A Geography of Devices

[Image: Tokyo subway map, via re:form].

“Just as postal systems remade geographic places into zones determined by politics and history,” Amy Johnson writes for re:form, “social media technologies are remaking them today.”

“Historically,” Johnson writes, “the categories of both who helps in natural disasters and who is helped have largely been organized around place, in this case mapped according to its political and geographic dimensions, by government agencies and relief organizations with parallel structures. Recently, social media has broadened the category of who helps—and in doing so, new technological places have joined political and geographic ones.”

Johnson is describing the various spatial metaphors at work in Japanese disaster response plans following the Tōhoku earthquake in 2011, and the communication of those plans to the public via social media platforms. Evacuation zones defined by “suspiciously round numbers,” so-called geocasting (“when a producer targets publishing to a particular region or location”), and the abandonment of traditional post codes in favor of “device locations” all play a part in her analysis.

After all, Johnson continues, “this is a decidedly different moment of history and politics, and the power balance among people, corporations, and states has shifted. The resultant new zones—and new configurations of zones—will further change this balance.”

The internet of things, we might say, is also an emergency network of things, marking our spatial locations more efficiently than previous methods of territorial administration.

Read the rest over at re:form.

(Thanks to Nicola Twilley for the tip!)

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