Recently the attention given to issues of knowledge management in the so-called "knowledge economy" has highlighted the spatial dimension of knowledge creation and management. At the micro level this means the identification of spaces in which physically co-located communities of practice can flourish. At the macro level, issues of the sustainability of knowledge ecologies and distributed communities of practice have arisen. Networked organisations and the virtual village demonstrate aspects of "community without propinquity" (Webber, 1964), but the extent to which such conditions can be nurtured through the policies of local or central states must be addressed.
Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) offer a potential for participation in the "knowledge economy" to peripheral areas, through the substitution of electronic data flows for physical movement. However, evidence is beginning to point to increased physical movement by the "information rich" as they exploit the wider networks of relationships that ICTs can support. Access to flows of information and resources has been identified as the key to full economic participation (Castells, 1989), "periphery" is now defined by access to both communication and transportation resources. Increasing globalisation of economic activity has allowed peripheral and core economic activities to be relocated and co-located. Household and communities function as sites of production and consumption. This brings further complexity as disadvantaged regions and localities are identified within developed economies as well as in the so-called "Third World". The United States Department of Commerce has expressed its concern over the "digital divide" in relation to inequities within the U.S. economy. These reflect differential access to the basic technologies of telephony as well as the latest forms of Internet access. Not surprisingly, as national and regional states abdicate from their developmental role, market forces reinforce the advantage of established locations and place increasing strain on all aspects of infrastructure.
A set of PowerPoint slides are available here in pdf format. These approach these issues through considerations of the nature of globalisation, of the dynamic between location, co-location and community, and the withdrawal of the nation state's safeguards for access from the margins
Stephen Little is part of the Odyssey group - a group of academics who meet regularly to update their electronic skills and to explore the conceptual consequences of new technology. Go to http://www.odysseygroup.org.uk
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