Multimedia Utopia? A Geographical Critique of High-Tech Development in Malaysia’s Multimedia Super Corridor

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Abstract:

For all the supposed novelty of the “Information Age”, high-tech development in Malaysia perpetuates existing patterns of social and spatial inequality. The Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC), a 50-km-long high-tech zone stretching southwards from the federal capital, Kuala Lumpur, is imagined in state discourse as part of a transition to a “multimedia utopia” benefiting all Malaysians throughout the national territory. This article seeks to contest such utopian imaginings. In the first place, informational forms of economy and society are dependent upon complex physical infrastructure, the distribution of and access to which is highly uneven. The MSC and other major investment in information infrastructure in Malaysia are overwhelmingly concentrated in the main national city-region. Second, already marginal groups and individuals are subjected to new forms of social and spatial exclusion. Apart from financial exclusion arising from the privatisation of high-tech spaces, incorporation into Malaysian high-tech futures is dependent upon the possession of skills deemed appropriate for an emerging information economy and society. These processes are exemplified by the displacement of plantation workers in the construction of Putrajaya, one of the MSC’s two new “intelligent” cities. While such negative social impacts have a long association with large-scale modern development projects, the article argues that it is specifically a pervasive discourse of “high-tech”—and the way in which this has been refracted in the national context—which legitimises the financial and social costs of new high-tech urban development.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-8330.00238

Affiliations: Department of Geography, National University of Singapore, Singapore geotgb@nus.edu.sg

Publication date: March 1, 2002

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