Software-sorted geographies

Graham, S.D.N (2005). Software-sorted geographies, Progress in Human Geography29, 5 (2005) pp. 1–19. The central claim of the paper is that computerized systems act as "ordinary" mediators through which people encounter the world, hence the term "software sorting":

"Software-sorting is the means through which such selective access is organized (Graham and Wood, 2003). Such processes operate through a vast universe of what Michel Callon (1986) has termed ‘obligatory passage points’. These are particular topological spaces within sociotechnical systems through which actors have to ‘pass’in order that the system actually functions in the way that dominant actors desire. (...) Crucially, however, the links between software-sorting and geographical inequalities are inherently complex, ambivalent and ambiguous. (...) While they are inherently multitudinous, diverse and ambivalent, and operate at multiple scales, the predominant dynamic of contemporary software-sorting innovations seems to be linked closely to the elaboration of neoliberal models of state construction and service provision"

What I also strikingly interesting for my interest in this paper is this:

"attention has turned away from discussions suggesting that such technologies offer access to some ‘virtual’ domain which is somehow distinct and separable, in some binary way, from the ‘real’spaces and places of cities and material urban life (Woolgar, 2002). In their place, much more nuanced and sophisticated approaches are emerging. These stress that new technologies are intimately involved in the fine-grained and subtle transformations, or ‘remediations’, of place- and space-based social worlds (Bolter and Grusin, 2000; Haythornwaite and Wellman, 2002; Graham, 2004a; 2004b). Far from being separated domains, then, such perspectives underline that the coded worlds of the ‘virtual’ actually work to continually constitute, structure and facilitate the place-based practices of the material world (Dodge and Kitchin, 2004: 198). Castells (1996: 373) calls this the shift from ‘virtual reality’to ‘real virtuality’(see Dodge and Kitchin, 2004)."

And I also liked that one:

"In addressing this wide research, policy and activist agenda, the challenge is to maintain a critical and informed position without falling foul of dystopian and absolutist scenarios suggesting that software-sorting techniques are somehow limitless, completely integrated, and all-powerful. As Koskella (2003) suggests, ‘urban space will always remain less knowable and, thus, less controllable than the restricted panoptic space’"

... given that technologies are not seamless and perfectly working, software-sorted geographies can fail.

Why do I blog this? lots of reading lately from the geography field, certainly because I discovered how that domain address ubiquitous computing from a very relevant angle.