The recombinant infrastructural spaces that invisibly underpin cybercities
Graham, S. (2004): Excavating the Material Geographies of Cybercities, In Graham, S. (ed.) The Cybercities Reader, Chapter 18, Routledge, London. This chapter addresses the "material geographies of telecommunications hardware and equipment" built in the ICT boom of the late 90s showing how the so-called "death of distance" rely on material grounds. The "fabric of cyberspace" is indeed a lot more physical than the immateriality people promote, involving "the messy, complex and expensive construction of real wires, servers, and installations".
Although this claim is now very common in geography/architecture papers (as well as starting to be taken into account in the field of ubiquitous computing), what is very relevant in this chapter is how the authors describe "examples of the recombinant infrastructural spaces that invisibly underpin cybercities. Some excerpts highlight this point:
"These electronic superbanks are not skyscrapers but groundscrapers [interconnected by optic fiber networks]: "huge nine-to-eleven storey buildings with immense floor plates" to accommodate the remarkable IT needs of global financial institutions today (...) Telecom hotels are anonymous, windowless buildings and massive, highly fortified spaces which house the computer and telecommunications equipment for the blossoming commercial Internet, mobile and telecommunication industries. (...) server or 'co-location' farms are housed in highly secure building complexes located in the major global cities of the world. (...) The physical qualities of the chosen buildings (high ceiling height, high-power and back-up electricity supplies) need to be combined with nodal positions on fibre networks (...) isolated and ultra-secure spaces are currently being configured as spaces for the remote housing of computer and data storage operations. There are several elements of this process. In the first element, a variety of offshore small island states (...) old disused sea forts and oil rigs are now being actively reconfigured by e-commerce entrepreneurs, in attempts to secede from the jurisdictions of nation states altogether. (...) the self-styled Principality of Sealand (...) Since September 11th many of London's financial and corporate head quarters have installed massive servers in the platform's concrete legs to improve their resilience against catastrophic terrorism in the City of London. (...) But perhaps even more bizarre is the third part of the process : the reconstruction of old cold-war missile launch sites and bunkers to offer the ultimate in security against risks of both electronic and physical incursion"
Why do I blog this? while I am unsure about "sea forts and oil rigs" (Sea Land has some troubles lately), this enumeration of "recombinant" examples is very intriguing. Surely some material to keep in mind for further investigation about urban computing.