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Machines for living in: communication technologies and everyday life in times of urban transformation

Ureta Icaza, Sebastian (2006) Machines for living in: communication technologies and everyday life in times of urban transformation. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis investigates the degree to which our everyday conceptions of 'place' have changed in contemporary society, especially in relation to the use of information and communications technologies (ICTs). The empirical evidence is a case study of 20 low-income families who live in Santiago, Chile. These families had just moved to a new social housing estate from the shantytowns and/or situations of extreme overcrowding. The first section of the thesis examines how their conceptions of 'place' have changed as a result of the move. On the one hand, it is difficult for them to perceive the housing estate as a 'place' with the same characteristics as their former home environments (close social networks, common history, etc.) due to a difficult and still incomplete adaptation. On the other hand, their social exclusion, especially demonstrated in terms of their limited spatial mobility, means that their everyday life still unfolds in a limited and relatively static number of places. In these circumstances they develop a minimal concept of place based not on an emotional attachment to a space, but rather on particular practices located in certain time and space. This concept of place is labelled here as 'localities of practices'. The second part of the thesis examines how these 'localities of practices' are becoming increasingly 'mediated,' or the increasing degree to which the use of ICTs permeates the conceptions of place of the members of these families through an analysis of practices related to the use of three particular technologies. The first study shows how the home is a project that has to be constructed in a constant competitive interplay with the place created by television use. The second analyses how the noise produced by hi-fi technologies at very high volumes is used to redefine the spaces of the housing estate against the background of their quite limited material surroundings. The third shows how the use of mobile phones, and the 'media space' created by them, reconstitutes and gives a new meaning to the limitations that these families face when moving through the urban environment of Santiago. As a result of these continual processes of mediation the thesis concludes that along with the physical environment of the housing estate, the spatial environments created by the use of media technologies are key to the construction of 'place' to such a degree that is almost impossible to consider one without the other. They, together, are their "machines for living in"; the setting in which their everyday lives unfold.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2006 Sebastian Ureta Icaza
Library of Congress subject classification: F History United States, Canada, Latin America > F1201 Latin America (General)
H Social Sciences > HE Transportation and Communications
Sets: Departments > Media and Communications
Collections > LSE History of Thought theses
Supervisor: Silverstone, Roger

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