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Effect of Technology on Urban Spaces

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Published: Wed, 18 Oct 2017

Emerging Enclaves of Innovation in Multimedia Services

  • Akanksha Nayyar

 

In understanding the complex interactions between infrastructure networks and urban spaces, Stephen Graham and Simon Marvin explore the emerging enclaves of innovation in multimedia services. The formation of these gentrifying ‘cyber’ districts is fueled by the production of internet services, digitization of design, architecture, gaming, CD-ROMs and music[1]. To be more specific, the regions that have undergone such enclave development include New York’s Silicon Alley, San Francisco’s Multimedia Gulch, and London’s Soho; to name a few. In order to thoroughly understand the influence that multimedia services have had on these urban places, this report will seek to critically analyze their economic, social and political environments. In addition, how these urban places represent an outcome of the global economy, and how they are connected both “glocally” and “globally”, will be discussed. Finally, a discussion in regards to the technologies that are important to the activities of these districts will be explored.

ECONOMIC ENVIRONMENT

The economic impacts of the cyber gentrification of the regions previously mentioned possess both favorable and alarming characteristics. For starters, New York City’s most densely populated region, Manhattan, experienced the highest internet activity on the planet.[2] This paved the way for the development of its Silicon Alley¸ which is home to a booming set of interactive media industries. 56,000 jobs from 2,200 firms were created in this sector alone, which is as much as a 105% increase between 1996 and 1998.[3] As a direct result of this, considerable investments were made in the form of restaurants, corporate retailers, property firms, loft developers, and infrastructure companies.[4] Furthermore, the city of New York has gone as far as supporting the new media enclaves with tax holidays, grants, loan funding and financial support for certain initiatives, such as “Plug ‘N’ Go”, which converts properties into internet-ready real estate[5].

On the other hand, in San Francisco’s Multimedia Gulch, we begin to see a negative economic impact. Although, surveys have shown that more than “35,000 people are now working in the multimedia industry, with the vast majority being from Multimedia Gulch”, there have been several protests.[6] There have been issues regarding a lack of parking and a city bureaucracy that has made it tough for companies to expand. Moreover, real estate speculators have colonized certain districts and in turn, caused the rental costs to increase.[7] Consequently, poorer residents can no longer afford to live in their residences. This in turn, creates a larger economic disparity between low-income and medium-to-high income citizens.

Based on an analysis of solely the economic environment, it becomes apparent that the job creation and increased investment levels as a result of the ‘dot-commers’ have a positive effect. That being said, however; the fact still remains that at that point in time, the internet remained as the preserve of a small global elite between two to five percent of the global population.[8] In simple terms, the rich get richer as the poor get poorer. The high-income individuals are being provided greater resources, such as the internet and communication technologies (ICT’s), to further increase their wealth.[9] Whereas the lack of access to these ICT’s by low-income individuals prohibits them from improving their financial affairs, which therefore widens the overall economic gap between each income-class.[10]

SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT

The creation of innovative enclaves as a result of multimedia services has also greatly impacted the social build-up of each region. The process of gentrification, wherein middle-to-upper class people take up residence in a traditionally working-class area of the city, ultimately changes the character of the area.[11] For example, often times the reconstruction of these urban neighborhoods developed a playful reputation to cater to a diverse and “chic” population, who are able to make use of various types of ethnic restaurants, art spaces and shops.[12] In the Alley, people are drawn from all corners of the earth. “The cultural blend and diversity of ethnic traditions, viewpoints and value systems have enriched all lives.”[13] Silicon Alley has become a model of how diversity can add strength and unity to a complex community.

Furthermore, in the Multimedia Gulch, several neighborhoods were gentrified to sustain the cluttering demands of interlocking micro, small and medium-size firms in digital design, advertising gaming, publishing, fashion, music, multimedia, computing and communications.[14] At first glance, this appears to be a favorable development of a given neighborhood. However, the underlying issue is that it reinforces a class hierarchy, wherein only certain individuals have access to these new markets. The issue continues as these enclaves create two parallel communication systems: the first is suited for individuals that are socioeconomically affluent and are now being provided access to ICTs and multimedia services that provide them with information at high speeds and low costs. On the other hand, the second communication system is for less educated individuals who face barriers of cost, time, uncertainty, and ultimately depend on outdated information.[15] The coexistence of these two communication systems creates a fruitful future for the individuals at the top of the class hierarchy, and despair for those at the opposite end.

Some of the more alarming social characteristics of these enclaves include increased stress levels for older residents of gentrifying neighborhoods. These stress levels have been associated with rises in the death rates of elderly seniors.[16] In combining both the economic and social characteristics, we begin to paint a picture wherein there is a trend towards the exclusion of poorer people from the cities. It is important to note that the whole purpose of innovative multimedia services and ICTs is that they provide us with limitless possibilities for overcoming traditional social and geographical barriers, however; it appears that this is only true for a segment of the population.

POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT

The emergence of innovative enclaves of multimedia services also has ramifications towards their respective political environments. For instance, political coalitions such as the Yuppe Eradiction Project have surfaced in the Multimedia Gulch.[17] These coalitions are a response to the dot-com invasion and operate under the banner “The Internet killed San Francisco”. Among the issues targeted by the coalition include real estate prices, homelessness, and accentuating landscapes of social and geographical polarization.[18] The creation of these enclaves also poses a problem for decision makers in regards to the planning aspect of the city. The growths experienced in multimedia clusters and digital centers have had a great impact on issues such as car parking, among other transportation issues. In addition, decision makers are also forced to explore issues such as the ownership and control of digitized information.[19]

OUTCOME OF THE GLOBAL ECONOMY

Since the beginning of the globalization era, the world continues to seek new methods in which it can exchange information, products and services with one another. It is because of the very need for us to continuously connect and exchange with the rest of the planet that we see the emergence of enclaves of innovation in multimedia services. For example, in Soho, London, a media enclave has developed dedicated infrastructure that allows it to extend to global markets in real time. Coined “Sohonet”, the system links the tight concentration of film and media companies, television broadcasters, publishers, internet providers, graphic designers and recording studio headquarters in London directly with Hollywood film studios through seamless transatlantic fiber connections.[20] Sohonet is just one example that allows us to see how the emergence of these media enclaves is an outcome of the global economy. As more and more people around the world demand global events, such as sports, music, and Hollywood films, the emergence of these enclaves is inevitable.

Furthermore, we see a similar enclave development in Malaysia with its $20 billion Multimedia Supercorridor (MSC).[21] The aim of the MSC is to replace Malaysia’s manufacturing-dominated economy with services, IT, media and communication industries in an effort to make it ‘Asia’s technology hub’ by 2020.[22] This example allows us to see that in an effort to become globally relevant, Malaysia has witnessed a development of its own enclave of innovation in multimedia services.

ENCLAVES ON A GLOBAL AND LOCAL PRESPECTIVE

Globalization allows us to see how these media enclaves are connected on a broad scale. That being said, in order to enjoy the benefits of global urbanization through multimedia and information exchange, the relationship between global and local cultures must be understood. Allen J. Scott touches upon the concept of glocal connectivity in The Cultural Economy of Cities. He asserts that many media giants seeking to develop distinctive products “insert themselves into regional cultural-economic systems”.[23] By this, Scott refers to an arrangement wherein companies create close linkages and working relations with several other firms in order to ultimately tap into the specialized skills of the local labour force. This is essentially the foundation of glocalization, wherein the concept dictates that in a global market, a product or service is more likely to succeed when it is customized for the locality or culture in which it is sold.[24] This theory allows us to see why several firms cluster in certain districts such as the Silicon Alley, Multimedia Gulch, or Soho.

In the Rise of the Creative Class by Richard Florida, he explores the idea that as the symbolic attributes of products or services becomes more important, so too do places that host firms.[25] Urban places such as the Silicon Alley, Multimedia Gulch, or Soho are adept at incorporating cultural knowledge, design distinctiveness, and fashionability into products or services. This is because these types of places draw upon the types of creative lifestyles necessary, such as talented video producers, chic advertising executives, and distinctive web designers.[26] On the other hand, we also see that these enclaves can be glocally connected in a much different way. For example, we sometimes see that there are extreme asymmetries that exist amongst the North-South relations in regards to multimedia. For instance, TV and Internet media provide a great deal of Anglo-Saxon content in developing nations as the US culture is extended through the growth of electronic connections.[27] We see this specifically with the Soho enclave. Their commitment to developing infrastructure that provides them with real time information with Hollywood and other North American multimedia services demonstrates this type of dependence. This is primarily because the local population demands it. Alternatively, we don’t see this same type of counter-dependence in the North American multimedia enclaves on Soho. This allows us to see the relationship between global and local relationships, as the concept of glocalization demonstrates that in achieving global objectives, the preferences of locality cultures must be considered.

USE OF TECHNOLOGIES

In considering the technologies that make the existence of these multimedia enclaves possible, it is important to acknowledge the industry’s evolution and development of infrastructure. Over the course of 20 years, the ICT industry has moved from having an insignificant presence to becoming one of the world’s fastest growing and potentially largest industries.[28] For example, Western Europe’s ICT industry accounted for 2 percent of Gross Domestic Product in 1984; this figure was expected to change to approximately 7 percent by 2000, with 60 percent of all jobs to be supported either directly or indirectly by ICTs.[29] In order to accommodate the rapid growth in this industry, a strong infrastructural foundation was required. As such, the technologies required by these cyber districts ultimately made use of the infrastructure laid out in the ‘Global Cities’ during the construction of financial enclaves, as discussed by Graham.[30] Furthermore, the traditionally used copper and coaxial cable links are increasingly being supplemented or completely replaced by optic fiber, wireless, microwave and highly efficient satellite systems. Cities are now being connected through giant lattices of advanced telecommunication links. More importantly, this connects the urban hubs together into the global electronic grid.[31]

The connection between the local and global environments factors into our previous discussion of the everlasting need to connect and exchange with the rest of the planet. These grids provide the technological basis necessary for the flows of global telecommunication traffic, including transmissions such as voice flows, faxes, data flows, image flows, TV and video signals.[32] An important milestone to make note of is when the industry began to see interpenetration between the two existing networks of communication in these media enclaves: the traditional mass media, such as cable TV, and internet-based communication networks, such as websites. An example of this interpenetration is when the traditional mass media makes use of internet-based blogs and interactive networks in order to reach their target audiences.[33] The convergence of these two networks is a key strength that has allowed for the emergence of innovative multimedia enclaves to occur.

In concluding the discussion on emerging enclaves of innovation in multimedia services, it is worthwhile to summarize. The major issues that present themselves against the emergence of these enclaves are primarily produced as a result of the gentrification process. This marginalizes the poorer citizens of the districts in question, and consequently, adds pressure on to the economic, social, and political environments of each urban place. Given that globalization necessitates, the services provided by these types of enclaves, and the benefits witnessed through the relationship between global and local cultures, it is vital for us to attempt to find a solution. As such, we begin to see a wide range of efforts by non-profit agencies, social movements, and municipalities aimed to extending access to ICTs to poorer, marginalized groups and communities.[34] This is not to rely on a simplistic ideal, or a “silver bullet”, that will serve as a solution to much more complex problems. However, it is a starting point that could begin to improve and potentially shorten some of the economic, social, and political gaps we see as a result of the development of these enclaves. The innovations achieved through these districts are undeniably in the best interest of society as a whole, however; consideration and care must be given to those individuals that are marginalized in the process.

WORK CITED

Castells, M. (2011).The rise of the network society: The information age. (2nd ed., Vol. 1). John Wiley & Sons. Retrieved from http://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&lr=&id=FihjywtjTdUC&oi=fnd&pg=PA1968&dq=related:NCOsPP8QZtUJ:scholar.google.com/&ots=l10pXWCS9Y&sig=rTK_31NRi-n6v0pwhe_gBs9bYvA

Gentrification. 2014. InMerriam-Webster.com.

Retrieved March 16, 2014, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gentrifacation

Glocalization. 2014. InMerriam-Webster.com.

Retrieved March 16, 2014, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/glocalization

Gottlieb, J. (1999). Silicon alley..new york city. Retrieved from http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/Spring99/Gottlieb/got.html

Graham, S., & Marvin, S. (1996).Telecommunications and the city: Electronic spaces, urban places. Psychology Press. Retrieved from http://books.google.ca/books?id=YNorjRJnVEMC&pg=PA327&lpg=PA327&dq=Telecommunications+and+the+City&source=bl&ots=nnPRvam8Wj&sig=ZxrMAa0beIJqa5cNq96BfWmXC44&hl=en&sa=X&ei=q8AjU9zlHs2oqwHMmIGoDg&ved=0CGIQ6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=Telecommunications%20and%20the%20City&f=false

Graham, S. (1998). The end of geography or the explosion of place? conceptualizing space, place and information technology.Progress in Human Geography,22(2), Retrieved from http://www.realtechsupport.org/UB/NP/IoT_ExplosionSpace_1998.pdf

Graham, S. (2000). Constructing premium network spaces. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research,24(1), Retrieved from http://old.geog.psu.edu/courses/geog497b/Readings/Graham.pdf

Graham, S. (2000).Bridging urban digital divides? urban polarization and information and communication technologies (ICTs). (Vol. 39). New York: Carfax Publishing. Retrieved from http://www.nomads.usp.br/documentos/textos/cultura_digital/tics_arq_urb/BridgingDigitalDivide.pdf

Graham, S., Marvin, S. (2001).Splintering Urbanism: Networked Infrastructures, Technological Motilities and the Urban Condition. New York: Routledge. (Chapter 3, 91-136)

Graham, S., Marvin, S. (2001).Splintering Urbanism: Networked Infrastructures, Technological Mobilities and the Urban Condition. New York: Routledge. (Chapter 7, 329-336)

Indergaard, M. (2004).Silicon alley: The rise and fall of a new media district. New York: Routledge. Retrieved from http://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&lr=&id=k96SAgAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=innovative enclaves multimedia centres&ots=tRvVaCTstO&sig=hyiVFkjoMv8uppG9ttGTy33wVB0

Raine, G. (1999, October 31). Making sense of multimedia gulch. Retrieved from http://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Making-sense-of-Multimedia-Gulch-3060560.php

Sassen, S. (2001).The global city: New york, Tokyo, London. (2nd ed.). Woodstock, Oxfordshire: Princeton University Press. Retrieved from http://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&lr=&id=PTAiHWK2BYIC&oi=fnd&pg=PR11&dq=related:NCOsPP8QZtUJ:scholar.google.com/&ots=BS-ErhSdN1&sig=VbeYDBon1fqYmpGgIb5OsOJ54YQ


[1] (Graham & Marvin, 2001)

[2] (Graham & Marvin, 2001)

[3] (Graham & Marvin, 2001)

[4] (Graham & Marvin, 2001)

[5] (Graham & Marvin, 2001)

[6] (Raine, 1999)

[7] (Graham & Marvin, 2001)

[8] (Graham, 2000)

[9] (Graham & Marvin, 1996)

[10] (Graham & Marvin, 1996)

[11] (Webster, 2014)

[12] (Graham & Marvin, 2001)

[13] (Gottlieb, 1999)

[14] (Graham, 1998)

[15] (Graham, 2000)

[16] (Graham & Marvin, 2001)

[17] (Graham & Marvin, 2001)

[18] (Graham & Marvin, 2001)

[19] (Indergaard, 2004)

[20] (Graham & Marvin, 2001)

[21] (Graham, 2000)

[22] (Graham, 2000)

[23] (Castells, 2011)

[24] (Webster, 2014)

[25] (Indergaard, 2004)

[26] (Indergaard, 2004)

[27] (Graham, 2000)

[28] (Graham & Marvin, 1996)

[29] (Graham & Marvin, 1996)

[30] (Graham, 2000)

[31] (Graham & Marvin, 1996)

[32] (Sassen, 2001)

[33] (Castells, 2011)

[34] (Graham, 2000)


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