McKenzie Wark on 15 Feb 2001 19:08:09 -0000

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Re: <nettime> 'Spatial Discursions' - no space

There is a difference between saying that space
disappears, and saying that space *almost* disappears.
What one experiences is the latter. This phenomena,
of the almost-disappearance of space, has been going
on since 1848, which we can take as a notional date
for the implementation of the telegraph. This too was
spoken about in terms of the almost-disappearance of
space. Only space can be quite recalcitrant, and can
refuse simply to disappear just because another kind of
space, with different properties, has arisen which becomes
a power over it.

I discussed this, many years ago now, in terms of second
nature and third nature. If we think of second nature as
built environment, the physical labour of tranforming
nature in habitus, then third nature is another kind of
transformation, the transformation of both nature and
second nature into an information landscape capable of
controlling the process of transformation of nature into
second nature.

This process is limited, technically, until the arrival
of telegraphy, which for the first time enables information
to move across space faster than people or things. With
the emergence of telesthesia, of 'perception at a distance',
third nature comes into its own as a space able to fully
subordinate other spaces to itself.

Telesthesia, which begins with the telegraph, includes radio,
telephony, television and telecommunications. (The etymological
similarity of these terms is no accident). It is composed of
both extensive and intensive vectors -- those that connect
New York to Nepal, but also those that connect two diodes within
the same machine.

The space of third nature is only notionally 'spaceless'. In
fact it is always divided, territorialised, partitioned. There
is a politics of the space of third nature. A politics of
speed and price, of flow and boundary.

Interestingly, utopia is able to attach itself to this space
as its ideal just as it attaches to nature and second nature.
There are romantic utopias of nature; there are technologlical
utopias of second nature, and now, cyber-utopias. These ideals
never have much to do with the politics of space, however, which
is constantly creating boundaries and openings, differentials
of speed and value.

There's more on this in my Virtual Geography, Indiana University
Press, 1994. 

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