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The contemporary world is becoming increasingly interconnected. People are able to travel to different parts of the planet faster than ever before, the global financial system is functioning at the speed of light, and media enables us to follow news from all over the world. Different terms are used to describe this process. British left wing geographer and social scientist Doreen Massey explains in “A Global Sense of Place” (1994) that while Marx talked about the “annihilation of time and space”, contemporary phrases include “global village”, “overcoming spatial barriers”, “disruption of horizons”, or “compression of time and space”. The following will explain, what causes the “shrinking of the world”, but also how different regions and people experience it differently. The emphasis will be on the importance of financial capital and access to telecommunication and computing technologies, which contribute to increasing global interconnectedness. It will be explained, how certain regions and people are much less connected to these networks, making others feel that the world in “shrinking”. Based on Doreen Massey, it will also be analyzed, how control over mobility and access reflects and reinforces power, and can actually weaken those in a less dominant position.
The world is “shrinking” because of developments in technology, transport, and communication. These developments have enabled economic, political, social, and cultural activities, which were up to now experienced on a local scale, to be experienced on an increasingly larger scale. Marxist geographer David Harvey introduces the concept of “space-time compression” in his “Condition of Postmodernity” (1999) and explains that the concept of space and time is socially constructed dependent on the mode of production and its characteristic social relations. He argues that capitalism, our driving mechanism for strong technological change and fast economic growth, has also changed the meaning of space and time. For example, how Plains Indians or African Nuer understand time and space is completely different from each other, and from societies within the capitalist mode of production. Harvey (1990: 240) explains in the article “Between Space and Time” (1990:240) that: “…the history of capitalism has been characterized by the speed-up in the pace of life, while so overcoming spatial barriers that the world sometimes seems to collapse inwards upon us”. Harvey explains that time is absolutely crucial under capitalism as the exploitation of labour time and the turn over time of capital are the source of profit. Also capitalism expands to new geographical territories and so the elimination of spatial barriers is essential to capital accumulation. While capitalism drives strong technological change and fast economic growth, it has also changed the meaning of space and time.
The extent of time-space compression in the contemporary world is seen best in the example of the financial system. Harvey emphasises the importance of capital, and explains that accelerating exchange and consumption have improved systems of communication, while innovations like electronic banking have increased the speed of the flow of money. Similarly Pollard (2005) explains that the interconnectedness of the global financial system has been made possible due to the development of telecommunication and computing technologies. Because of innovations such as satellites, real places come together in an electronic space and enable the flow of money to become “hypermobile”.
Neo liberal policies of governments, along with international institutions like IMF, have contributed to the interconnectedness of the finance markets by promoting their deregulation, eliminating exchange and capital controls. As there is an increasing freedom in how money moves over boarders of nation states, the financial system has brought some parts of the world very closely together. Though, Pollard (2005) also emphasizes that it would be wrong to argue that the interconnectedness of monetary networks has led to an “end of geography”, as certain areas of the world are clearly less connected to the flow of money. Most foreign direct investments (FDI), which are made by transnational corporations, are between developed countries. In 1998, 60 per cent of FDI were made from one developed country to another, while excluding parts of Asia, Latin America, and much of Africa. The global financial system - from that perspective - is really a web of connections between different financial systems, which mostly unites the global triad of Europe, North America and some parts of Asia, especially Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
Doreen Massey describes this uneven geography with the term “ power geometry of time-space compression”, and explains that different social groups and individuals are placed differently in relation to the flow of interconnection. She puts a strong emphasis on power relations in the experience of time- space compression and explains,” Some people are more in charge of it than others; some initiate flows and movement, others don't; some are more on the receiving-end of it than others; some are effectively imprisoned by it“. Massey illustrates this by giving an example of people, who control "flows and movement" by organizing investments and international currency transactions, contrasting them to refugees and undocumented migrant workers. She also compares people, who mainly receive information like pensioners in
It could be argued that there are many networks and flows with very different geographies. Money moves increasingly over the boarders of nations, while tourists from the richest nations are welcomed all over the world. At the same time the “developed” world carefully controls the movement of people from "other regions".
According to Massey, control over mobility and access not only reflects and reinforces power, but also weakens others. She gives this example: every time you use a car, you improve your mobility, but by doing so you contribute less (financially) to the public transpork network, making it less socially acceptable, potentially decreasing the mobility of those who rely on public transport. Similarly, Thrift - one of the world´s leading human geographers - emphasizes that new networks of connection also form new networks of disconnection. New telecommunication networks have contributed to the development of global financial systems, but they have also created “electronic ghettos”, that are excluded from the financial networks. For example, in Los Angeles banks have closed branches in low income neighborhood areas like South Central Los Angeles, and opened new branches in more prosperous areas just a few miles away. Financial exclusion reinforces the patterns of poverty, as in the example of “electronic ghettos” - regions not attractive for investments became increasingly excluded from global interconnectedness.
Technology is becoming global, especially in knowledge intensive economic activities like financial services and telecommunication. The development of global digital economy is believed to bring economic and social changes in the scale of the industrial revolution, though only those who have the knowledge and opportunity to use these technological advantages, have access to the global economy. Geographer Peter Daniels (2005) explains that as many regions don’t have the needed infrastructure, the gap between “developed” and “developing” is likely to increase. For example, in 2002, only 1 in 440 Africans (
In general the uneven geography of time-space compression could be characterised by the words of Robert Kaplan who explains in the “Coming of Anarchy” (1994): “Think of a stretch limo in the potholed streets of New York City, where homeless beggars live. Inside the limo are the air-conditioned post-industrial regions of North America, Europe, the emerging
The world is becoming increasingly interconnected due to developments in transport, technology and communication that, based on
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