Manifesto for Teaching Online – Aphorism No. 15 – “Place is differently, not less important, online.”

As ’tis from the disposition of visible and tangible objects we receive the idea of space, so from the succession of ideas and impressions we form the idea of time… – David Hume, Treatise of Human Nature

“… space and time … are therefore pure intuitions that lie a priori at the basis of the empirical. … they are mere forms of our sensibility, which must precede all empirical intuition, or perception of actual objects …”- Immanuel Kant, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics

… there are cases in which on the basis of a temporally extended content of consciousness a unitary apprehension takes place which is spread out over a temporal interval (the so-called specious present). … That several successive tones yield a melody is possible only in this way, that the succession of psychical processes are united “forthwith” in a common structure.
Edmund Husserl, Phenomenology of Inner Time Consciousness

The two most important requirements for major success are: first, being in the right place at the right time, and second, doing something about it” – Ray Croc founder of McDonalds

There is a time and place for everything. And so on. Gjermund Wollan argues that Heidegger’s conception of Dasein describes the stance of “an interested human being, situated in a particular place and a particular time” (p.33). Malpas (2006) explains that to be a human being is to be:

“‘placed’ in a certain way, and, typically, such ‘placing’ involves an orientation such that one’s surroundings are configured in a particular way and in a particular relation to oneself – just as one is also related in a particular way to those surroundings…. We find ourselves already in a situation, already living a certain life, already given over to a particular existence – and as such we find ourselves already involved with things, already engaged in a world. ” (Malpas 2006, p. 40 – 43).

In phenomenological understanding the heart of the world is the self. It is, however, always placed somewhere; thus the self has not only a temporal, but also a spatial aspect. The self goes out and meets the world (even though always-already in the world), in a sense creates it by giving it meaning. This capacity to live “in the future” constitutes one of the most basic existential structures of human existence and is exemplified by phenomena such as marriage and parenting, wherein our everyday behaviour is structured by future possibilities through problem identification, planning and design. It is also enacted in formal work through

The self appears as the active agent that grants the world as totality (the world encountered by the subject) and stability. Stability or continuance can only be conceptualized in the function of the self’s matrix of spatiality and temporality. The concept of habitus – lifestyle, the values, the dispositions and expectation of particular social groups which are acquired through the activities and experiences of everyday life – conveys well the intentionality of the subject in practice. It suggests the structuring force of bodily activity based on the experiences of the past. Habitus corresponds, in fact, to the process of selection, simplification, and idealization of experiences, setting up a horizon of how to act in a given place. This is as true online as it is offline, but it is often difficult to conceive of why that is so. The fact is when you are having a chat via Skype then it is hard to believe that it is a different time and place due to the encounter, the presence.

Chatting with students and clients is fun!

I as do others enjoy chats regularly with friends located, dotted, all around the world. This includes those whose houses I am familiar with some whose houses and offices, counties and even countries I have never physically visited. In many ways, it matters not, to the conversation that follows orthodox conventions of “how are you doing…. What has been happening?” And so forth. Being-already-in-a-world simply means that humans always find themselves in a world of signification. Worldhood is not subjectively bestowed upon the world by our consciousness, but rather, is an a priori determination of phenomenal reality by virtue of the referential web of significance given through the milieu of public and social language and practice.

I am, as I am sure we are all, used to seeing distant possible worlds and lives on the television. Baudrillard’s speaking in the 1990s and in reference to the French Minitel system, a videotext precursor to the internet, suggests that his current condition of telematics was a fulfillment of the telos of communication, primarily that of immediacy and transparency. The ironic revenge of the system, he claims, is that through the ability of technology to obtain – and supersede – these goals, “we have reached a catastrophic moment in which “speaking” no longer has a place in the world. It carries forth the view that smart phone, the TV and the networked computer are literally making ‘everywhere here’”.

Writing more specifically, about telecommunication and telepresence, Paul Virilio similarly uses the concept of distance to understand their effect. In Virilio’s reading, these technologies collapse the physical distances, uprooting the familiar patterns of perception which grounded our culture and politics. Virilio’s concern is that speed of the modern time – that is, modern technology, modern warfare, the modern military apparatus – is destroying place. To him, place is not only the geographic locale, but all that constitutes a place–the culture, the people, the history, etc. My question is simply whether the destruction of place in Virilio’s term would be tantamount to Dasein’s turn away from dwelling. Virilio sees that “the advanced audiovisual and automotive technologies have denatured direct observation and common sense” (1991; p. 111).

The compression of our sense of space under the new media technologies entails an alteration in our conception of time. Our perception of space is subsumed by our perceptions of duration and length. In the past, transportation technologies enabled this shift in our perception of space: “mental mapping evolves with the transportation revolution and the communication revolution. The faster I travel to the end of the world, the faster I come back, and the emptier my mental-map becomes” (Virilio, 1994; p.42).

If it is possible to fly to Europe overnight, our mental map (our perception) of space separating Europe and the United States shrinks. If we can receive broadcasts of news events live from Europe, our mental map of both the space separating Europe from the US shrinks again. “So long as there is a dysfunction in a system, a departure from known laws governing its operation, there is always the prospect of transcending the problem. But when a system rides roughshod over its own basic assumptions, supersedes its own ends. . .then we are contemplating not crisis but catastrophe.” (Baudrillard, 1993; p.32)

Places I have not been, like Mongolia, or my friend’s house, I can imagine in my mind’s eye, I piece it together with my experiences of home, of South East Asia, cold Northern India and what I have seen on television. Would I be far from the mark? I have been wrong before.

When I went to Africa I had expectations not only of the continent and geography but also the people. There is a pervasive image in my mind of strife, hot savanna, desert and scrubland, abject poverty and hunger, men in combat fatigues, jungles and AK47 assault riffles and the odd rocket launcher or even tank. They were fairly negative images, and far from the mark for various reasons.

The first night I spent in Lesotho was nothing like this. I stayed in a bed and breakfast. When I arrived, it was winter and freezing, I had recently arrived from tropical South East Asia. The cold itself registered in my brain suggesting that I was back in Scotland. I was shown a room whose decoration, wallpaper and feel was that of a Scottish bed and breakfast, all be it a rather twee [a uniquely British term for “excessively sentimental, sweet, or pretty”]. Carpeted floors, wallpaper, a sideboard with ornaments, the rural pictures on the wall, the knitted toilet seat cover and matching tissue holder. I had to switch on the electric heater provided, and at night slept under the duvet cover with the high ‘tog’ rating. There was nothing ‘African’ present.

Such contrast with home in Cambodia, where one sleeps with no blankets, where carpets are only found in large hotels, and where you switch on air conditioning and imagine you are lying on the grass on the side of a Scottish hill in summertime. When I awoke in Lesotho that morning with frost on the window, I felt I were back home in another time another place. I had to rethink my strategies of showering and getting dressed in this cold climate.

I repaired to a ‘living room’ in the old British traditional sense, or a kind of parlour that was only used on occasion of guests visiting. The grandfather clock, the three-piece suite coffee table. There was a more functional room that was used on a daily basis and where the television was. The living room dining table was set out for breakfast, and I was duly asked if I wanted hot milk with my cornflakes. This was something I had not eaten in decades, something that my mother used to make for us on those cold winter mornings before going to school. The whole experience was uncanny due to the triggering of memories, nostalgia and familiarities. Maseru , the capital of Lesotho is at a higher elevation (5,489 ft. above sea level) than Kathmandu, Nepal (4,593 ft). In many respects there main street reminded me somehow of Dundee. Which of the following is in Europe and which are in Africa (interestingly a Besotho man informed me that during WWII the Besotho were aligned with the Black Watch, the regiment associated and barracked at Dundee)

Maseru or Dundee?

Dundee or Maseru?

Maseru or Dundee?

Dundee or Maseru?

Also, the Besotho love old fashioned British puddings, no Gordon Ramsey here, even at posh silver service events trifles were served and custard and baking produce is very visible in supermarkets. English is spoken generally, and in an accent much clearer than typical [white] Afrikaners. All of this made for a kind of ‘home from home’ – even though Besotho culture is rich and deep, and can be ancient, having proven the test of time [regardless of how logical or rational or ethical we may think] there was a definite familiarity found in everyday conversation and outlook. There were punctuations though, one recently where it turned out that a friendly young man with a happy disposition who worked in our registry department and whom I conversed with often regarding working matters was performing ritual murders with his mother who worked in the café, whereupon the victim was eaten while warm. Such activities are most definitely not borrowed or ‘mashed’ from other cultures but part of traditional views still perpetrated.

The internet and global television represent 24 hour worlds, that is something, somewhere is happening. In some sense they are responsible for some of Thomas Friedman’s ‘flattening’ of values and interests, or Pico Iyer’s intertextual idioms of global travel (such as he puts forward in Video Nights in Kathmandu, 1985), and the democracy of ideas of freedom. But they can often be found in expressing or only relevant to western ideals. Al Jezzera has ran a couple of features on how unemployed and impoverished youth in the middle-eat and Africa have found ‘direction in their lives’ through participation in learning a classical instrument or adding Hip-Hop elements to express their predicaments and plights. Another one was shown on CNN.

“There’s a remarkable symphony orchestra in the Congo, 200 musicians defying the poverty of their war-torn country and creating some of the most moving music we have ever heard.”

While in no way wishing to appear aloof in any way regarding the personal achievements of those pushing such programmes and of course those applying themselves and learning something new, I am wondering why I am seeing this in the first place. I am not sure what I am supposed to do or even think after watching this. Am I to applaud? In this sense, it is rather like watching the news. In this case similarly, I do not know what to do about the Syrian crisis, and what I think also seems irrelevant or redundant. In fact, much of the broadcast news seems this way to me. Is there a need for me to know these things?

If the item on the classical orchestra in the poor district were looking for donations in order to help those persevere then I would have questions regarding why this musical form was chosen over others, particularly local forms. I would also have questions regarding what the endgame of this project is exactly – how does it benefit the individuals and communities in tangible and intangible ways, and in the short, medium and long terms. In fact, there are a series of features that I have seen on global media that applaud the efforts of impoverished people to do something ‘unexpected’. This is why ideas like agency for the impoverished or micro-finance such as But even Grameen has come under criticism (such as Tucker, 1995) for promoting a peculiar form of social engineering with its lending. It demands and pushes a neoliberal agenda with its loans. They make people – with a particular focus on women – how and what they must do and think.

In many ways this statement represents a prevailing and strange post-colonial or at least a ‘top-down’ attitude to development, poverty and inequality. That only through western idioms ‘hip-hop’, shopping malls, nice clothes, house and car can one show resilience and ingenuity. It is only through the western and highly remunerated technical expert that impoverished people can understand how best to use their land and fisheries. It disregards the traditional and folk wisdom in favour of a sanitised ‘United Nations’ perspective of a fair and meritous existence with equality for all individuals, regardless of race, ethnicity, age or gender. But a glimpse of education in these places, tell a story of curricula are overloaded with subjects and do not meet the learning needs of the students, and convey distorted or stereotypical images of female and male social role models. Too little account is taken of cultural and regional factors. Teaching times and curricula are too little geared to the children’s actual day-to-day reality. Group work, independent learning, critical thought and problem-solving, the use of new technologies and the promotion of life skills are not sufficiently promoted. Constructivist models of learning always begin with the familiar, the comfortable, the known and then work upwards and outwards or deeper and inwards from that.

Online place

Using the internet for the last 20 years in my research, teaching and tuition, teaching overseas in the Asia and Africa over the last 9 years, and working for a global online university I have had experience of nature of time and place in education. I have been concerned regarding the hiring and training of academic staff, the methods and manner of teaching, and moreover the contents and relevance of the curriculum to the state of the economy, culture interests of the student and society. You see I have witnessed that some places are flattening much faster or more proficiently than others are. I have also witnessed a lot of platitudes regarding education.

The most pressing issue regarding the global village is congregation. How do people living in different parts of the world manage to get together? Do they need a western-inspired vessel and technology to become activists? Will they have a voice if they are considered misogynist, nationalistic, undemocratic, not adopting hip-hop elements into their music or performing European classics to embers of their community? There are always going to be those who are inconvenienced or deprived. The group will convene when they are work, when they are supposed to be sleeping, or having lunch or any of these other activities that punctuate and mark out the day. However, once assembled you can work out by laws of averages which time is best for the group, if your lucky you will have two classes which you can position at the beginning or end of your day. How do you organise live tutorial and group meetings, with people who are dotted around the 24 hours of the day?

The global everyday?

On Saturday July 24 2010 at least 81,000 shot short videos about their lives and submitted them to YouTube, hoping they would be included in a feature film, a snapshot of the world captured by ordinary people in dozens of countries. 37,254,955 views later one can peak into this Instamatic snapshot of crowd sourced user-generated global everyday. It is testimony of how place is differently, not less important on video. It is a unique lens into the everyday. Like everything researched, it is not ‘really’ the everyday life of people, but rather a kind of slice which dazzles in its cornucopia of diversity. This film, an attempt to capture the mundane and the many, is really a finger on a pulse, but its emotional impact on some people is nothing short of profound. Consider this quote taken form a review on the imdb website

Paradoxical as it sounds, the mundane is mesmerizing.

”In his movie, Mr. Macdonald and his hundreds of co-directors examines human life as fact and with honesty. He reveals the frailties, tenderness, brutality, horrors, and beauty of life in our world all within that short window of an hour and a half. It’s so captivating because it’s all real and these are stories that many of us can identify with, and others we hope never to. That’s when the movie really becomes a tear-jerker. Sometimes there are long stretches of time on particular subjects, other times it’s a montage accompanied by truly wonderful, ear-worm music. There is so much that I want to say about “Life in a Day” but I must restrict myself. Because the movie really has to be seen to be believed. I cannot possibly do this film’s emotional and psychological justice simply by writing about it. All I should (and will) do is tell you my reaction, as I just have. This is one of my most personal reviews and it’s fair because it’s a personal film.”

This was one experience another view was put forward by a reviewer for the New Yorker magazine “This pointillistic view of everyday people never quite gels as a movie, but it has its point-and-click moments.”

For me the film begs the question of what ties or links us together as human beings, what is universal, and what makes us different, local, individual? In a sense this links in my mind strongly to research teaching and learning. I hold with the idea that teaching should start with the immediate, the local and the familiar and work out into the world from that. Our company 24hourworld had a few maxim’s in its publicity one being “24hourworld™, your world, the world, our world.” The concept was that you world from one’s person’s lifeworld, their knowledge, thoughts, aspirations, motivations, interests, community and work outwards until one gets to the global and universal. Certainly this is contrary to some thinking regarding teaching where there is effort placed in the early stages to seed the universal, general, foundational and basic, before eliciting from the student the abilities to precede to individual and creative interpretations and so forth.

But the point is that if such knowledge exists, and it is universal then it will be found locally, immediately and in the community in some shape or form, otherwise does it pass the litmus test of universality, or is it just ‘totalising best practice’ imported from some other place, some other culture, some other location? If it is, will it find relevance here? How can or would we prove that?

However, what is done after that. My problem with this is what you do to elicit justice or support in places that provide a double bind at every corner. What happens when the lawyer that is supposed to be representing you, is friends or merely just partners with those that represents the interests of the powerful, with the remit to confuse you regarding the due process of your claim, while taking the cash on offer to do so? How is the internet to help here in such corrupt environments? What if you are fitted up and thrown in jail because you chose to dissent and attempted to speak truth to power? Censorship is a form of coercion that can be very containing. Dislocated unsolicited accounts of subjective experience do not really make us interrogate and perpetually re-examine our value systems. Instead, they rather make us feel like locking our front doors.

Time and space

When I think of place, I often think of time. When was I there last? How long did I spend in that place? Place of course, like time, does not just end there. There are other associations such as “why was I there?” “What and who was there?” ”What did they do or say? Time and place are also not only backwards looking, biographical or historical. They are forward looking towards some future telos, Where do I have to go? How long will it take to get there? How long will I be there? What will I need? Its is peculiar how we are rarely in the now, at one with whatever we are experiencing as we experience it, without recourse to the past and what it meant or what it means to the future. Even when we taste something, we compare it to what it ‘should be’, that is, compared with what we tasted before.


Geography is a much maligned social science. A department was created at Harvard in 1930 and closed in 1948, when geologist Marland P. Billings successfully fought to eliminate the geography department. National Geographic News released the results of a survey of geographic literacy in young adults in the United States. Its findings were not startling.

Only 37% of young Americans can find Iraq on a map—though U.S. troops have been there since 2003.
6 in 10 young Americans don’t speak a foreign language fluently.
20% of young Americans think Sudan is in Asia. (It’s the largest country in Africa.)
48% of young Americans believe the majority population in India is Muslim. (It’s Hindu—by a landslide.)
Half of young Americans can’t find New York on a map.

In addition fewer than three in ten think it’s absolutely necessary to know where countries in the news are located. Only 14 percent believe speaking another language fluently is a necessary skill.

It has come to feature again in the work of several ‘big history’ writers who have repositioned it as the major force that has shaped human endeavours since time immemorial. Since human life for the foreseeable future will remain rested upon the supply of adequate calories and fresh water then is easily recognisable that those temperate regions of the world are those most conducive to life and growth over many dimensions. There is a bundle of explanations offered for why Europe rose to such ascendancy over other parts of the world, but clearly the terrain is one of them, the desert and tundra can and do support life and people live there but they are few.

Cities have a draw on people who have lived agrarian lifestyles and must be dazzling with their all-season availabilities, their opulence and their noise and crowds. The very fact that the crowd is there at all seduces people into thinking there is something good there. And so it is with online. I know many of the slightly older generation, they would be termed, ‘laggards’ by marketers who have just ventured in a haphazard way online. They have yet to identify the usefulness of this experience which was partly facilitated by the dramatic reduction in the price of computers and the fact that everybody seems to be using, and of course their mild curiosity.

In many ways, they are a rich and interesting population to study with respect to the genuine use and relevance of technology. One can think of the typical early adopter who is scanning for the novel and new and will adopt anything that comes about, regardless of its power to add something to their lives. This could be in terms of goods, produce and services, or knowledge and a chance to explicate their lives.

This population, and others, such as the global poor, are the real test of how usable the software and hardware are, and how useful they are to many people. Even Bill Gates knows this. Even those like one friend who is a highly proficient problem solver (certainly when it comes to building construction issues), but he flounders and gets frustrated with his new laptop. He has brought it out on his visits to Cambodia where I try to give him crash courses on what to do. But while I have a pretty good connection and have solved many of my own technical problems, where we live is still prone to power cuts, and sometimes wi-fi in a given location is set up differently so that one requires a certificate and not only a password. My friend sees this purely as a failing of the machine rather than the infrastructures of system.

There are more flights going to ever more destinations than ever before. It seems that it is easier for my friend to travel here from his home in Carnoustie, than to contact me via Skype. And in many ways this raises the issue.

Frances Cairncross is accorded the distinction of announcing the “death of distance” coined to suggest that distance “may no longer be a limiting factor in people’s ability to communicate.” “The Economist” published Cairncross’s article “The Death of Distance” in 1995:

In a sense this may be true. I first visited the place I currently reside in 1998. at that time it was possible to access email through the terminal at the Ministry of Posts and Communications where there was a terminal. The first attempts failed and I was told to come back the next day. I persisted with this and on the third day I connected with the university of Edinburgh mainframe computer and was able to peruse my email account with the unix email program. I tried and failed to reply however, but the fact that I got connection while being so far away in terms of not only time and distance but culture, was amazing. I later remember coming of the plane in Bangkok, Thailand where the Orange mobile operator has a service and getting a ‘Welcome to Thailand” as an SMS as I left the plane. It ‘seemed’ to be offering a seamless environment of communication. That is, until I telephoned my wife doing some shopping in the airport and on the same network and ran through 20 pounds of phone credit in a matter of seconds. The calls were being relayed through the Thai network to the UK network and back to Thailand – double international call rates! I have spoken to my mother who chatted regarding the fine weather at home while I as taking cover form a tropical monsoon, I have had people trying to sell me something while on a boat going down the Mekong in Vietnam, I have had students talk to me from Cambodia when I am in the Mountains of Lesotho in Africa.

If you remove the costs of these communications then you do have a death of distance. In a little more in ten years, here I am in my modest home in Cambodia with myself and my son, our home network connected to my 3G mobile phone which is about 16 pounds a month for always on 256K connection, slow, no doubt compared to domestic broadband back home, but perfectly adequate for my purposes.

Lost in Space

When I go on the road traveling by bus to remote provinces that have seen little change in lifestyle of the last 1000 years, expect for pockets of mechanical modernization, I can pull out my sub-notebook and play strategy games with people all round the world, check social networking, or press on with my researches. When I stop for the night to the sound of crickets buzzing outside the hotel window, I am inside with the air-con wafting and the 1960’s American series “Lost in Space” playing through the mini-stereo speakers. The point is that between location and destination one can provide the kinds of distractions that were previously afforded on long-haul plane journeys such as in-flight movies. When the bus broke down on our last excursion, we spent time at the side of the road doing maths with my son, on a site that indexes its curriculum to national standards. Unlike 10 years ago when I had done something similar and had many Cambodian gawking me using a Sony U3 and me scared of theft, laptops are common and hardly of passing interest to anybody here anymore, even the most rustic of rural dwellers.

‘All distances in time and space are shrinking. Man now reaches overnight, by places, places which formerly took weeks and months of travel’… Heidegger, Martin (1971), ‘The Thing,’ in Poetry, Language, Thought (New York: Harper & Row).”

While this may true it does not reflect in the passage of physical goods which begin their lives somewhere packed into containers on lorries, and still move as land, air and sea freight. Leamer and Levinsohn (1995), Carrère and Schiff (2005) Berthelon and Freund (2008) who write “that the effect of distance on trade patterns is not diminishing over time. Contrary to popular impression, the world is not getting dramatically smaller”. They find that the estimated distance coefficient has been on the rise from 1950, suggesting that the “death of distance” has been greatly exaggerated. the “death of distance” is implicitly a statement about the diminished importance of distance in determining the actual costs of engaging in international trade. That is, with improvements in technology, distance-related components of trade costs – things like freight rates, insurance premiums, and inventory costs – should fall. Second, the nineteenth century was a time of unsurpassed declines in international trade costs (Jacks, Meisnner, and Novy, 2009). The implication is that if distance died at any time in history, we should be looking to the nineteenth century for clues.

the effect of distance dramatically declined during the nineteenth century as trade costs fells, suggesting that trade costs may have not declined nearly as dramatically in recent decades as has been assumed. For better or worse, distance is still alive and kicking.

Consider the artificiality of the oil rich middle east states. While the subject of unprecedented growth and investment, and at the same time investing in overseas lands and properties, they rely upon imported goods and food. While they are rushing to develop new information age, competencies and capacities through massive investment in education so that when the oil depletes they have built a foundation for themselves to move into other areas in the future. This may contrast with other areas that for most people are considered ecologically harsh. The Indians in Canada, the aboriginals in Australia, wish first and foremost to preserve their traditional lifestyles. This in a sense is based upon their interpretation and understanding of failings in modern industrialised lifestyles to live in accordance with nature, that is, live sustainably, but rather pursue a modus operandi of dominating, modifying and controlling it.

The trope of the death of distance has nevertheless gained considerable traction, both in the work of academics but more especially in the popular image of globalisation. In her book she cites the usual culprits, radical improvements in the cost and efficacy of long-distance communication and transportation, McLuhan’s “global Village” is another well-hackneyed idea which pertains more specifically to electronic communications and the transfer of information. Cairncross idea links more with the ideas of shifts in political and economic systems, and by extension, systems of power. Kittler (1996) notes that “Communication systems on the other hand because in addition to messages they also control the traffic of persons and goods.” Adopting this view suggests that communication in more than phone calls, SMS and emails/chat, but also ecommerce and its packaging fulfillment and logistics, supply chain management and so forth all subsume under the notion of communication between a firm and a consumer-user. Kittler follows other continental thinkers such as Armaun Mattlemart, and McLuhun [who view electric light as communication] into seeing all movement or mobilities of the tangible (i.e. goods and raw materials) and intangible things (messages and ideas) which flow from one node to another within the global arena. Kittler makes reference to the “triad of things communicated” – information, persons, goods – which he reformulates in terms of information theory:

Firstly, messages are essentially commands to which persons are expected to react [this definition in the original German is based on the etymology of the German word “Nachrichten” – Tr.].

Secondly, as systems theory teaches, persons are not objects but addresses which “make possible the assessment of further communications”.

Thirdly, as ethnology since Mauss and Levi-Strauss has taught, goods represent data in an order of exchange between said persons.

Armaund Mattlemet argues that the internationalization of communication was spawned by such enlightenment ideals as universalism and liberalism, and examines how the development of global communications has been inextricably linked to the industrial revolution, modern warfare, and the emergence of nationalism. All of these reign in the world today evidenced by the strife and conflict seen in the middle east and have featured as an interest of the recent continental social theorists.

In all the increased flow and mobility of things can illustrate ‘hot spots’ and channels of intensity in the flow and passage of information, people and goods – and presents us with the kinds of inequalities which this so-called ‘flat world’ contains.

Communications and parlance will be more intensified between some places than elsewhere, goods may be almost one way flows such as in manufactured Chinese goods aimed at the American market opposed to the domestic market. And the shear depicts a worldview now very familiar to the minds of not just captains of industry and policy makers, but moreover a general pubic man of which have been weaned on the bold stories of how things will change due to technology. In all the globalisation utopia, certainly that shared by globalisation pundits is not one of global political and economic strife, but much more simpler global existence marked by the free movement of goods, people, and ideas. There are some places due to government restrictions and censorship that ideas do not circulate so well. North Korea is an example where there is no internet but rather a national intranet of carefully pruned and selected sites, it has no independent press and little to no passage of people over its geographic borders.

Over the past decade a new approach to the study of mobilities has been emerging across the social sciences, involving research on the combined movements of people, objects and information in all of their complex relational dynamics. There are things, objects and information which remains and that which travels. When things settle for instance, they take on identities and become to greater or lesser extents ‘part of the furniture’ or ‘part of multi—ethnic and mutli-cultural’ society. Nations were built upon such flows with cultures permeating or overriding cultures and languages such as English forming out of remnants and additions taken from a panoply of other languages most notably German, French, Latin, rising to be the most spoken language in the world. Napoleon once said, “History is a set of lies agreed upon.” So is it with hip-hop and English. But it may not last as technology rises to permit real time translation. There are so many historical inaccuracies within pervasive cultural forms that travel such as the English language and hip-hop that I wouldn’t even rise to the challenge of to decipher them here.

“Middle America loves to hear the fairytale over and over again about how the rapper who is now a multi-millionaire went from rags to riches. One minute he was sellin’ crack on the block, and then magically, he became part owner of a NBA franchise based, solely, on his uncanny, lyrical ability to convey ghetto survival stories.”

Nevertheless, the main difference is that everything online is a manufactured, designated or designed experience to some degree. Interfaces, control, and operational parameters must be thought out clearly before an application or device comes to be used. And so Mongolian hip-hop, Syrian hip-hop, Korean hip-hop all have their ‘flavas’. But the currency is a common universal form, in sound, tone and in words.

This thinking may use normative or typical use scenarios, rationales, which, like the physical device must also be assembled, before it is shared between the development team and technology partners in order to guide the design of the algorithms and hardware that produce the characteristics, functions, processes and navigational elements. Iterations to the design come first as a result of a posteri thinking deriving from the designers direct experience of trying and testing hardware and software components and through sharing design rationales.

These will appear in conversations, first, between themselves, and later by letting third parties try and test it and give feedback such as clients, managers other designers not directly in the development team, and possibly a representative sample of probable consumer-users in usability and concept tests.

The idea is to future-proof the design so that later when it emerges into that ‘place’ or ‘space’ called the public domain or market, the office, workshop, factory, deep sea or space, living room or pocket, it will stand alongside and compete with other devices, services and applications each vying for these places and spaces. If it is successful, it will join others of its type and successfully migrates into the everyday work, habits and lifestyles of those who have registered interest in buying, possessing and using it. In order to prepare for these environments other criteria will also be considered. The first is its performance and features when contrasted with other pre-existing options, or those thought to be under development by competitors. General market trends and movements (such as the contentious moving of Samsung’s Galaxy tablet into Apple’s iPAD arena), and it must be robust. While the iPhone may be a great contribution I have lost account of how many people I know in this rough and tumble environment in Cambodia who have dropped their phone only for the screen to smash which essentially costs as much to replace as a new phone.

Ooopss! there goes my entire world and my long term memory… I can’t remember what to do in this occasion…

Any of the above would apply as much to a cultural product such as a hip-hop track as it would t a device.

Third Place

There has been much interest in the notion of the third space for those interested in developing devices and digital resources. These are spaces or places which \do not fit under the category ‘home’ or ‘work’ but rather public and communicable spaces such as coffee shops, barbers, village squares and so forth people frequent and may socialise. Clearly mobile networked computing has dissolved many of the boundaries that separated work from home and the third space, where people can perform their work wherever they go. Indeed it became something of an idiom within the larger discourse of the information age that offices would not only become paperless but also irrelevant as the ‘home’ for work, that people need to attend according to fixed time and place. Rather, people could work flexi-time, be distributed and work from home, and later wherever they were. widely available wi-fi work almost anywhere. This presumed the wide availability of information type-work.

There have long been those traveling salespeople and a variety of maintenance workers who spend most of their time not confined to a workshop or office but who travel and active out and about.


Writers such as Marc Augé or Julio Cortázar and Carol Dunlop have described the ‘non-places’ around the airports and motorways of Europe. Queuing, park railings, the history of crossing the road… Joe Moran’s research into the ‘bleeding obvious‘ yields fascinating insights into historical and political changes. More of his musings are found here.

“Academics have long been ambivalent about the subject of everyday life. The main problem is that we can’t agree what it is. In English, the word “everyday” is vague and inclusive, being used to describe a huge range of commonplace activities, not simply those done every day. It is also loaded with ambiguous cultural meaning in much the way as similar words such as “banal” and “ordinary”. It can refer to the eternally tedious or pathetically comic residue of modern life (the meaning preferred by all those hilarious stocking-filler books about “men and sheds” or “roundabouts of Great Britain”); or it can refer to the heroically democratic, non-elitist and normal (the meaning preferred by British politicians, ad nauseam).”

How these images of places contrast with those designed to excite and add drama, or to mystify and amaze. What do you see in the following?

Non-places seem to me to be a issue at least as series in their implications as non-people – that is the stateless, non –represented poor, illiterate and non-connected. They move towards an accusation of non-productivity and towards a purely semiotic reality where nothing is grown and nothing is shared or actually traded. The movement towards non-materiality is a series threat which promises to marginalize people much more seriously than digital non-inclusion which boasts an image of people not having access to an emergency phone, the likes of which one sees lining the motorways of non-places.

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