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Network Topologies and Virtual Place

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The use of terms such as “cyberspace,”“electronic frontier,” and “information superhighway” implies a project for geographers: the attempt to incorporate such innovative views of place within an ontological framework sensitive to geographical concerns. Combinatorial theory and structuration theory provide a basis for this incorporation. Just as places are dialectically related to social processes, so too are communication media. Similar factors related to the patterning of communication flows pertain in both cases. In particular, geographers can identify similar patterns of nodes (communicators) and links (communication paths) in places and in communication media. These patterns, or topologies, provide a set of opportunities and constraints for social interaction. When topologies in computer networks replicate the topologies in familiar places, certain elements of social structuration are shared, as well. This sharing, in turn, lends validity to claims about “virtual place” that can be quantitatively described, through combinatorial methods, to indicate the level of specialization in the topological form that has been replicated, and hence the significance of the replication. In light of such similarities, the political and social implications of computer networking are explored.
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Keywords: Virtual place; computer networks; media; place; structuration theory

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Geography and Planning, University at Albany, S.U.N.Y.

Publication date: 1998-03-01

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