Abstract - The Information Society 25(5)

WiFi Geographies:  When Code Meets Place

Laura Forlano

This paper argues that as our homes, offices, cities and spaces get layered with digital information networks, it is vital that we develop new conceptual categories that integrate digital and physical spaces.  With that objective in mind, it examines how WiFi networks interact with socio-economic factors to reconfigure people, places and information in physical spaces.  Drawing on empirical research from ethnographic observations, a survey and in-depth interviews, it shows how the availability of WiFi public hotspots has opened up new ways for freelancers to do their work, often using different locales for different phases of their work.  Also, for freelancers in search of opportunities for co-working, WiFi hotspots are sites of informal interaction, social support, collaboration and innovation.  The paper also illustrates how a WiFi network does not map onto existing physical or architectural boundaries. Instead, it reconfigures them in a number of ways by permeating walls, bleeding into public spaces and breaking down some traditional notions of privacy and property while re-enforcing others.  Such reconfigurations of people, places and information require a new conceptual framing — codescapes — built on earlier notions of digital information and physical space.


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