Continuous connectivity, handheld computers, and mobile spatial knowledge

Society & Space contacted me yesterday with news that my manuscript, "Continuous connectivity, handheld computers, and mobile spatial knowledge", had been accepted for publication. Find a preprint version here.

Wilson, Matthew W. Forthcoming. Continuous connectivity, handheld computers, and mobile spatial knowledge. Environment & Planning D: Society & Space.

Abstract:
As geospatial information seemingly moves from users’ personal computers to ‘the cloud’, the use of the phrase ‘geographic technologies’ has increasingly indicated things beyond desktop GIS. With these shifts in the distribution of geospatial data and practices, and the rise of the geoweb as a site of inquiry, new concepts are needed to better understand the conditions of geographic technologies. In this paper, I conceptualize one such element of interactivity: connection. Here, I argue that a logic of continuous connectivity underlies the development of digital spatial media and influences the contemporary production of spatial knowledge. For those lives lived that are presumed to be ‘always- connected’, interactions are figured by these connections to digital media. Many of these digital devices (especially mobile ones) become functional only through a series of connections to data and communication networks. For instance, mobile phones are in continuous communication regardless of direct use, ‘listening’ to cellular towers and analyzing proximity to deliver the best possible connection. From these system-level codes that maintain device connectivity to software-level codes that push and pull data to and from ‘the cloud’, being always-connected is part of a cultural milieu that has diverse implications not only for attention but also for the development of collective, spatial knowledge. Here, I situate the emergence of continuous connectivity in the marketing of handheld computers in the late-1990s, to historicize the importance of connection for understanding geospatial practices.


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