Spaces of flows

Manuel Castells is a sociologist guru of the internet culture and is one of the most important sociologists today. His main points involve the interplay between social movement and urban space and how individuals come together to create protests for (change).

Castells (2004)’s main part(s) of his sociological theory involved;

Spaces of flows are when there is an increasingly rapid movement of ‘capital investment’. For example, the communication flows at Birley Fields, the Wi-Fi connections, the way in which students are in spaces (University building) to communicate with other individuals.

Spaces of places are  where the individual experience the activities that take place, where they ‘do their thing’ for example, The City of London or Tahrir Square in Egypt where a civic space was chosen on purpose to enable better communication.  The City of London is crossed by flows of capital coming into the space, e,g the investment into the space, but information flows out also.

Castells distinguishes what happens in spaces – What flows in? what flows out of these spaces?

These could be:

  • Information, this involves blogging and e-mails, for example at Birley, lecturers communicate via E-mail, same could also apply to students too.
  • Money/Capital investment
  • People
  • Power
  • Globalisation ( series of flows of information which allows activity to take place in ways it couldn’t before)

Castells touched on spatial information and how it is a fundamental dimension of the overall process of structural change. He quoted ‘space expresses society’. Furthermore, Castells seeks to consider what ‘spaces’ are historically used for in order to determine how the use of space has changed.

Spatial information transformation must be understood in a broader context of social transformation: Space ‘expresses’ society (as opposed to reflecting society).

A good question to ask is ‘how does space relate to urban reorganisation’?

To answer this question, the connection between the local and global space. To make it easier to understand, I will apply this to Univesity; Birley is the connection which is seen as the gateway to the world because university trains world-class professionals. Furthermore, Birley Fields is a bridge between the local and global, as locals are constantly invited in… The Birley building is constructed with Global Flow of information in mind- the fibre optics laid down before building the bricks.

Castells states that both spaces of places of flows are important, as places have been the focus of protest for over 200 years..(Egypt..Los Indignagos, Wall street….)

The introduction of Wi-fi has created information flows that did not exist 20 years ago. You could ask yourself if technology has changed the meaning of being a human being.

When looking at Castell’s (2004) theory, the thing  to consider are:

  • Infrastructure
  • Economic and social factors
  • A social movement perspective
  • Value of communication activism

In relation to my campaign on student loneliness, since the focal point is students the space chosen is Birley fields where the spaces of places can enable communication with other students in the campaign. The wi-fi connections may help as students will be encouraged to use the hashtag #saynottostudentloneliness. Castells believed that everything will be digitalised, so much so that things/information will be filtered to the point where the digital mechanism will relate to just the individual. Furthermore, the collective not individual mind can easily solve problems through connections (internet) thus making it easy as it creates groups easily. I agree with Castell’s in terms of everything becoming digitalized, in relation to my campaign, I have already set up a hashtag which is a digital mechanism and there will be a Youtube video alone with a Facebook Page, showing that campaigns are very much digital now.

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