We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham Research Online
You are in:

Cyberspace as the new public domain.

Crang, M. (2010) 'Cyberspace as the new public domain.', in Urban diversity : space, culture and inclusive pluralism in cities worldwide. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press ; Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, pp. 99-122.


In considering inclusive cities, it is increasingly important to keep in mind the role of the intangible realm of urban digital media. Immediately, however, one might be justified in asking what possibilities for inclusion, and threats of exclusion, are created specifically for cities. This chapter suggests that the answer to this question is threefold. First, information and communication technologies (ICTs) are increasingly part of the competitive interurban order. More and more, the economic order of and relationships between cities are mediated through flows of information. Cities are located in this digital terrain as much as in a physical one—where flows of data and information have their own specific geographies produced through key cities and that in turn position some parts of cities differentially in the global environment. Second, as a result of this competitive digital geography, we must challenge our habitual definition of cities in terms of a spatial location and extent. Instead, we need to think of cities as simultaneously containers for, facilitators of, and constraints upon interactions—as well as products of interactions. Looked at in this way, the mediation of such interactions by ICTs may have profound effects. This then “switches the emphasis of urbanity from physical built form to the quality of interaction in cultural life through the exchange of information” (Little 2000, 1814). If we see cities as originally creating a densification of activities in space, thus increasing the number of actions possible in a given time, then disembodied media for interactions seem to offer the inverse tendency—to intensify what can be done in a given time irrespective of distance (Graham 1997, 1998). Together, these two issues suggest a rescaling—or multiscaling—of urban interaction that challenges conventional planning and governance via territorial units. However, the third strand in the answer to the question of cities’ possibilities for inclusion or exclusion is a resurgence of the urban reality as a means of coalescing multiple digital environs. The city still operates as a formal template for understanding the conditions of openness, free circulation, and multiplicity that might be argued to characterize informational realms. But it also acts as the location where such digital terrains are produced. This chapter examines how these processes are entwined with the actual existing city. So rather than seeing cyberspace as a separate, detached realm, it focuses on “a multi-scalar co-mingling of electronic and physical space” of digital flows and physical flows, of virtual and real places (Page and Phillips 2003, 73). Daily lives do not encounter a great divide of offline and online worlds but rather feed the one into the other in subtle and continuous interplay.

Item Type:Book chapter
Full text:(VoR) Version of Record
Download PDF
Publisher Web site:
Publisher statement:Cyberspace as the New Public Domain" in Caroline Wanjiku Kihato, Mejgan Massoumi, Blair A. Ruble and Allison M. Garland (editors), Urban Diversity: Space, Culture, and Inclusive Pluralism in Cities Worldwide, pp. 99-122. © 2010 (Woodrow Wilson Press, 2010) Copub: Johns Hopkins University Press. Posted with permission of The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:13 January 2011
Date of first online publication:October 2010
Date first made open access:No date available

Save or Share this output

Look up in GoogleScholar