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Variable Geometries of Connection: Urban Digital Divides and the Uses of Information Technology

Michael Crang, Tracey Crosbie and Stephen Graham
Additional contact information
Michael Crang: Department of Geography, Durham University, South Road, Durham, DH1 3LE, UK, m.a.crang@durham.ac.uk
Tracey Crosbie: School of Environment, University of Manchester, Architecture Building, Manchester, M13 9PL, UK, tracey. crosbie@manchester.ac.uk
Stephen Graham: Department of Geography, Durham University, South Road, Durham, DH1 3LE, UK, S.D.N.Graham@durham.ac.uk

Urban Studies, 2006, vol. 43, issue 13, 2551-2570

Abstract: This paper proposes a new way of conceptualising urban 'digital divides'. It focuses on the ways in which information and communication technologies (ICTs) unevenly affect the pace of life within the urban environment. Based on a detailed case study of how ICTs are being used in an affluent and a marginalised neighbourhood in Newcastle upon Tyne, the paper suggests that urban digital divides need to be understood as more than uneven patterns of access. They emerge in this work as more than the presence or absence of specific technological artefacts. Rather, it is argued that different styles and speeds of technologically mediated life now work to define urban socio-spatial inequalities. The paper distinguishes between two such key styles and speeds. First, the paper argues that affluent and professional groups now use new media technologies pervasively and continuously as the 'background' infrastructure to sustain privileged and intensely distanciated, but time-stressed, lifestyles. Secondly, more marginalised neighbourhoods tend to be characterised by instrumental and episodic ICT usage patterns which are often collectively organised through strong neighbourhood ties. For the former, mediated networks help to orchestrate neighbourhood ties; for the latter, it is those neighbourhood ties that enable on-line access.

Date: 2006
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