November 22, 2010

"Being with others"

Thrift gives the example of whales: "'being with' other whales might mean communicating with whales who might be hundreds of miles away."  Compared to human space, whale space is obviously much larger, but when we say "I am with someone" we mean that that person occupies the same space as us, regardless of the vastness of that space.

"Being with person X"  could mean that person is in the same room as me, but it could also mean he is a thousand miles away.  New technologies have allowed this increase in distance.  We have become "beings who can live with distant others as if they were close to."  In these newly enlarged spaces that we share with distant others, we find "new kinds of social relation."

In the early days of telephony, a message by letter or telegram could reach much further than a telephone call, but sending a letter could not constitute 'being with' the recipient: communication between sender and receiver was not simultaneous, instantaneous.  A message by telephone, however, is.

*What kinds of new social relations came into existence with the coming of the telephone?
*How were existing relations altered?
*Were there changes in hierarchy: master/servant; male/female; company/customer?

Nigel Thrift.  "Space."  Theory Culture Society 2006: 23, 139-146.

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