The Space and The Mobile Individual

J.W. Mitchell’s essay, “Post-Sedentary Space”, discusses the profound influence the emergence of 802.11 wireless networks have in today’s world. With the creation of these networks in the early 2000’s, Mitchell believed it was “a new field of functional possibility [that] superimposed itself on public space” (87). Ten or so years later, these wireless networks are still in public and semipublic space. Mitchell lists cafés, bars, lobbies, waiting rooms, and airport lounges as the first places these networks were established in and the list could expand today as places like restaurants, libraries, and public parks (such as Bryant Park in Manhattan) have wireless access. It is increasingly easier to access wireless networks and connect to the Internet; technology is also increasing the strength of these networks.

Wireless networks decrease the focus on confined, wired spaces but increase the ability for an individual to expand their space by moving into new ones, or fields of presence, as Mitchell puts it. One can take their devices, such as iPods, laptops, cell phones, or tablets, and find networks to connect to, making them much more mobile. This eliminates their private space, in a sense, and makes certain public spaces meeting places, places of interaction, or places of work. Wireless networks mobilize individuals and encourages them to move from one point to another. Spaces may become fixed but the individual shifts into different spaces. For example, why write an essay at home when you can sip a latté, get your caffeine fix, and write it in a café? Since information is increasingly easier to access, people can move freely from one place to another as their needs and wants require. The information stays the same, but where one accesses it may differ every time.

Mitchell closes his essay and says it best about the mobile wireless era, “we can use our portable communication devices to construct meeting points and gathering places on the fly — places that may only…play such roles for fleeting moments” (88).


1 Comment

  1. burningtangerine13: this is a nice summary of the article, but in the blog posts, I’d like to see a more critical or personal (or both) response to the topic. Do you personally write your essays from the cafe? Do you find the presence of other people helps your process, or prolongs it? Or to go at the question from the other side, is Mitchell’s slightly utopian conclusion accurate? Are we freeing ourselves, or are we just taking a cubicle prison with us wherever we go?

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