Monthly Archives: August 2005

Revealing Infrastructure — The Spaces of Flows

Envisioning the banal, through image or theory, means paying attention to what is normally ignored, hidden or concealed. For North American urban dwellers, some of the most privileged citizens in the world, much upon which we depend is concealed from sight: we don’t tend to think about how it functions until it fails to deliver to us what we have come to expect. The failure of the electricity grid in Toronto and New York in the summer of 2003 has become a cultural point of reference because of the sudden visibility of so many of the normally hidden elements of urban life: suddenly lights, heat, and cell phone conversations were no longer taken for granted. However, these infrastructures connect us not only to one another, but also to larger forces that extend across the globe through the ties of ownership and the movement of capital. This section presents some theories of global and local urban inequality: Castells’ “spaces of flows” and Graham and Marvin’s “splintering urbanism”

Continue reading

The View From Here – Introductions and Surveying the Terrain

ICT infrastructures are banal and uninteresting – but this also means that they are powerful. This introductory section establishes reasons for focusing on often invisible or ignored technical systems, and outlines the paper’s two main sections: a theoretical reflection on visualizing inequalities, and a more focused look at wireless internet’s “invisible” transmission infrastructure

Continue reading


This paper uses the organizing concept of “visibility” to investigate how information anc communication technology (ICT) infrastructures have shifted, transformed, and consolidated economic and social power in Western (particularly North American) cities. After surveying the global impacts of IT infrastructures in urban areas, the paper focuses specifically a local example of how wireless internet infrastructure is developed and used in Montreal. Using photographs of telecommunications infrastructure in its everyday viewed context as organizing features, the paper exposes how ICT infrastructure’s banality conceals its important implication in both global and local shifts in economic power, social relationships, and the use of urban space. This “glance over” the economic, social, and physical influence of the internet on urban space concludes with a closer look at the politics of wireless signal provision in Montreal, where a community group has reappropriated ICT infrastruture and competes with leading telecommunication providers for better “visibility” of their wireless signals in politically and socially important areas. The paper is presented in chapters that are intended to stand alone, but which can also be read as sections of a larger work.

To my gentle readers . . .

. . if there are more than three of you. Yes, this blog is backwards. I began it as a place to publish the working paper you can read below, by chapter. But like most blogs it took on a life of its own. So, until the ever-patient and frighteningly talented flink reverses it, you will have to scroll to the bottom to read the new bits. That’s what you get when the luddite builds the blog . . .