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Space of Flows

  • By: Barney Warf
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

The space of flows is a term coined by the sociologist and urban planner Manuel Castells to describe the geographies of the globalized postindustrial informational societies that emerged in the late 20th century, in which productivity is derived primarily from knowledge and information. Concomitant with this transformation, social scientists have searched for new frames of reference to make sense of the emerging geographies of centrality and peripherality unleashed by flexible globalization.

In Castells's (1996) reading, the time-space compression of postmodern capitalism was manifested in the three “layers” of transportation and communication infrastructure, the cities or nodes that occupy strategic locations within these, and the social spaces occupied by the global managerial class:

Our societies are constructed around flows: flows of capital, flows of information, flows of technology, ...

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