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The Internet on Earth: A Geography of Information / Edition 1

The Internet on Earth: A Geography of Information / Edition 1

by Aharon Kellerman


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780470844502
Publisher: Wiley
Publication date: 11/15/2002
Pages: 282
Product dimensions: 6.77(w) x 9.84(h) x 0.87(d)

About the Author

Aharon Kellerman is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Haifa, Israel, and is President of Zefat Academic College, Israel. He also serves as Vice-President of the International Geographical Union (IGU), and acts as Honorary Chair of its Commission on the Geography of the Information Society, which he established and chaired. He has been involved with the geographical study of telecommunications and information for over two decades.

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The Internet on Earth

A Geography of Information
By Aharon Kellerman

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-470-84450-7

Chapter One


'Even in the information economy, geography matters!' (Goddard 1990, p. xvii)

The Internet on Earth: A Geography of Information, the title of this book, sounds, hopefully, straightforward. Read it again now: The Internet, on earth! A geography of information? The meaning of the title now looks almost the opposite of the first reading. The following chapters attempt to convince those who tend to read the title in its second punctuation, to accept the first one. Thus, we shall go through various of their components in order to develop a geography of the Internet/information.

The geography of information is interrelated with other aspects and dimensions of information. This chapter will present some of these, beginning with differentiations among several types of information, and following with elaborations on information society, economy, politics, and law. These discussions will highlight, among other things, related spatial aspects.

1.1 Information and Knowledge

Information is a term used in ambiguous ways, notably since the introduction of information technology, which has permitted the storage, processing and transmission of enormous quantities of information in electronic formats. On the one hand, it refers to a wide family of communicative, mostly codified, materials, whichinclude data, information as a class, knowledge and innovations. As Roszak (1991, p. 13) noted: 'in its new technical sense, information has come to denote whatever can be coded for transmission through a channel that connects a source with a receiver, regardless of semantic content'. On the other hand, the term information is also used for a specific class of communicative materials, to be defined in the next section. Information at large is obviously something intangible, although its containers or media have traditionally been material objects, mostly in the form of paper products, such as books, magazines, letters, documents, lists, etc. The emergence of electronic transmission and storage media, such as radio, TV, cassette recorders, followed later on by computers and the Internet, has once again accentuated the intangible and abstract character of information.

1.1.1 The information sequence

The communicative materials, data, information, knowledge and innovation, have each received numerous independent definitions. However, it is also possible to refer to them as a sequence, in which data lead to the production of information, which, in its turn, may lead to the development of knowledge, and vice versa. Knowledge, for its part, may bring about the development of innovations (see Malecki 2000a, p. 104). We shall first review some of the definitions for each of the communicative materials.

Data: 'A series of observations, measurements, or facts in the form of numbers, words, sounds and/or images. Data have no meaning but provide the raw material from which information is produced' (Roberts 2000).

Information: Information per se, as a class of communicative materials, has received numerous definitions, estimated at over 100, proposed in about 40 disciplines (see e.g. Machlup 1983, Braman 1989). It was claimed to be an activity, a life form and a relationship (Barlow 1994). It was further seen as resource, commodity, perception of pattern, and a constitutive force in society (Braman 1989). From a sequential perspective, information is 'data that have been arranged into a meaningful pattern. Information must relate to a context for it to have meaning' (Roberts 2000, see also Borgmann 1999). Porat (1977, p. 2) similarly defined information as 'data that have been organized and communicated' (see also Castells 2000, p. 17).

Knowledge: Definitions of knowledge refer to its relation to information. It has, thus, been defined as 'the application and productive use of information. Knowledge is more than information, since it involves an awareness or understanding gained through experience, familiarity or learning' (Roberts 2000). For Roszak (1991, p. 105) 'ideas create information, not the other way around. Every fact grows from an idea'. Other commentators, however, such as Boisot (1998, p. 12), argue that 'knowledge builds on information that is extracted from data'. A kind of two-way relationship between knowledge and information was illuminated by Neil Postman (1999, p. 93) as follows: 'I define knowledge as organized information, information that has a purpose, that leads one to seek further information in order to understand something about the world. Without organized information, we may know something of the world, but very little about it. When one has knowledge, one knows how to make sense of information, knows how to relate information to one's life, and, especially knows when information is irrelevant'.

Bell (1976, p. 175; see also Castells 2000, p. 17) added to knowledge the communications element: 'knowledge is a set of organized statements of facts or ideas, presenting a reasoned judgment or an experimental result, which is transmitted to others through some communication medium in some systematic form'. On the other hand, knowledge may also be created without information and communications: 'Information is acquired by being told, whereas knowledge can be acquired by thinking ... Thus, new knowledge can be acquired without new information being received' (Machlup 1983, p. 644). By the same token, 'information transfer is always necessary to knowledge exchange, the reverse is not always true' (Storper 2000b, p. 56).

There are communicative materials which are difficult to classify as either information or knowledge, such as the so-called meme. An example in this regard are work practices, norms and conventions transferred through behavior and imitation (Storper 2000b, pp. 56-57). Similarly, Thrift (1985) discussed knowledge availability to humans, through both individual and societal social action, defining knowledge simply as 'information about the world' (p. 367).

Innovation: It may be defined as the creation of new knowledge, through an intrinsically uncertain problem-solving process based on existing knowledge and/or information. Innovative knowledge may lead to the introduction of innovative products or the application of a novel production process, either through radical breakthroughs or through incremental improvements (Feldman 1994, p. 2, Feldman 2000, pp. 373-375). Knowledge may thus be viewed as an asset, which serves as an input (competence) leading to an output, in the form of innovation, which may thus be viewed as another kind of knowledge (OECD 2000a, p. 13). The role of innovation has become of major contemporary importance, since about 80% of productivity growth in advanced countries has been attributed to innovation (Sternberg and Arndt 2001).

Following the definitions for the four communicative materials, we may recognize four basic sequential processes for information at large, accentuating its transformative and communicative nature (Figure 1.1). In the first, data are turned into information through meaningful patterns and context. In the second, information yields information, such as in a spoken or written exchange between two or more people. In the third, information turns into knowledge, through its application and use. However, knowledge may yield information, and knowledge is required for the additional development of information (Roberts 2000). Innovation, or the creation of new knowledge, notably of applied nature, is dependent on previously existing knowledge, tacit as well as codified, and information. On its part it may yield new information technology, as well as new information.

1.1.2 Information classification

There are various ways to classify information as a class of communicative materials. One simple classification is by contents: social, business, entertainment, news, educational. Traditionally, there have evolved close ties among several of these information types, through the technologies used for their production or transmission. Thus, books and articles share similar printing technologies, entertainment and news are transmitted through radio and television, movies also include voice and music, and the telephone is used for both business and social conversations.

Computer-based multimedia technology was noted by Castells (1996, pp. 371-372) as enabling an 'integration of all messages in a common cognitive pattern'. While the messages of an educational movie may differ from that of a news broadcast, their operational contexts may be similar, using icons, video-games, audio-visual shows, etc. Thus, multimedia can be used to present a wide variety of cultural expressions. The most integrative information technology is the Internet. This computerized information system functions as a comprehensive information store, containing all types of information, regardless of contents or form.

Another most basic classification is by form: text, data, graphics, voice, and picture. From the perspective of information production and transmission, major developments in transistor and computer technologies as of the 1970s, have turned all these information types into similar digital bit formats, differentiated mainly by the channel bandwidth required for their transmission. From the perspective of information users this classification has lost much of its significance through the introduction of the Internet in the 1990s, permitting integrative transmissions of information in every form through a single channel, transforming all information forms into electronic signals (see Kellerman 1997).

A third simple classification of information has focused on information transmission, distinguishing between information producers or senders, transmission media or telecommunications channels, and information receivers or users. However, as far as the Web system of the Internet is concerned, information may be produced and installed on the system, but not necessarily consumed by anybody. In other words, if nobody calls for a certain site, it will neither be transmitted nor received or used. Thus, electronic information has to be classified into designated and undesignated. Designated information is information which is transmitted to specific individual receivers (such as telephone calls or fax transmissions) or to specific audiences (e.g. CATV), whereas undesignated information is put on a transmission device (i.e. a host), and potentially received by any number of users.

An alternative classification which would fit mostly electronically transmitted information may look at it as something that does not stand for itself, but is rather woven into the wider context of social or economic processes. Information constitutes a resource or product, which may thus either be free of charge or involve a price for its use or purchase (see also Zook 1998). Four types of information may be recognized by economic process (Kellerman 2000a):

(1) Pure information: Personal, academic, and some business information, in the form of e-mail, or website information, is provided at no charge (other than for its transmission), and with no intention to create or promote purchases. Thus, some of this information is designated (e-mail), and some is not (websites).

(2) Information as part of sale processes: Information transmission over the Internet has often become part of the sale process of both products (e.g. books) or services (e.g. airline tickets). This type of information is undesignated in most cases. However, it may turn designated, once a purchase is made (e.g. order confirmation or progress reports). Such types of information are currently part of the marketing systems of almost all material products, as well as of many services.

(3) Information as product: Information itself may be sold over the Internet (e.g. astrological forecasts) to any undesignated customers. Here too, once a sale has been executed, the information transmission becomes designated.

(4) Products transformed into information: Probably the only real product transformed into electronic information is also the most powerful one - money. Capital as a resource or as a product is currently transmitted almost exclusively over telecommunications channels, not necessarily over the Internet. The transmission of capital is obviously highly and most clearly designated.

The transmission of pure information through voice telephony, as of 1876, and later on of text and graphical transmission through fax (type 1), paved the way for the transmission of capital in the form of data as of the 1970s (type 4). The construction of dense domestic and international telecommunications networks facilitated the evolution of the Internet as of the late 1980s-early 1990s, so that electronic information could be integrated into sale processes (type 2), and information itself could be sold (type 3). The emergence of the Internet has enhanced the transmission of pure information and capital, making possible their transmission in more sophisticated ways than before.

1.1.3 Knowledge classification

There are numerous classifications of knowledge (for a review, see Howells 2000). The classification of knowledge dates back to Aristotle, who distinguished between three types of knowledge: èpistemé, or theoretical and universal; techné, instrumental knowledge, practice related, and context specific; and phronesis, experience-based, normative, related to common sense and context specific (Johnson and Lundvall 2001, p. 6). A recently proposed classification of knowledge into four types may be partially related to this ancient classification: know-what (facts); know-why (principles, similar to èpistemé); know-how (skills, similar to techné); and know-who (socialization) (Johnson and Lundvall 2001).

Another dominant classification of knowledge is into codified, or explicit, and tacit, or implicit (Cowan et al. 2000, Roberts 2000). Codified knowledge is recorded or transmitted through symbols (letters and letters turned into words and sentences, as well as digits and drawings), whereas tacit knowledge develops through learning, and is, thus, similar to know-how (skills). These two forms of knowledge complement each other, and they are normally present in any specific piece of knowledge. Codified knowledge can be converted into information and is mostly viewed, therefore, as more easily transferable through information technology, whereas tacit knowledge is more readily transferred through the transfer of knowledge-bearers, namely people (see Cowan et al. 2000, Roberts 2000, Johnson and Lundvall 2001).


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Table of Contents


Information and Knowledge

The Information Society

The Information Economy

Information Politics

Information Law



The Scope of Information Geography





Information and Technology

Technology and Flows




Information Technology Regions


Information Volumes and Origins

The Internet: Evolution and Structure

A Conceptual Framework for Information Production

Ranking Urban Centers of Information Production

Global Centers: New York and Los Angeles

IT R&D Information Production



Content Demand and Location

Capital as Information

E-Commerce and Location

Geographic Language



The Internet Backbones


US Leadership in Telecommunications



Leading Nations

The Digital Divide



Social Uses of the Internet

Internet Consumption in Cities

Use and Location





Geography of Information

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