André Mondoux is a professor at Université du Québec à Montréal at the Media School (École des médias) of the Communication Faculty. He is the founder and co-director of the GRISQ research group that focuses on information and surveillance in everyday life.
Geolocalization applications and social media: A politico-economic analysis of the construction of space and time
Several sociology studies have shown that contemporary socioeconomic transformations are accompanied by changes in the way space and time are experienced. They have taken the form of metaphors: the compression of space-time, the destruction of space by time and the space of flows. Although these studies show that spatiotemporal compression is the culmination and generalization of a process founded on the symbolic representation of time and abstract space that is the essence of modernity, a number of studies also postulate that the spatiotemporal transformations of today may be characterized by a growing desynchronization between the systemic acceleration demands coming from the economy and from direct experience of the world. Analyzing spatiotemporal structures thus makes it possible to link the macro and micro levels by explaining the way these practices and social representations coordinated and made compatible with the systemic imperatives of modern capitalist societies through norms, constraints and temporal adjustments. Using this approach, this paper attempts to clarify how communication, and specifically the role of social media enhanced by geolocalization tools, contributes to spatiotemporal compression dynamics. Building on work done in media-based geography, I will explain how social media fit into global social relationships and what their role is in the social construction of representations of space and time, using the specific example of geolocalization applications. I will then examine the role these spatiotemporal representations play as economic forces by looking at communications research on how new digital communication technologies seek to reduce the time between production and consumption in business environments so as to speed up the realization of profits. I shall conclude by showing how users of geolocalization applications in the social media are transforming the ‘geography’ of social relationships to meet the economic demands of the market.