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    Stephen Read

    TU Delft, Faculty of Architecture, [email protected]

    Keywords: technoscience, space, scale; urban form; metageographies


    Technoscience approaches in the philosophy of science suggest that the conventionalpriority of pure or theoretical science over applied technology must be reversed. It is,according to this view not pure science that leads applied technology but rather telescopes,microscopes and steam engines that come first and trigger the development of thetheoretical sciences. This paper explores the idea that the spaces and scales of ourgeographies are not theoretical but technical constructions. These constructions constitute

    I argue are projects for metageographies spatial structures through which people ordertheir knowledge of the world. They are both the geographies themselves and theorganisational structures through which our practical knowledge and use of these isestablished combining and integrating their reality and physicality and our knowledge ofthem. Peter Taylor has followed Jane Jacobs in arguing that cities come first. I argue firsthowever that the priority actually lies with the networks and show how networks must beconsidered organisers and producers of not just cities but all metageographical structures.Taylors world-city network provides a model that can be extended to these other structuresthat include nation, region and neighbourhood. Second, I argue that the systemic aspect ofnetworks leads too much of the discussion about network and global cities, that thesystematicity interior to any network is necessarily partial and the complexity andmultivalency of real places is a product not just of networks but of the intersections of the

    different systemic logics of different networks. Networks constitute part-whole structureswhere the logic of the whole is reflected in a systemic coherence at that level while the part,which is itself a network at another level, is a complex product of the intersection of thoselevels. This leads to an understanding of what scale and level mean for our practicalgeographies. I conclude by pointing out that from an historical perspective the constructionsof metageographies appear as successive projects of modernities (using Taylors versionof this idea) and have involved massive public investments and state involvement. Thesesuccessive modernities have each built on the past to construct their own sets ofmetageographical elements intersected together in and shaping particular modes ofurbanisation. Human action in, and practical knowledge of the world, are mediated throughthese structures, replacing Bunges smooth sphere as the background spaces of humanand political geography. We can use them to better understand (and model) urban andregional forms and urbanisation processes in ways that relate to human practice. We canuse them to better understand and critique different modes and projects of urbanisation.Explication of the organisation of differently scaled centralities and of pedestrian, bicycle andother transportation zones for Smart City' research is just one of the other possibleapplications.


    The residual objectivism of our geographies has been criticised often enough (Gleeson2012). I suggest a root of the problem lies with our spaces, or our conception of them. I dontwant to rehearse here a discussion of absolute, relative and relational spaces as this too has

    been done often enough. What we have still not managed to grasp is what a relational spaceis in its broadest characteristics and in its practical detail. I hope to go some way here tooutlining a view on this.

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    Geographical spaces are not just the spaces of geographies themselves, they are also thescaffolds of our understandings of them. We are not humans who incidentally live in a worldwe can separate from ourselves, we inhabit the spaces of the world and they become oursby virtue of us being here. Spaces are tied up with regimes of living as well as regimes ofthinking (Osborne and Rose 2004) so that what we are doing, what we are thinking, and the

    way we frame actions and thoughts or what we are doing and thinking with becomeimpossible to disentangle. In contemporary life the cartographic representation hasestablished a stranglehold on our spatial imaginations to the extent that anything not thoughtthrough it tends to be regarded as subjective or imaginary as opposed to objective or real. AsI have noted before, even the topologies of networks of places or of the processes of flowsthat feed those placesas in Masseys or Castells conceptions of global spaces and placesfor example are imagined in an orthographic projection, against a cartographic background(see Massey 1994). Im not going to argue against cartographic representation, or against itsreality for that matter, as I believe topologies and topographies are both necessary forunderstanding our geographic spaces; what I want to do is extend the scopes of reality andobjectivity to encompass the spaces through which we act. These spaces, often regarded asmental, subjective and socially constructed, are just as real and even visceral as arethose we see in our maps. Finding a way to find practice, action and thought in physicalitywould resolve the dualisms residually embedded in most of our conceptions of geographiesand open ways to understand better the basic role our built environment plays in mediatingour knowledge and activity.I will suggest here that things are available to our knowledge and action through the builtenvironment more specifically through the way the built environment is organised. One ofthe basic ways our understanding of our environment is disrupted is by the idea we can knowthe world from the outside as if we were looking over it from an aeroplane or satellite as inMasseys well-known zoom in from the stratosphere. The assumption that orthographicprojections represent reality, and that through them we see how things objectively are, is onewe share with other disciplines like artificial intelligence. The idea that things are

    transparently present to us as if we could view them from above implies in fact a mediationby way of generic or unsituated realm of ideas. AI prioritises a cognitive (representation-computation) model of our relation with the world (Agre 1997) and a model of knowledgewhich sees the world divided between corporeal and mental things. Peter Taylor pointed tothis (1999a) by contrasting the view of Jean Gottmann (1951), who suggested that if theworld was simply a smooth sphere there would be no need for the discipline of geography,with that of William Bunge (1973) who argued that with all the ephemeral detail out of theway the spatial laws of geography could operate transparently. The contrast is of a complex,organised material world on the one hand and an essentially rather simple celestial, divine orcerebral world on the other (see Stengers 1997). The main point here is that Bunges theoryoperates in an already formed ideal and absolute space (and time) whereas Gottmannshuman and urban geography is an historical accretion of worldly spaces that I will try to

    elaborate further.The idea of organised complexity originating in our discipline with Jane Jacobs (1961) hasled the work of a number of geographers including Taylor and Edward Soja (Soja 2000). Iwant to add to their insights by investigating what Jacobs complex spaces might be from herfamous declaration that cities come first. I will suggest that what she really meant was thatnetworks come first. Camel trails and shipping routes are not simply devices to facilitateaccess to already existing places, rather the things we think of and do like the town or city are actually effects of these networks.


    The priority of Bunges sort of theory has already been challenged on a number of fronts. Ian

    Hacking, taking his cue from some of mid-century French philosophy (notably Canguilhemand Bachelard) suggested that the microscope and the particle chamber played a

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    substantive role in scientific experiment or discovery (Hacking 1983). These mere artefactswere not just observation devices; the products of experiment actually depended on theirmediation through these devices. Patrick Heelan had also suggested that equipmentproduced rather than deduced results and that crucially, the scientist or observer wasincluded as an integral factor of experiment through the mediation of equipment (Heelan

    1977). Don Ihde suggested that it was as much the telescope as Galileo that discoveredmoon mountains (Ihde 2011). Rather than theory or pure science leading to development ofapplied sciences, technologies come first and trigger the development of the theoreticalsciences (Ihde 1991). Today, such ideas are well known with philosophers like Hacking,Ihde, Peter Galison, and Bruno Latour emphasising the roles of visualisation, laboratoriesand equipment in the constitution of knowledge.In the philosophy of science, taking equipment and practice seriously suggests a move,according to Heelan and Ihde, towards a hermeneutical method where what is meaningful iswhat is made meaningful in an interpretive negotiation with the technical conditions andpractices pertaining. Ihde speaks of a hermeneutics materialised and expanded beyondthe hermeneutics of Dilthey (Ihde 1997). This technoscientific answer to the priority oftheory resonates with a problem of nature we encounter today in a thoroughly technologisedworld (Mitcham 1995). We have tried previously to unfold this problem by understanding it interms of a systematisation of knowledge in a new high-tech informational realm (Castells1989; Lash 2002). However the technologising of our world is no new thing. We may updateand re-technologise our world at regular intervals but the technological dimension isconsistent over time at least over the time we have been human (De Boever et al. 2012).And there is something important in this for us. What the new technoscience perspectivebrings out is the environing of scientific discovery and knowledge in equipment and of amediated seeing of things in the manipulated and prepared material and technologicalconditions that allow the objects specified to be seen. Scientific discovery and knowledge isconditional on the practice and the equipment involved.Thomas Kuhns community of practice (Kuhn 1962) has been expanded to include not just

    the human community of scientists but also the non-human equipment they use as co-participants in scientific discovery. Beyond theory, the equipment tied to the routines andprocedures of science become central to the objects of science to their very being for thecommunity of scientists. There is a particular idea of environment embedded here which tiestogether a number of disparate strands in science, philosophy and the philosophy of science.On the one hand, in a philosophy of experimental science, we can see how the observer,rather than sitting outside the experiment, is enclosed within the bounds of and as part of theexperiment as a manipulator of equipment and a producer of results. This was also the basiclesson also of Foucaults Panopticon where guard, prisoner and the practices andprocedures of supervision are internal productions of a bounded equipment that shapedthem and made them possible (Foucault 1977). Environment here is technical, practicalspecific, bounded and a whole world actively tied up with the activity and knowledge

    generated.The spacing of this can be seen in Jakob von Uexklls ecological view of environment.Uexkll had already proposed that subject or organism and environment constitute a closedcouple productive of both (Uexkll 1957). Uexkll saw environment as being species specificand multiple as different creatures gathered together their own nests, eating places andpathways, and found the meaningful nooks and networks in which their lives were lived.Uexklls followers understand us andother organisms being indivisibly tied in biosemioticrelations with already meaningful worlds (Marks et al. 2009). Such a view suggests weconstruct these worlds that these worlds are in a very broad sense of the word technical.It suggests also these spaces matter fundamentally for the ways we know and do things that they are cultural. We are not simply human and social beings capable of producing andorganising technics, we are also humanised and socialised in technics. Organised

    assemblages of interdependent objects subjects and practices support particular ways of life,

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    particular cultures (Williams 1958) where everything necessary for that life and culture is heldtogether in a world.Space is a worlding. Space is not the surround to a localised identity but the way identity isformed in the links made through a culturo-technically organised and maintained world.Henri Lefebvre referred to this worlding with his mondialisation which he opposed to

    globalisation. But Lefebvre and his precursors Marx and Kostas Axelos found it difficultto accept the integral role technology played in all this (Read et al. 2013). And surely othercreatures manage without the technique? Well, Uexkll and his followers, follow for the mostpart creatures other than humans and show how these creatures environments are shapedto fit. Whole populations of creatures shift material and themselves, and, as I have remarkedbefore: what is this if not technique; what is this if not culture? (Read 2012). Theunderstanding I have just outlined can also be traced to the thinking of Alfred NorthWhitehead who influenced people like Conrad Waddington and Gregory Bateson and anepigenetic biological development thinking. This thinking re-emerges today in StuartKauffmans notions of the biosphere and the adjacent possibilities that determine the path-dependent processes through which environments form and transform (Kauffman 2000).


    I want to know more about how cities are implicated in the spaces of the environing of ushuman creatures. It may be that what cities do or what urbanisation does because these isevidence to suggest that not all unbanisation involves cities (Pomeranz 2000; Thomas 2010) is facilitate or structure our being in readily known worlds of readily known practices andcultures. Cities may be an effect of human and that means human-technological worlding or environing. We may be able to combine a human-technology interdependencewith this idea of a multiplicity of self-made actively supportive environments to suggest a co-creation of particular knowledges and ways of life between the human and the particularculturo-technical or socio-technical world he or she happens to occupy.

    So much has already been suggested in a notion of organised complexity (Weaver 1948) ofthe built environment. Jane Jacobs invocation of this concept was in terms of a diverse mixof people and processes, organised in a web and organising itself in feedback loops (Jacobs1961). What all this meant though was never very clearly articulated, but one of herfollowers, Peter Taylor has developed her thinking with his world-city network idea (2012).Taylors world-city networks are based on a idea from Jacobs of cities coming first andbeing connected in networks in a way that is fundamental and necessary to their veryexistence (Jacobs 1969). Networks are used elsewhere in thinking about cities, but Braudel,and later Taylor, developed a more historicised network logic of cities. Braudel saw these interms of a succession of world-economies (Braudel 1984). Taylor built on this with his ideaof a succession of modernities (Taylor 1999a), each of which represents a massivehistorical shift of forces (Braudel 1984:32) with concomitant shifts in the centre of world-

    economy and modernity from tentative beginnings in Venetian, Genoese, and Flemishspheres of hegemony, to Amsterdam, to London and to New York. These world-economiesare global, and progressively more so, have a unified division and reintegration of labour inthe network and accumulation processes stretched between its always more advanced,historically enlarging, and geographically shifting core and its always less advanced,disproportionately enlarging, and geographically shifting periphery. Hopkins (1982:11).Articulating world-economies and modernities are a succession of world-city networks, andthe constitution of these networks is also interesting. In the network world and city stand inmutually constitutive relations with one another. However these networks are complex andtheir constituents and processes multiple so that the relations of part and whole implied in theworld-city are also multiple and complex. Discussions about systems tend to deemphasisethis complexity and the multivalency of processes in which Venetian hegemony was a result

    of commercial and naval power, while Genoas was based on finance, and Antwerp was amarket for merchants from different networks (Slater 2004:593). Early world-economies were

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    a patchy and uncertain affair, and only with the rise of Amsterdam did capitalism become areasonably coherent series of world-economies, each with a new urban centre concentratingflows of economic life and progressing to (near) hegemony before being overturned by thenext (Slater 2004:593). Slater goes on to argue against an over-strict global systematicity ofSassens model of a trinity of powerful global cities formed in response to a global

    hegemony, and to reemphasise history and variations in structure in the past and present ofthe global city (Slater 2004:605). Peter Hall (1966) has also emphasised the multivalency ofworld-cities with different attributes of politics, trade, communications, finance, culture,technology and higher education placing different world-cities of London, Paris, Randstad-Holland, Rhine-Ruhr, Moscow, New York and Tokyo at the top of world-city hierarchies (Hall,1966).Although today there is some discussion, especially from critics (for example Robinson,2002) about what is included and not included in the system, in world- and global citynetworks the system tends to form a closed field that determines the outcome, neglectingpatterns of being in or out of the system that I will highlight. Some see the network of globalcities taking on a different, more abstract global character today (), and there is an assertionby some () and a presumption by others that a globality and global hegemony have beenachieved. The difference implicit in a global cities view and a world cities view reflects thedifference between Henri Lefebvres notions of globalisation and mondialisation (Read etal. 2013), mondialisation emphasising the becoming world of worlds and globalisationemphasising a more absolute global condition. I would like to stay with the more historicalview, emphasising also the historical contingency, flexibility and multivalency of todaysglobal network.As a more historical and contingent process we could also understand networks integratingprocesses of economy, culture and society at other levels altogether and defining national,regional and urban worlds and progressing historically to (near) hegemony in their turn.But, the attention to the systematicity of networks and the absolute of the globe withuniversals like distance and scale implied has kept attention away from the structural

    effects of relations between networks. This is also true in the world-city discourse whereperipheralisation for example is a systematic effect of the network and what is lost is theperipheralisation that is an effect simply of being out of the network. Lost is the wayinterrelationships between networks may be a systematic means to bringing differentsystematicities different logics together for the complex processes that can never bereduced to one system or one network. What I will suggest is that hierarchy, normallyunderstood as a product of a centre-to-periphery gradient within networks, could be a seenas a relation between networks expressed as levels.While there is no argument that urban networks internalise systemic logics, these systemsare also historical they and their logics are products of construction, adjustment, politickingand negotiation over time. We could think of systematisations being built in networks into afragmented world in order to establish coherence across different ranges and scopes of

    human activity. Systematisation here implies construction not as social construction butas building and as Bruno Latour argues, these constructions are artefacts, but their statusas artefacts does not make them any less real (Latour 2003). Systematisation even impliespartiality because it is not the whole of human affairs that is systematised in any one networkbut only that part related to the business, scope and logics of the network itself. What issystematised will be the attributes and characters of a world we integrate in highly selectiveways through the networks we construct. These attributes and characters are also of the waywe live in these worlds and will be naturalised as part of a way of life as they becomehegemonic in the network.The world of the world-city network is just one of these hegemonic naturalised worlds.Jonathan Israel has argued that while Amsterdam was building its hegemonic world-economy it was simultaneously drawing on the dynamism of an earlier construction of a

    coherent system of waterways covering most of the cities in Holland, Zeeland and Friesland,at something approaching what was to become the national scale. This network interlinked

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    different urban economies and facilitated the rapid circulation of goods and passengersbetween cities (Israel, 2002:xxx). This complicates Amsterdams world-economic network inan interesting way. Amsterdam was no longer acting simply as a city at the centre of itsworld-city network, but as a node at the intersection of two networks, one of them a networkof Dutch cities more coordinated and coherent than there was to be found anywhere else in

    Europe at the time (Israel 2002:16). Israel argues for the creativity of this intersectionbetween a proto-national-city network and a world-city network as across this intersectionflowed not just money and people, but knowledge and other creative assets developed incities like Leyden and Haarlem for example. The United Provinces lacked many of theattributes of a modern state, but, according to Braudel it certainly cannot be said that theDutch government was non-existent (Braudel 1984;193-5;205). There were considerableorganisational structures set up in these early modern networks of economy and governmentand what this sort of structure emphasises is the crossing of different economies of money,people and knowledge in these cross-valency, cross-scalar relations at the point ofintersection.In order to articulate this idea of network organisation and the articulation of differentvalencies it is necessary to differentiate the simplicity of different networks built andconverging historically to a state of being (near) generic levels and the complexity of thecross-valency products of their intersections. The simplicity I am referring to concerns theestablishment here, with different networks, of structures built for intelligibility (knowledge) asmuch as for anything else. These structures, which are constructions, have ametageographic (Lewis & Wigen 1997) role and character, establishing geographic andgeo-political entities like world and nation in the example above. These are humanconstructions that are the material and objective world in which we act they are, like othertechnologies and apparatus, onto-epistemological structures that problematise our Cartesiandualities (Read 2012).We can treat the intersection of world network and nation network in Amsterdam as anintersection of two levels of human geographical action and knowledge, producing

    opportunities and demand for complex work and divisions of labour in the emerging city. Thisconstruction is historical and system in terms I will develop further shortly. Amsterdamsurbanisation and identity is a creative product of this intersection. It is not so much connectedas established in these networks. Networks are not accessibility devices, they are devicesthrough which cities are defined and produced.


    Cities are produced not in abstract universal spaces superimposed on a smooth globe but inconcrete infrastructural grids of networked and isotopic things. Grids of shipping routesand of inland waterways produce spaces of normative and normatively s imilar isotopicthings like cities. They produce them as topologies and at a political -geographical and

    metageographical level, but none of this is idealisation and all of it can be found back on theground (or water). In teaching this my exemplary case is the London Underground. Thetopological link between Shepherds Bush and Acton can be found back in real linesengineered into the skein of engineered networks that is London. As this example indicates,normative, constructed, metageographical things besides cities have been established innetworks: neighbourhoods for example.Again the way we historicise this is critical. The industrial period of the Western Europeancity was also the time of the emergence of public transportation. This systematised mode ofmovement could be traced through a grid of mainstreets we can clearly distinguish from amore general grid of urban walking and backstreets in European industrial city fabric (Read2013). This alerts us to the relatively higher level of scale and publicness of this mainstreetnetwork. This difference is reflected in relatively higher rates and ranges of movement in the

    more public role of the grid. The exemplary case is of course Haussmanns Paris, where thestrategy of driving a joined up network of boulevards through the urban fabric to open it to

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    city-wide traffic was also used to connect emblematic public buildings and railway stations.This city-level network defined a public face and world of the city that stood in contrast tothe quiet streets joined with it, defining a more intimate neighbourhood world.

    Figure 1. Amsterdams more modest Haussmannisation

    Image: Jorge Gil

    In Amsterdam the mainstreet grid connects neighbourhoods in a city-wide network. But italso establishes the face and distributes the elements of the city for people in the city. Itconnects therefore the city with neighbourhoods in a direct way, carrying city-level buildingsand functions and connecting these with the world of the neighbourhood in the backstreetgrid. These levels and their respective worlds are each integrations o f economy, society and

    political or governance by level. They underpin and differentiate distinct regimes ofcommunity and governance, regimes that were originally characteristic of the industrial city.There are issues of space and scale embedded here but no trace of an idealised abstractionof these concepts. The grids themselves are concrete abstractions (Hegel; Lefebvre),concretely defining levels along with their spaces and scales. They are also a very differentway of spatialising these levels to the way we have been accustomed.

    Figure 2. Areal definition of inside-outside relations

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    Image: Jingya Wang

    Figure 3. Network definition of inside outside relations

    We can add these levels to the world network and the nation network I mentioned earlier.Our historical construction of levels now consists of world-city network, nation-city network,

    mainstreet network and backstreet or neighbourhood network. Again, these levels are notabstract but realise the metageographic entities they produce. This reality is readilymappable.Some implications for the more general discussion of level and scale are now clearer.Scale is often thought of as size, but in urban thinking it has also been used to distinguishwhat we could call levels of analysis. However, what these levels are is often not veryclearly understood or articulated. In fact, the ontological status of scales has been contestedwith many warning against their reification (Agnew 1993) and some believing they dont existas anything real at all (Marston et al. 2005). What I have described however is clearlysomething more than level of analysis, abstraction or metaphor. David Prytherchcontributes a reality check, pointing to Wal-Marts geography of big things [given in] theoutsized spatiality of the big box and the global commodity chains in which it is embedded(Prytherch 2002:xxx). From an infrastructural perspective Wal-Marts global operationsdepend on a tightly coordinated sociotechnical organisation, in which goods, people and

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    machines are distributed and scheduled. The space-time of this organisation is thisdistribution and scheduling, which is maintained by managerial, administrative and technicaloperatives who enact complex sequences and interconnections and guarantee the materialand informational transactions that flow across it. Like any strategic construction, this one ismaintained, and any breakdown of this space-time is met by a remedial response.

    But, I would argue, the scale in Wal-Marts geography of big things is something thissociotechnical system inherits from another more generic network metageography into whichWal-Marts global operations are, and must be, fitted. It is this more generic geography thatworld-city networks, waterways and mainstreets have pointed us to. Prytherch still suggestshowever that hierarchies of scale may inhere more in a territorialized imaginary in politicalgeography than scale itself (Prytherch xxx) suggesting to me that at least a part of the scaleproblem concerns a difficulty we have understanding how our sociotechnically constructedworlds are at the same time objective and epistemological in an equipmental nexus that isset up to support and even produce both. The world produced is both real and constructed,incorporating organisation and embedding knowledge about that world.The construction I have described is clearly not a nested hierarchy of bounded spaces ofdiffering size, such as the local, regional, national and global (Delaney & Leitner 1997:93). Ishowed how our conventional understanding of the spatialisation of cities andneighbourhoods by a diagram of nested areas needs to be supplemented by anotherdiagram of overlaid grids. Space is no longer defined in bounded entities at all but in actualtechnical infrastructures representing and enacting grids of metageographic levels andplaces. Levels and scales inhere in the grids themselves, through the places enacted andknown in them. Through these grids we can understand nested hierarchies ofneighbourhoods, cities, regions, nations, and the world as given in these. This verticality isscale as we understand and live it in our everyday lives. We dont deal with a continuousreality which is then broken into distinctive discontinuous entities by our epistemologicalprocesses, rather the discontinuities are constructed at an ontological level so that they existin the world. Grids are onto-epistemological the very existence of neighbourhoods or cities

    as we know these things is tied up with grids, while it is through grids that we know themetageographies concerned.Grids are not ways to connect already existing things, they are a condition of thingsexistence. Networks do indeed come first! This condition is tied to some hard objectivefactors like the material form and organisation of these grids both in themselves and in theirrelations with others. The difficulties we have with these forms of knowledge-existence has todo with the way they problematise our categorical ontology-epistemology distinctions (Read2012).


    These grids or infrastructures are not just technique, they are the basic facilities, services,

    and installations needed for the functioning of a community or society (Edwards, 2003:187).Paul Edwards also makes the point negatively, defining infrastructure as those systemswithout which contemporary societies cannot function (Edwards, 2003:187). The systemshere are precisely those pervasive, naturalised, relatively low-tech socio-technics withoutwhich urban societies throughout history could not have functioned. Infrastructures aresociotechnical in nature and deliver social organisation consisting of socially communicatedbackground knowledge, general acceptance and reliance, and near-ubiquitous accessibility(Edwards, 2003:xxx). The dont justgive us systemic, societywide control over the variabilityinherent in the natural environment (Edwards, 2003:xxx) they also organise things into adistinct modern world, delivering capacities that have themselves become naturalised andstandards of comfort unknown outside such a world.Infrastructural knowledge is an internally related self-contextualising whole, a Wittgensteinian

    form of life (Wittgenstein 1958), in which the different elements and practices in the networkmake sense by virtue of their mutual interrelationships in a sort of cultural or life paradigm.

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    Here we understand the notion of paradigm in the relational sense Thomas Kuhn uses it; asa set of practices (and associated material elements) that bind a community of practice(Kuhn 1962). In this sense infrastructures integrate the practices and elements of acommunity or society and become environment to them. To live within the multiple,interlocking infrastructures of modern societies is to know ones place in gigantic systems

    that both enable and constrain us (Edwards 2003:191). Building infrastructures has beenconstitutive of the modern condition, in almost every conceivable sense. At the same time,ideologies and discourses of modernism have helped define the purposes, goals, andcharacteristics of those infrastructures. In other words, the co-construction of technology andmodernity can be seen with exceptional clarity in the case of infrastructure (Edwards2003:191).The idea of sociotechnical infrastructures can start to explain the relation between the primemodernities of Taylor and the systems they depend on. System or infrastructure builderslike Thomas Edison require multiple technical components as well as social, cultural andeconomic factors to work together for a complex system to work (Hughes 1987).Infrastructures are not simply technology expanded and it is not simply railway engines ormotor cars that change the course of modern life. Infrastructures are tightly organisedintegrations of multiple social, cultural, economic and technical factors and components.These integrations have real presences in the world, with distributions, scopes, ranges,transparency or intelligibility, public access points, protected technical zones and designedand undesigned or colateral effects. They work like Patrick Heelans experimentalequipment, producing results. We could understand these as sociotechnical spaces (Read,2012) which operate at every level of urban societies including, but not limited to the world-economy. World or global infrastructures are not the only ones operative in any primemodernity, there are also infrastructures at national levels, many at urban levels, supportingbasic daily patterns and relations of our cities, and many more at levels above and belowthis. In fact, there are a multiplicity of infrastructures supporting modern economies, culturesand societies.

    These infrastructures dont exist in a transparent, frictionless preexisting or absolute space.They are themselves spatial and scalar, existing in, supporting, and supported and evenshaped by, a multiplicity of geographical levels that relate to different ways of life andcommunities of practice. These levels give ranges and scopes to economies, cultures andsocieties, from those of world-economies, cultures and societies, to others at regional,national, urban and other levels. These levels also interrelate in order that the wholecomplexity of production, consumption and other processes that animate modern life becomeoperational. Light bulbs and telephones connect with electric reticulation and telephone lines,meter reading and billing systems, but they also link with the cities and neighbourhoods ofhouses which preceded them and into which they were initially installed. Railway enginesand motor cars connect with tracks, stations and modern highways, but they connect alsowith the networks of cities that preceded them. These spaces dont just equip us to do things,

    they equip us in a world already legible and distributed in networks.


    In many cases, certainly when it comes to railways and highway systems, their spacesreinforce these legible spaces and make them even more legible. They incorporate andembed the places and the logics of the relations of places to enable us to see the worldbetter at different levels or scales and to act in it at these levels and scales. The kinds ofinfrastructures that embed places also embed, as networks organised in levels, the logics ofplaces relations with each other. Through them we understand our territories and our placesin them and through them other sociotechnical networks are woven. A relatively low-tech,socio-tech, network of known and named places has preceded the contemporary mobility

    and information revolutions and it is through this other network logic that new network logicsof modern travel and communication and social and business organisation is still mediated.

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    But what has been prioritised and made legible, and in what socio-technical framing, is a vitalquestion. In Braudels succession of world-economies and Taylors succession ofmodernities, these framings shift from the one historical phase to the next. These world-shifts combined also with urban and regional projects of particular times. I have shown thesignificance of the proto-national city network Amsterdam was part of. The industrial period

    of the Western European city saw the expansion of the city and profound changes inproduction and consumption logics and logistics. Walter Benjamin for example has describeda new urban speed and scale. The urban grids, trams and metro systems, characteristic ofthis period were a project of restructuring and rescaling carried out with enormous publicinvestment to open new areas for urbanisation and investment (Harvey 2006). I have alreadymentioned Haussmanns Paris, where the city-level network supported new logics, logisticsand image of the city and an urbanisation of urban mainstreets, boulevards andneighbourhoods. This pre-second world war mode of urbanisation was structured differentlyto the car-based urbanisation. Whereas the neighbourhoods and centres of industrialurbanisation were distributed on, and oriented towards, the boulevards and publictransportation networks within the industrial city, those built after the war were distributed onand oriented towards inter-city commuter highways and railways. Here the emblematic caseis the New Deal highway building of the United States. Although the motorcar was a featureof urban life before the middle of the twentieth century, it was not until after the second worldwar that it became a mode of everyday mass transportation, and the specific transportationnetworks associated with this mass transportation mode began to be systematically built(Schipper 2008; Berman 1982), while these new grids attracted and attached themselves tonew technologies a motorcar affordable to most people and a new suburban way of life.The new urban structure here involved retrofitting an industrial city and intercity connectionsinto new metropolitan configurations and here the emblematic cases were Robert MosesNew York and Abercrombies London. The highway, the motorcar and suburban living joinedtogether in a socio-technical complex way of life much as the urban grid, publictransportation and industrial neighbourhood living had 50 to 100 years previously.

    The post-war intercity building corresponded again with a new speed and scale of the city asthe city grew to metropolitan size. This again involved massive public investment whichopened up new territories for urbanisation and investment (Harvey 1985). Urbanisationproceeds as a series of large projects we can associate with moments of overaccumulationand crisis in the history of capitalism. These crises provoke responses which open newopportunities and new territories for development and we can associate these, according toworld systems theorists (Arrighi 2006), with phases of the development of capitalism. Harveyhas already suggested the need for each of these rescalings was provoked by a crisis incapitalism and that we can characterise these projects as spatial fixes (Harvey 2001).


    We have had difficulty finding the shapes of our societies and territories in absolute spacesand abstract or universal conceptions of distance and scale. Neither societies nor territoriesare continuous but where to put the point of the knife to prise significant differences apart hasnot been clear. An archaeological conception of material culture joins with Heideggershermeneutics in having non-human social stuff distributed to-hand around the actor. We seestuff distributed in human environments in intelligible arrangements in which material andour knowledge of that material are not separated but entwined in these sorts of materialorganisation themselves. Humans have managed to create multiple forms of life and theway they have done this is by forming multiple spaces technologically, as social andtechnical worlds, within which objects subjects and actions (things, knowledge andpractices) are internally regulated. And these spaces are constrained by and connected to aset of concrete geographical structures which is the basic structure of territories.

    The organisation is in the form of networks, which I have called grids. These are not devicesfor transmitting flows so much as for distributing places. Grids and places join in mutually

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    constitutive arrangements so that places like cities or neighbourhoods depend on the gridand networks come first.The way humans parse the world in knowledge, in terms of scale or level, and the global,national, regional, urban, neighbourhood or domestic worlds these imply, is already built intothe world, not to be seen in orthographic projection but as a topology of layered grids that are

    strategically intersected to form complex real places at the intersections. Thesemetageographical constructions appear as successive projects of modernity which haveinvolved massive public investments and state involvement. These successive modernitieshave each built on the past to construct their own sets of metageographical elementsintersected together in and shaping particular modes of urbanisation.The notion of region not to mention that of scale begins to be rather concretely defined. Weexist in a topological structure of normative entities articulated in concretely formed networkspaces that are rather clearly and strictly structured. It is within this structured constraint thatthe degrees of freedom in which we do things and find alternatives and make choices areplayed out. This is a long way off the transparent accessibility space of the orthographicprojection but this is the space or these are the spaces of our human geographical andurban knowledge and action. It is not too much to say that it is in this topography that ourregions and cities are structured and formed. The sorts of power inhering in all this has itsprinciple not so much in a person as in a certain concerted distribution of bodies, surfaces,lights, gazes; in an arrangement whose internal mechanisms produce the relation in whichindividuals are caught up" (Foucault 1977:202).


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