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Cyberspace - The nervous system of emerging societies and its spatial functions

Espace virtuel – Le système nerveux des sociétés émergent et ses fonctions spatiales
Henry Bakis et E. M. Roche

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Résumé d'ouvrage et bibliographie sur l'espace virtuel : Edward Mozley Roche (eds), 1998, Developments in telecommunications. Between global and local. Avebury, Aldershot, 350 p.

1The chapters of this volume are divided into three parts. Part I, labeled 'Global Perspectives', addresses the central issue of how telecommunications is changing the balance between local power and global reality. Part II, labeled 'Regional Perspectives' focuses on how telecommunications systems being put into place are changing the economic viability and competitiveness of specific geographic regions. For the most part, the authors are able to show positive effects stemming from investments in telecommunications. Part III, labeled 'Corporate Perspective', addresses the effects of telecommunications in individual corporations.

2As a result the volume examines three different levels, the global, regional, and local ; showing the tremendous effects telecommunications is having on society.

3In Part I, 'Global Perspectives', three chapters examine different aspects of the emergence of global networks. The Bakis chapter gives an overview of how territories at different levels are being changed by cyber-communications. Telework, teleinteraction, and many 'tele-actions' are analyzed. Bakis helps to define geographical space, which he terms 'geospace' in reference to the term 'cyberspace'. The term 'geospace' also is a contraction, appropriate for the beginning of the 'computer and communication networks age'. Bakis shows that with new non-geospace territories being built upon information, it is time instead of distance that plays the central role in establishing the rhythm and relations in society. Spatial territories take on increased significance for social life. He introduces the term 'geocyberspace', based on his assessment that communication networks are a basic element in the emergence of spatial and social functions. Nevertheless, it is the spatial reality that always remains fundamental. These points are carefully illustrated with reference to the literature on the social impact of the telephone and the geography of cyber-communications.

4The Douzet chapter examines how these networks have led to a new international awakening of political movements and have created new possibilities for rivalries between states. In contrast, the Gillon chapter examines how integration takes place between local and global organizations. He provides an assessment of the 'theory of central places' and does this with an analysis of communications traffic flows, using French data as a basis for analysis. He shows how distance has a friction effect on national communications traffic : 'this analysis should dampen the extravagant claims based on technical possibilities. The myths of spatial indifferenciation and spatial revolution ... have given rise to exaggerated claims and perspectives...'

5In Part II, 'Regional Perspectives', Maria Seguí Pons examines how an 'isolated' region - the Balearic Islands - has embraced high-speed telecommunications backbone networks as a keystone in its regional development program. 'The difficulties inherent in the geographical insularity may be eased by the further integration of the Balearic Islands in the European community'. In order to use telecommunications in this process, the Balearic Islands have developed an integration strategy based on the 'Megapark telematic project', supplemented by telematic institutes and study centers. Gargiulo, La Rocca and Stanganelli provide an analysis of the success factors in deployment of telecommunications networks as a means of regional development. They distinguish between economic, political-institutional, and sociological success factors. 'New conditions for competitiveness point out that access to information and communication networks are indispensable factors for the centrality and the development of a region, and ascribe a key role to the areas in which the territorial or network-organized competitive activities are concentrated.' Berlage accomplishes a related analysis for Easter Europe, a region that has emerged from the Cold War era with an obsolete network infrastructure. 'In these [rural] areas, telephone calls can be made only during business hours between 9 :00 am and 4 :00 pm...' he reports, referring to some areas in Eastern Europe. He contrasts how telecommunications based on monopoly providers developed in Western Europe with a model he believes will be successful in the East : 'The advantages for regional initiatives in telecommunications development can be seen in the faster modernization of their local networks and better coordination with the economic development process'.

6On a similar theme, Roche discusses the rapidly developing policy environment in the Bay Area (San Francisco and Silicon Valley). As we are going to press, the State of California has introduced a bill requiring mandatory training of all school-age children in the use of cyber-communication systems. At the same time, public policy initiatives are driving the rapid decrease in cost for high-speed access to the Internet [and thus to all networks]. These regional policies are aimed at keeping the competitive position for Silicon Valley. Similarly, Grimes provides an analysis of the branch plant economy in Ireland. 'The trend towards flexible specialization which the new technologies are facilitating presents peripheral regions like Ireland with new opportunities for economic development.' He details how multinational corporations have moved data processing centers as well as telemarketing operations to Ireland, thus stimulating development.

7In Part III, 'Corporate Perspectives', the unit of analysis shifts yet again to the micro-economic level of the individual firm. How do these developments in cyber-communications change the way it operates ? What are the geographical effects on distribution and location of firm resources, such as branch plants, distribution centers, corporate headquarters ? Eveno reviews how information technology is having an influence on the modernization of city authorities in France. He puts his analysis within the context of the historical development of computer policy in France, starting with the Plan Calcul. He examines policy in Toulouse, which was classified as a métropole d'équilibre [counterweight] city in the Fifth French National Plan. He shows how the Toulouse plan to create a Syndicat Intercommunal for data processing led to an outburst of activity, then a decline of communal efforts. Lorentzon discusses these issues using a case study of ABB HV Switchgear and Volvo. Since each of these companies have activities and offices or plants spread across 6 communes [towns] in central Sweden, Lorentzon is able to assess the distributed nature of the companies and how telecommunications is used to maintain that structure. 'It appears that the tendency towards more contacts with the surroundings and the performance of work in small project groups emphasize the importance of transmission of information in well-developed networks.' In our final chapter, Combès and Sammer analyze how the portable telephone is changing the way business works. 'The notion of "spatialized" physical anchorage is a powerful one ; each end of the line corresponds to a place, a telephone number and one or more individuals'. The authors introduce the idea that use of telecommunications can produce 'planned time', the ability to more fully schedule one's interactions with others. 'The gap is widening between the decision-making and operational levels, between head-office and delocalized sites, between inside and outside the firm, between mobility and a sedentary lifestyle. ... The use of radio communication in firms reveals new time-space logics that transform the spaces in which individuals operate at work.' Although the chapter by Guermond and Blin does not exactly fit into the 'telecommunications' orientation of this volume, the editors have decided to include it. French post offices are in a period of substantial transformation. They have always been involved in movement of 'information', but are now increasingly using telecommunications networks, mainly in relation to their banking and other financial activities. Within this context, the relocation process may be seen as the adaption of a substantial administrative structure to the new cyber-communications, one of the key themes of this volume.

8Résumé de : BAKIS H. & ROCHE E. M. (sp), "Cyberspace- The Emerging Nervous System of Global Society and its Spatial Functions", pp. 1- 12 présentant à la fois la problématique et le contenu de l'ouvrage sous presses : "Developments in telecommunications. Between global and local", Avebury (Aldershot UK, Brookfield USA, Hong Kong, Singapore, Sydney) env. 350 p.


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Henry Bakis et E. M. Roche, « Cyberspace - The nervous system of emerging societies and its spatial functions », Cybergeo: European Journal of Geography [En ligne], Systèmes, Modélisation, Géostatistiques, document 59, mis en ligne le 28 mai 1998, consulté le 09 décembre 2022. URL : ; DOI :

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