Geography of the Internet of Things:
Objects as agents in the social production of space
The field of human geography focuses on ‘how we make places, how we organize space and society, how we interact with each other in places and across space, and how we make sense of others and ourselves in our locality, region, and world’. In the study of human geography we are constantly reminded of how people shape their world and of how people and places vary across time and space. Places are constantly changing and people are responsible for these changes. People create cultures, values, aesthetics, politics, economics and more, and each of these affects and shapes places (Fouberg, et al. 2010).
Objects already play a unique role in our social networks and have strong ties to identity and memory (Draaisma 2000; Henare et al. 2007; Hoskins 1998; Kwint et al. 1999; Miller 2008; Turkle 2007), space (Baudrillard 1996; Bollas 2009) and value (Appadurai 1986). Within all of these contexts a human agent is required to locate the object within a network and imbue or interpret any agency it might have. Through new technologies being introduced as part of the development in the manufacturing of objects, we can begin to see a technological framework that offers a potential for objects to express their own agency (relating to both Actor-Network Theory and Networked Objects) and become a significant actor in a network.
The thesis will focus on how the technological and cultural shift in ubiquitous computing, known as the Internet of Things, will change our understanding of an object’s role in the composition of a network. Through examining the Internet of Things in combination with Actor-Network Theory and Human Geography, this author will argue how objects that have data shadows will contribute to the social, economic and environmental production of space.
The main research question is:
To what extent can the technological and cultural shift in ubiquitous computing, known as the Internet of Things, provide new insights into how objects that have informational shadows can contribute to the social production of space?
In a more detailed way, the research will also answer the following sub questions:
• How can actors be identified and viewed in the field of the Internet of Things?
• What affect will an Internet of Things have on the structure, agency and pattern of a network?
• If the Internet of Things means a network can be understood as being constructed by people and objects, how does the Internet of Things affect the production of time-space and place?
• How does the Internet of Things allow objects to aid human interpretation of social relationships, and allow objects to produce emergent interpretations of their own?
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