In a recent article in Wired, Tim Harford analyses the relationship between technology and distance. All I need to get my work done is a place to perch and a Wi-Fi signal, says Tim, but if that’s true, why do I still live in London, the second most expensive city in the world? The question brings us to the old prophecy about technologies killing distance, that seems to be false. In an older post in this blog, I spoke about the strength of weak ties created through internet, with software like skype. In my daily work, technologies are useful to be connected to my other partners of the european projects working in other places overall Europe, from Riga to Lisbon. Nevertheless, as Tim Hardford points out, techonologies reinforce also my face-by-face relations in Barcelona. In that sense, communications technology and face-to-face interactions are complements like salt and pepper, rather than substitutes like butter and margarine.
That brings me to another issue on technology and distance: new technologies in means of transport. Newer, faster and more sustainable means of transport in the european cities will have a deep impact in the european system of cities. Since today, the High Speed Train connects Barcelona and Madrid, but also the the medium and small cities in the middle. With a new bet for the railway system (not only the high speed train but also the improvement of traditional railway), technologies and face-by-face relations will be more compatible.
I have a friend, usual reader of this blog, who lives in a small village far from Barcelona. He works in the university and hires a flat in the metropolitan region, but he spend most of his time in his village. There he can help family bussiness in agriculture and, with the help of technologies (laptop, blackberry and internet), continue doing his research in sociolinguistics for his PhD. When necessary, he spends some weeks working in Barcelona, where he can cultivate also close relations with other research colleagues (fortunately I’m one of them). I think that this way of life will be much more common in a near future. With good transport infrastructures, it is not necessary to live in the city centre to enjoy the city centre.
Note: This post in english is a test. In doing the post in english, I have widened my potential readers but the possibilities of finding the blog in the internet is much more little than in catalan. I will inform you about audiences.