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Code/Space: Software and Everyday Life

Rob Kitchin
Martin Dodge
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    After little more than half a century since its initial development, computer code is extensively and intimately woven into the fabric of our everyday lives. From the digital alarm clock that wakes us to the air traffic control system that guides our plane in for a landing, software is shaping our world: it creates new ways of undertaking tasks, speeds up and automates existing practices, transforms social and economic relations, and offers new forms of cultural activity, personal empowerment, and modes of play. In Code/Space, Rob Kitchin and Martin Dodge examine software from a spatial perspective, analyzing the dyadic relationship of software and space. The production of space, they argue, is increasingly dependent on code, and code is written to produce space. Examples of code/space include airport check-in areas, networked offices, and cafés that are transformed into workspaces by laptops and wireless access. Kitchin and Dodge argue that software, through its ability to do work in the world, transduces space. Then Kitchiun and Dodge develop a set of conceptual tools for identifying and understanding the interrelationship of software, space, and everyday life, and illustrate their arguments with rich empirical material. And, finally, they issue a manifesto, calling for critical scholarship into the production and workings of code rather than simply the technologies it enables--a new kind of social science focused on explaining the social, economic, and spatial contours of software.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-29523-9
    Subjects: Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Matthew Fuller

    To trace software through the figuration of space is to take both in significant new directions with many interesting twists and turns.

    Computing’s key problem has often been presented as one of time, how fast a complex calculation can be carried out. In part computing has achieved results through the literal compression of space, making work that once took equipment the size of a room happen in the landscape of a chip.Code/Spacetakes another route, by showing how software expands out of the computer, becoming spatially active. In doing so software generates behaviors and opportunities, and traffics in meanings,...

  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. I Introduction

    • 1 Introducing Code/Space
      (pp. 3-22)

      Over the past thirty years, the practices of everyday life have become increasingly infused with and mediated by software. Such are the capacities and growing pervasiveness of software that it has become the lifeblood of today’s emerging information society, just as steam was at the start of the industrial age. Software, like steam once did, is shaping our world—from the launch of billion-dollar spacecraft to more mundane work such as measuring and displaying time, controlling traffic lights, and monitoring the washing of clothes. Indeed, whatever the task—domestic chores, paid work, shopping, traveling, communicating, governing, playing—software increasingly makes...

    • 2 The Nature of Software
      (pp. 23-44)

      In this chapter, we explore the variegated nature of software. In particular, we argue that a comprehension of software must appreciate two aspects of code; first, that code is a product of the world and second, that code does work in the world. Software as both product and process, we argue, needs to be understood within a framework that recognizes the contingent, relational, and situated nature of its development and use. Software does not arise from nowhere; code emerges as the product of many minds working within diverse contexts. As Mackenzie (2003, 3) notes, software is created through “complex interactions...

  7. II The Difference Software Makes

    • 3 Remaking Everyday Objects
      (pp. 47-64)

      So far we have contended, in broad terms, that software makes a difference to everyday life because it possesses technicity. In this chapter, we look at how the nature of material objects and the work they do has been transformed by code. Software, as we detail below, is imbuing everyday objects, such as domestic appliances, handheld tools, sporting equipment, medical devices, recreational gadgets, and children’s toys, with capacities that allow them to do additional and new types of work. On the one hand, objects are remade and recast through interconnecting circuits of software that makes them uniquely addressable and consistently...

    • 4 The Transduction of Space
      (pp. 65-80)

      In the opening chapter, we proposed that one of the primary reasons why software makes a difference to the world people inhabit is because itmodulates the conditions under which sociospatial processes operate. We also suggested that software studies to date have largely ignored the role of space as a conceptual and analytical tool for understanding how and why software matters, instead prioritizing the role played by social relations and time. Space has been effectively relegated to the role of mere backdrop or inert stage.

      In this chapter, we challenge such a view, arguing that space is a critical component,...

    • 5 Automated Management
      (pp. 81-110)

      In this chapter we turn our attention to how software is transforming the means by which individuals and societies are governed. Every society is organized and managed through a system of governance based upon a particular mode of governmentality—the interlocking rationale, apparatus, institutions, roles, and procedures of governance. The general system of governance in operation in most Western countries at the present has its roots in the Enlightenment era and the shift from a feudal to a modern society. At this time, Foucault (1977, 1978) among other theorists, argues a new ethos and form of governance was developed that...

    • 6 Software, Creativity, and Empowerment
      (pp. 111-134)

      While software underpins new forms of governance, it is important to recognize it as productive in the widest possible sense. So, while code is used as a key actant in regulating society, it also fosters new forms of creativity and empowerment. For example, the technicity of software means it is increasingly a pivotal element in the creative practices of many professions and opens up creative opportunities for people to enact novel solutions to problems of entertainment and play. In often small, mundane, but valuable ways, code empowers people to make domestic and work tasks easier to solve, enables a multitude...

  8. III The Transduction of Everyday Spatialities

    • 7 Air Travel
      (pp. 137-158)

      The swift and affordable movement of people and goods is essential for society to function. Everyday people move around environments either through spaces that are increasingly monitored, augmented, and regulated by code or using modes of travel that are progressively more dependent on software to operate. Rather than discuss various different types of mobility, their infrastructure, and management, in this chapter we focus on how air travel has become dependent on software to take place (for a similar treatment of road transportation, see Dodge and Kitchin 2007a). Air travel consists of a passage through code/spaces that are governed by automated...

    • 8 Home
      (pp. 159-180)

      Work across the social sciences documents how a home is a complex set of social and material relations (Blunt and Dowling 2006; Hitchings 2004; Mallett 2004; Miller 2001), and a site of continual technological adoption and innovating domestic practices. Home is a dwelling space in which important lived experiences take place, providing a locus for the fundamental aspects of daily social reproduction (eating, personal care, relaxation, and sleep). Home is also central to human psychological well-being; a place of familial relations, intimacy, and emotional ties; a place for personal life and privacy from others; a place with layers of memories...

    • 9 Consumption
      (pp. 181-212)

      The latter part of the twentieth century witnessed the development in the West of a consumer society wherein the vast majority of people purchased goods and services not only out of necessity, but through choice. Individuals, regardless of class, started to accumulate items in excess of their basic needs and replaced these items not because they were broken or beyond repair but for other reasons such as desire, novelty, and status. In addition, there was the large-scale production of goods that were chiefly regarded as disposable—having short-term value before being discarded. In tandem, the practice of consumption, particularly shopping,...

  9. IV Future Code/Space

    • 10 Everyware
      (pp. 215-244)

      The last three chapters have explored, in some detail, how software is increasingly being embedded in objects and space and enrolled in a range of practices with diverse implications. Given the trends outlined, it is easy to conclude that Western societies are advancing toward a situation in which code is routinely employed to undertake tasks and solve problems across all aspects of everyday life. This broad use of code is being actively explored by a wide range of computer scientists, new media designers, technology analysts, and IT corporations keen to explore such a scenario. The outcomes sought are to advance...

    • 11 A Manifesto for Software Studies
      (pp. 245-260)

      In this book, we have offered an analysis of software and its role in the unfolding practices of everyday life. We have not sought to provide a theory as to how computing and computation should be developed; rather, our aim has been to detail a set of ideas for thinking about software and its relations—how it is constitutive of, situated in, and does work in, the world. Strangely, this type of analysis has only begun to occur in the last decade or so, with the nascent formation of software studies. It is true that there has been plethora of...

  10. Brief Glossary of Concepts
    (pp. 261-264)
  11. Sources
    (pp. 265-266)
  12. References
    (pp. 267-284)
  13. Index
    (pp. 285-290)