to cumulate innovation-inducing factors and to generate synergy. However, some of the most important innovation centers of information-technology manufacturing are new. Their development resulted from the clustering of specific varieties of the usual factors of production: capital, labor, and raw material, brought together by some kind of institutional entrepreneur, and constituted by some kind of social organization. The raw material was made up of new knowledge. Their labor, distinct from the knowledge factor, required the concentration of a large number of highly skilled scientists and engineers. Finally, social networks, of different kinds, powerfully contributed to the consolidation of the milieux of innovations, and to its dynamics. Milieux of innovation both compete and cooperate between different regions, creating a network of interaction that brings them together in a common industrial structure beyond their geographical discontinuity. The interdependence of the milieux of innovation all over the globe is growing and the capacity of each milieu to enhance its synergy is decisive for their fate.


The new industrial space is organized in a hierarchy of innovation and fabrication articulated in global networks. But the direction and architecture of these networks are submitted to the endless changing movements of cooperation and competition between firms and between locales. The new industrial space is organized around flows of information that bring together and separate at the same time their territorial components.

3.2 The End of Cities?The development of electronic communication and information systems allows for an increasing disassociation between spatial proximity and the performance of everyday lifes functions, like work, shopping and education. Accordingly, futurologists often predict the demise of the city, or at least of cities as we have known them until now, once they are voided of their functional necessity. Processes of spatial transformation are much more complicated. An increase of teleworking is the most usual assumption about the impact of information technology on cities. What seems to be emerging is telecommuting from telecenters. Homes then would not become workplaces, but work activity could spread considerably throughout the metropolitan area, increasing urban decentralization. Teleshopping is also slow to live up to its promise. It is mainly substituting for traditional mail catalog orders. It supplements rather than replaces. A similar story can be told of most on-line consumer services, like telebanking. Health services offer an interesting case of the emerging dialectics between concentration and centralization of peopleoriented services. On the one hand, expert systems and on-line communications allow for the distant interconnection of medical care. On the other hand, in most countries major medical complexes emerge in specific locales, generally in large metropolitan areas. Schools and universities are the institutions least affected by the virtual logic embedded in information technology. In the case of universities, this is because the quality of education is still and will be for a long time, associated with the intensity of face-to-face interaction. Computer-mediated communication is diffusing around the world, although with an extremely uneven geography. Some segments of societies across the globe, invariably concentrated in the upper professional strata, interact with each other, reinforcing the social dimension of the space of flows. What emerges from different observations is a similar picture of simultaneous spatial dispersion and concentration via information technology. People increasingly manage activities from their home. Thus, home centeredness is an important trend of the new society. Yet it does not mean the end of the city. As time becomes more flexible, places become more singular, as people circulate among them in an increasingly mobile pattern. However, the interaction between new information technology and current processes of social change does have a substantial impact on cities and space. On the one hand, the urban form is considerably transformed in its layout. This transformation shows considerable variation depending upon the characteristics of historic, territorial and institutional contexts. On the other hand, the emphasis on interactivity between places breaks up spatial patterns of behavior into a fluid network of exchanges that underlies the emergence of a new kind of space; the space of flows.

3.3 The Informational CityAccording to Castells the information age is ushering in a new urban form, the informational city. The new society is based upon knowledge, organized around networks, and largely made up of flows. The informational city is not a form, but a process characterized by the structural domination of these space of flows. The development of loosely interrelated exurban constellations emphasizes the functional interdependence of different units and processes in urban systems over very long distances. It minimizes the role of territorial contiguity and maximizes the communication networks.


The profile of Americas Informational City is represented by the relationship between fast exurban development, inner-city decay, and obsolescence of the suburban built environment. According to Castells, European cities have entered the information age along a different line of spatial restructuring linked to their historical heritage. The business center in European cities is, as in America, the economic engine of the city, networked in the global economy. The business center is made up of an infrastructure of telecommunications, communications, advanced services, and office space. The business center does not exist by itself, but by the interconnection to other equivalent locales organized in a network that forms the actual unit of management, innovation, and work. The suburban world of European cities is a socially diversified space, that is segmented in different peripheries around the central city. There are traditional workingclass suburbs organized around large public housing estates, new towns inhabited by a younger populations of the middle classes and there are the peripheral ghettos of older public housing estates, where new immigrant populations and poor working families experience exclusion from their right to the city. Central cities often become defensive spaces for workers who only have their home to fight for, being at the same time meaningful popular neighborhoods and likely bastions of xenophobia and localism. The new professional middle class in Europe is torn between the attraction to the peaceful comfort of boring suburbs and the excitement of a hectic, and often too expensive, urban life. Castells states that the major European metropolitan centers present some variation around the urban structure, depending upon their different role in the European network of cities. The lower their position in the new informational network, the greater the difficulty of their transition form the industrial stage, and the more traditional will be their urban structure. On the other hand, the higher their position in the competitive structure of the new European economy, the greater the role of their advanced services in the business district, and the more intense will be the restructuring of urban space. The critical factor in the new urban processes is the fact that urban space is increasingly differentiated in social terms, while being functionally interrelated beyond physical continuity. It follows the separation between symbolic meaning, location of functions, and the social appropriation of space in the metropolitan area. This is the trend underlying the most important transformation of urban forms worldwide, with particular force in the newly industrializing areas: the rise of megacities. The new global economy and the emerging informational society have a new spatial form, which develops in a variety of social and geographical context: megacities. Megacities are very large agglomerations of human beings. Megacities articulate the global economy, link up the informational networks, and concentrate the worlds power. Megacities are connected externally to global networks and to segments of their own counties, while internally disconnecting local populations that are either functionally unnecessary or socially disruptive. Castells states that it is this distinctive feature of being globally connected and locally disconnected, physically and social, that makes megacities a new urban form. Some examples of megacities are: Tokyo, New York, Buenos Aires, London and Calcutta. Not all of them are dominant centers of the global economy, but they do connect to this global system huge segment of the human populations. They function as magnets for their hinterlands. Mega cities cannot be seen only in terms of their size, but also as a function of their gravitational power toward major regions of the world. Thus, for example Hong Kong is not just its six million people, and Guangzhou is not just its six


and a half million people: what is emerging is a megacity of 40 to 50 million people, connecting Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Zhuhai, Macau, and small towns in the Pearl River Delta. Megacities will continue to grow in their size and in their attractiveness for the location of high-level functions and for peoples choice. Megacities are the nodal points, and the power centers of the new spatial form and process of the information age: the space of flows.

3.4 Space of FlowsSpace is the expression of society. A meaningful relationship between society and space hides a fundamental complexity. This is because space is not a reflection of society, it is its expressions. In other words: space is not a photocopy of society, it is society. Spatial forms and processes are formed by the dynamics of the overall social structure. Further-more, social processes influence space by acting on the built environment inherited form previous social-spatial structures. What is space? In physics, it cannot be defined outside the dynamics of matter. In social theory it cannot be defined without reference to social practices. Castells defines space as a material product, in relationship to other material products including people who engage in (historically) determined social relationships that provide space with a form, a function, and a social meaning. Time and space cannot be understood independently of social action. Castells speaks of time-sharing social practices, hereby he refers to the fact that space brings together those practices that are simultaneous in time. The proximity of material support is no longer of essence. Our society is constructed around flows: flows of capital, flows of information, flows of technology, flows of organizational interactions, flows of images, sounds, and symbols. Flows are not just one element of the social organization: they are the expression of processes dominating our economic, political, and symbolic life. Castells proposes the idea that there is a new spatial form characteristic of social practices that dominate and shape the network society: the space of flows. The space of flows is the material organization of time-sharing social practices that work through flows. By flows Castells understands purposeful, repetitive, programmable sequences of exchange and interaction between physically disjointed positions held by social actors in the economic, political, and symbolic structures of society. The space of flows can be described by the combination of three layers of material supports that, together, constitute the space of flows. The first layer, the first material support of the space of flows, is constituted by a circuit of electronic impulses that form the material basis for the processes that are strategically crucial in the network of society. This is a material support of simultaneous practices. It is a spatial form, just as it could be the city or the the region in the organization of the merchant society or of the industrial society. In the network of interactions, no place exists by itself, since the positions are defined by flows. Places do not disappear, but their logic and their meaning become absorbed in the network. The technological infrastructure that builds up the network defines the new space, very much like railways defined economic regions. The second layer of the space of flows is constituted by its nodes and hubs. The space of flows is not placeless, although its structural logic is. It is based on an electronic network, but this network links up specific places, with well-defined social, cultural, physical, and functional characteristics. Some places are exchangers, communication hubs playing a role of coordination for the interaction of all the elements integrated into the network. Other places are the nodes of the network, that is the location of strategically important functions that build a series of locality-based activities and organizations around a key function in the network. The functions to be fulfilled by each network define the characteristics of places that become their privileged nodes. Each network defines its sites according to the functions and hierarchy of each site, and to the characteristics of the product or service to be processed in the network.


The third layer of the space of flows refers to the spatial organization of the dominant, managerial elites that exercise the directional functions around which such space is articulated. Articulation of the elites and segmentations and disorganization of the masses seem to be the twin mechanisms of social domination in our societies. Space plays a fundamental role in this mechanism. In short: elites are cosmopolitan, people are local. The space of power and wealth is projected throughout the world, while peoples life and experience is rooted in places, in their culture, in their history. On the other hand, the elites do not want and cannot become flows themselves, if they are to preserve their social cohesion, develop the set of rules and the cultural codes by which they can understand each other and dominate the other, thus establishing the in and out boundaries of their cultural/political community. However, Castells analysis does not share the hypothesis about the improbable existence of a power elite. On the contrary, the real social domination stems from the fact that cultural codes are embedded in the social structure in such a way that possession of these codes opens the access to the power structure without the elite needing to conspire to bar access to its networks. As a sociologist Manuel Castells is especially interested in social movements and the influences of the information technology on society, and the effect this has on the changing forms of cities. Everything is changing these days; technology is enhancing, logistic improvements are constantly being made, processes are transforming and demands are changing. Everything is moving. News broadcast and other media keep you informed about everything that is going on in the world. Organisations can locate themselves everywhere around the world. Mobile offices become more and more popular. Progress is required if you want to survive the everchanging society. Special skills are needed to manage organisations these days. It is not enough to manage a specific organisation, youll have to manage processes and flows in which the organisation is participating. These processes and flows are constantly changing and are connected in networks. It is about managing flows, instead of managing separate components of the organisation. This is why flexibility and being innovative are of essential importance. Thus, a whole new form of management is required. So called special meta-competences are needed to deal with the changes.

3.5 Places and Non-PlacesThe space of flows does not permeate down to the whole realm of human experience in the network society. The overwhelming majority of people live in places and so they perceive their space as place-based. According to Castells, a place is a locale whose form, function and meaning are self-contained within the boundaries of physical contiguity. Not all places are socially interactive and spatially rich. It is precisely because their physical/symbolic qualities make them different that they are places. People still live in places. But because function and power in our societies are organized in the space of flows, the structural domination of its logic essentially alters the meaning and dynamic of places. Experience, by being related to places, becomes abstracted from power, and meaning is increasingly separated from knowledge. Within the Network Society new kind of places come to exist. These are places which dont have any specific characteristics and could therefore be located almost anywhere. The places all look the same no matter where you are at the world. These places are called non-places. The emerge of these non-places is caused by globalisation and the rise of the information technology. The rise of non-places occurs on different scale levels. For instance, it doesnt really matter if you go shopping in Amsterdam or Nijmegen. The same can be seen on a more global scale. Thus, on the one hand place will continue to be of importance in peoples everyday life. Your home village will always have significant meaning for you and will therefore never feel as a non-place. On the other hand, the role of place will decrease because of the rise of information technology and globalisation.


4. Other thinkers4.1 John UrryAccording to John Urry the discourse of globalisation really took off in 1989, when exponential growth in the analyses of the global began to suggest that there was a supposed global reconstitution of economic, political and cultural relationships. One central feature was the sense that people had that they were living in a global village, as the struggles for citizenship themselves were brought into their homes wherever they were located. At the moment that almost everyone is seeking to be a citizen of an existing national society or to set up their own national society, globalisation appears to be changing what it is to be a citizen. Urry distinguishes two aspects of networks, namely, scapes and flows. Scapes are the networks of machines, technologies, organizations, texts and actors that constitute various interconnected nodes along which flows can be relayed. Such scapes reconfigure the dimensions of time and space. Once particular scapes have been established, then individuals and especially corporations within each society will normally try to become connected to them through being constituted as nodes within that particular network. They will seek to develop their own hubs. Between certain nodes along some scapes, extraordinary amounts of information may flow, of financial, economic, scientific and news data, into which some groups are extremely well plugged-in while others are effectively excluded. New inequalities of flows are created. Social and spatial distances are no longer homologous (Beck 1999: 104). Urry sets apart two different kinds of networks; global networks and what he calls global fluids. Global enterprises are organized by the means of a global network. Such a network of technologies, skills, texts and brands ensures that more or less the same product is delivered in more or less the same way in every country in which the enterprise operates. Second, there are global fluids, the heterogeneous, uneven and unpredictable mobilities of people, information, objects, and money. Fluids do not always keep within the scape. Different fluids spatially intersect in the empty meeting grounds of the non-places of modernity, such as airports, the internet, international hotels and so on.

4.2 Anthony GiddensAnthony Giddens does not write much about the information society. It is not really a concern of his to discuss the status of this particular concept, not least because he would surely be sceptical of the proposition that we have recently seen with the emergence of this new type of society. He has quite directly asserted that although it is commonly supposed that we are only now in the late twentieth century entering the era of information, modern societies have information societies since their beginning (Giddens, 1987: 27). Giddens states that importance of information has deep historical roots, so the emerge of the information society is nothing new. Castells on the other hand states that the information society came into existence as a result of the simultaneous availability of new, flexible information technologies and a set of historical events. They came together around the late 1960s and 1970s. All processes, interacting with each other, favoured the adoption of information networks as a most efficient form of organization. Once introduced, and powered by information technology, information networks, through competition, gradually eliminate other organizational forms, rooted in a different social logic.


5. Space of Flows in Everyday LifeThere are numerous spaces of flows in peoples everyday life. A lot of times, without people knowing it, they are involved in a flow while exercising their daily activities. We will discuss three recognizable examples of space of flows. Telemarketing worldwide Many international companies in the USA and elsewhere around the world have set up telemarketing services and call centers in other countries to outsource customer support and telemarketing at low costs. For example, India is becoming an increasingly popular location for offshore call centers. India is home to a large English speaking population who are also largely computer literate. This makes it possible for somebody in, for example The Netherlands, to be called by a person working in a call center in India for an American company. Health services online An increasing number of people consult the internet for medical information. Some people receive all the medical information through the internet and dont go to a doctor anymore at all. Other people first consult the internet for general information and then decide to see their own doctor. This is an example of a flow of information, where the specific place doesnt matter. Telebanking Telebanking is another clear example of the decreasing necessity of physical space. When youre traveling in, for example, South East Asia and you need to transfer money from your saving account to your regular bank account, you can get on the internet and take care of this at that exact time and in that specific place. The emerge of telebanking has made the existence of physical bank offices less important since people can take care of (almost) all of their banking online.


6. SourcesHubbard, Ph., Kitchin, R. & Valentine, G. (2004) Key thinkers on Space and Place. Sage, London (Chapter 10) Castells, M. (1996) The Information Age: Economy, society and culture. Volume 1: The rise of the network society. Blackwell, Oxford Castells, M. (1997) The Information Age: Economy, society and culture. Volume 2: The power of identity. Blackwell, Oxford Castells, M. (1998) The Information Age: Economy, society, culture. Volume 1: End of Millennium. Blackwell, Oxford Crang, M. (2002) Between places: producing hubs, flows and networks. In: Environment and planning A. Vol. 34, No. 4, pp. 569-574 Webster, F. (1995) Theories of The Information Society, Routledge, London http://www.transformaties.org/bibliotheek/urry2.pdf 06/12/2005http://publish.uwo.ca/~mcdaniel/weblinks/spaceflos.html 15/12/2005 http://www.Transformaties.org/Castells/network_Society/Vol_Vol_I_flows.html 15/12/2005 http://www.lbora.ac.uk/gawc/rb/rb14.html 27/12/2005 http://www.onderzoekinformatie.nl/nl/oi/nod/onderzoek/OND1301366 27/12/2005 http://www.zoutenpeper.nl/de_netwerksamenleving.html 27/12/2005

http://jwsr.ucr.edu/archive/vol5/number2/html/urry/ 27/12/2005http://www.outsource2india.com/services/telemarketing.asp 27/12/2005


Popular Tags:
of 12/12

Click here to load reader

Reader Image
Embed Size (px)