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Housing and the New Geography of Accessibility in the Information Age

Abstract
By : Helen Couclelis

 
The spread of ICTs did not bring about the widely proclaimed death of distance, the end of geography, or the dissolution of space. Nevertheless, ICTs do have the potential to dramatically change the patterns of human activities and relations within cities and regions and across the globe. A rapidly growing literature, both popular and academic, is striving to make sense of the changes already taking place. Much of that literature is starkly divided between techno-utopian and social-dystopian visions of what lies ahead, stressing either the space-and-time-transcending, liberating effects of ICTs, or, alternatively, the spreading and deepening of existing rifts between privileged and under-privileged classes and places. This paper begins with a review of the principal arguments on both sides of the issue, and highlights the key role that different understandings of access and accessibility play in shaping these overly optimistic or pessimistic visions. I argue for a middle position stressing the ongoing dialectic between ICTs, society, and space, and the significance of place and context in shaping specific positive or negative outcomes in accessibility. The discussion then focuses on housing, which for several reasons should present particularly interesting evidence of the impacts on ICTs on urban form and function. There are exceptional opportunities for research in these and related areas but also many challenges conceptual, methodological and practical as we explore a new geography that must be able to deal with the increasingly fuzzy boundaries between physical space and cyberspace.

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