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Power and Space in the Information Age

 

   

Information technologies have in recent years permeated many different areas of everyday life. They have also resulted in ever increasing possibilities of tracking and profiling our daily activities. Today, computerised systems that act as conduits for multiple cross-cutting forms of data gathering, data transfer and data analysis control, protect and manage everyday life on multiple levels, for security, administrative, commercial and political purposes.

Think, for example, of the rapidly expanding use of RFID chips in tickets and goods, of the increased number of surveillance cameras in public places, of computerised loyalty systems in the retail sector, of location-aware smartphone applications, or the development of increasingly “smart” urban infrastructures from transport systems to electricity grids.

The information age has spawned novel phenomena, from policing and access control to city administration, mobility and energy management and consumption monitoring.

Aims

These examples reiterate the need for a systematic, politico‐geographical programme of reflection aimed at studying, theorising and problematising the causes and implications, chances and problems associated with technology-based regulation and control in the present-day world.

The work carried out at the institute of geography at Neuchâtel develops a range of both empirically informed and theoretically oriented investigations, thus setting a new agenda of research into the problematic of ‘power & space in the information age’. Specific research topics include:

  • Spatial and societal implications of novel techniques of ‘governing through code’
  • Power issues in the digital city
  • Surveillance as neoliberal politics of space
  • The discursive construction of the ‘smart city’
  • The regulation through code of different forms of mobility
  • Software-sorted urban geographies
  • Surveillance as the fabrics of the everyday
  •  Issues of social and spatial justice

This programme of research has at its very core a marked concern for the apparently trivial issues that are shaping and underpinning everyday life. As such, it has both communication and user-engagement as core objectives. It deepens the knowledge of citizens, public agencies and the private sector regarding the causes and effects of the current proliferation of techno-mediated forms and formats of control and regulation-at-a-distance. It raises awareness of the advantages and problems of these developments (in terms of social inclusion-exclusion, privacy-security, civil rights and social justice), aspires to inform public policies and, ultimately, aims to raise critical democratic debate

Research at the IGG