Restructuring Writ Invisibly – Cellular Telephone Systems as a Means for Tracking Urban Circulation
Christopher Bertaut’s main hypothesis is that existing roadways and roadway traffic determines the spatial layout of cellular facilities. Using a case study approach he compares roadway networks, traffic counts, and cell tower construction around Gwinnet Co. (Atlanta), Georgia and shows a strong correspondence between the road systems and the location and spacing of cell towers. He concludes that cell phone services are at most an enabling factor in the restructuring of the county. Bertaut generalizes by relating his findings to Graham’s argument that space of places is strongly tied to exiting infrastructures. Bertaut predicts that cell phone use will increase as companies become more horizontal and break into smaller operating units. He also predicts the increase in cell phone use in cars, but fails to mention the “hang-up and drive” backlash.
The Political Salience of the Space of Flows – ICT and the Restructuring City
Alan Southern frames his analysis around Castell’s notions of informational mode of development and space of flows. In essence - if Castell’s is right then cities need to build these frameworks into their economic development / restructuring plans. Southern looks at the city of Sunderland’s (England) local economic development plan and notes how they integrated an ICT component.
Sunderland’s telematics strategy (which is an extension of their previous economic plans) includes four core themes:
2. New Inward Development (i.e., developing a workforce that will attract and support ICT)
3. Life Long Learner (i.e., retraining a flexible knowledge-based workforce)
4. Quality of Life (e.g., more access to information, especially for re-training the work force and making local planning decisions)
In the end, the argument is that local governments can (and should) play a role in shaping the space of flows.
People Versus Place –Telecommunications and Flexibility Requirements of the CBD
Leigh uses a cross-case analysis to explore how CBDs (central business districts) in two major cities (Chicago and Atlanta) are (re-)developing in the telecommunications age. She asks: Will vacancies and underutilization lead to the decline of central city CBDs in these cities? Well, it depends on the context… For example, she argues that an inner-city CBD thrives in Chicago, while CBDs in Atlanta developed on the metro fringe.
Leigh uses her findings to challenge some of the arguments laid out by Graham & Marvin and Castells. She suggests that they overstate the continued primacy of central cities (and inner-city CBDs) by paying too little attention to the rise of corporate front offices (not just “back offices) in the suburbs or edge cities (e.g., in the case of Atlanta). In other words, the rise of CBDs in the burbs is not simply an extension of central city, but an entirely new CBD. She points to Sears as an example of a company that moved wholesale from the city (Chicago) to the suburbs. Interestingly, she cites research that links these types of corporate shifts to the residential location of CEOs and workers. That is, CEOs and workers want their offices close to where they live (i.e., the suburbs). She also claims that cheap land and lease rates, ample parking, and flexible design (especially being able to design buildings that meet new the technology needs) facilitate the growth of suburban / metro fringe CBDs.
As mentioned, Leigh complicates this formula by noting that Chicago was able to maintain a downtown CBD. Reasons for this include:
Older buildings were retrofit to support ICT
Chicago has a well-developed inner-city metro system
The city used zoning, land use planning, incentives, environmental remediation to (re)-create a “live and work” central city
Face-to-face is still needed (especially in select sectors – e.g., access to courts, city hall, etc.)
Her study moves the debate forward by supplying empirical evidence and findings that complicate things.
Travel, Gender, and Work – Emerging Commuting Choices in Inner-City Phoenix
Elizabeth Burns presents a case study of commuting behavior to and from inner-city Phoenix. First, she looks at broad regional survey data related to resident and non-resident commuting patterns. Then, she focuses on two cases. The first looks at telecommuting in Phoenix and the second looks at commuting behaviors associated with a specific workplace – Sky Harbor International Airport. She is interested in a few questions: 1) What do commuter patterns look like in Phoenix? 2) How do these patterns breakdown in relation to gender, residence, and occupation? 3) What do these patterns tell us about changes in the workplace or the amount of flexibility workers have when it comes to traveling to and from work?
Here are some of her findings:
1) telecommuting in Phoenix is not prevalent (2% telecommute once a week and only half of this group telecommutes more than one day a week)
2) telecommuting needs to be considered in relation to specific work locations and occupations
3) flexible scheduling is more common than telecommuting (20% of the workers in the study have compressed schedules) Burns suggests that this might be a reaction to decentralization – i.e., longer shifts over fewer days equals less commuting
4) decentralized development patterns are not aligned with the Phoenix public transportation system, so decentralization promotes car travel (for comparison, think of taking the bus to Middleton)
5) occupation (and potentially related factors such as class) is a factor in determining whether or not a worker will carpool
6) more women than men telecommute, but occupation is a key factor (e.g., women telecommute to jobs in education and public administration, while men telecommute to manufacturing locations).
Burns use of case studies is helpful in pushing back at some of the broader arguments highlighted earlier in the book. She also gets us a little closer to understanding how some of the themes and arguments from the book play out, or perhaps more importantly, don’t play out in cities (especially when you look across class, gender, occupation, etc.). It seems that there is still some room to build on these cases. For example, exploring workers’ individual circumstances, stories and lived experiences as they relate to decisions over where to work (and how to get there) would further contextualize the survey data.