Communications professor/sociologist/urban planner Manuel Castells, a professor of communication technology at the University of Southern California, studies the way in which information technology is reshaping society and the world city system.
As the internet, computers, and mobile devices make it possible for individuals and groups everywhere in the world to communicate instantaneously and fast, computerized information systems connect the planet, our conception of “space” is changing. This reality profoundly affects cities.
In this selection, based on lectures at the architectural firm of Skidmore, Owens, and Merrill and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2001 and 2002, Castells argues that with the rise of what he calls “the network society” the world has entered a new age – the information age and a new type of “informational city” based on flows of information replacing earlier industrial and post-industrial cities based on manufacturing and delivery of services.
Castells argues that space is socially constructed. He distinguishes between two types of space: “the space of places” – the traditional physical world of neighborhoods and local business nodes where people live their day-to-day lives; and “the space of flows” – the electronic, computerized network of telecommunication flows.
As globalization proceeds informational cities become increasingly closely linked. Headquarters and branches of multinational corporations exchange mass amounts of information globally in nanoseconds. Flows – of goods, services, capital, and particularly information – among cities in the world city network are as or more important to the economy and society of informational cities as what occurs within them in the space of places.