Dwelling in the Web: Towards a Googlization of Space
91 Pages Posted: 25 Sep 2012 Last revised: 22 Aug 2014
Date Written: July 15, 2012
How is the Googlization of space, people and things affecting the production and dissemination of knowledge within society? Which spatial patterns characterize the searching and finding of information on the Web, and vice versa? Beyond doubt, the spreading GeoWeb in general and the user-driven production of geo-referenced information in particular, has pluralized the representation of spatial conceptions in global networks of communication. But it has also created a domain of scarcity within digital information. Increasingly, the Web – which once held the promise of unimpeded access to the wide world – is beginning to segment our view of the world through social and spatial filtering, with implications for various societal action fields. On the one hand we are dealing with a ‘Backend Googlization’ through the way localization technologies profile countries, cultures and communities, but on the other, we are dealing with user practices that are changed by ‘Frontend Googlization,’ created through individual appropriation of new geomedia technologies.
The aim of this discussion paper is firstly to provide an overview of current georeferencing and localization services, and secondly to introduce and discuss their appropriation practices and their role in the societal processes of the creation of order and institutionalized arrangements. To this end, the paper takes geomedia to be an integral part of the everyday constitution of reality that renews the relationship between the Web and the social ground. It argues that the role of geomedia in the processes of the creation of order (within and through the Web) is constituted through specific production and consumer practices. This conceptualization of geomedia as cultural products distinguishes the paper from already existing research projects in the fields of media studies, geography, and critical GIS/cartography. Finally, relevant policy areas are deduced from the interlocking description of practices and social impacts of geomedia technologies.
The consequences of the analyzed Googlization of space for social and political spheres of activity are as follows. First, we can recognize a repersonalization of the Internet, through the mobilization of media, but also through the ever greater importance of social networks. Both of these factors are increasingly turning the public space into a semi-public, more and more privatized and personalized space. This development is strengthened by the currently favored political efforts at regulation, in that all geographic location data are allocated the same protection rights as any other type of personal data. Secondly, we can detect a reterritorialization of the Internet, in that ever more contents are being georeferenced, either through cartographic visualization (GeoWeb), or through adaption to the geographical origin of the IP address (geotargeting). Space is thus becoming classifiable sociologically and available for exploitation economically. In this case, mobile Internet applications, which can be located per se and thus can permanently provide us with a ‘sense of space,’ are acting as an additional catalyst. Both developments, that of repersonalization and that of reterritorialization, are making the Internet less and less of a virtual reality. Instead, they lead to more calculable Web practices and therefore a more account-able Web: a medium that is at once ‘able to give account of’ and ‘able to be accounted for’ with reference to social action.
Keywords: Geoweb, IP targeting, geodata protection, media geography, mobile internet, public space
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