Spatial Semiotics: toward an economic geography of information

Authors: Ulysses Pascal*,
Topics: Digital Geographies, Economic Geography
Keywords: information, economic geography, digital geography, semiotics, infrastructure
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 34
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Information occupies at least two semiotic dimensions: the indexical and the diagrammatic. Indexicality grounds information materially, as the circuit through which information becomes about something else. Diagrammaticity is the internal structure or pattern of information that affords the possibility of being abstracted and remediated. While dominant imaginaries of the digital celebrate information’s abstract immateriality as non-excludable and non-rivalrous-in-use with a low marginal cost of production, critical researchers have demonstrated information’s materiality by drawing attention to the infrastructures undergirding monopolistic platforms, assetized data, and energy-intensive datacenters. But the refrain that “materiality matters” does little to explain the unique semiotic affordances that information does have. Information can be copied, aggregated, and reused in ways that defy previous logics of accumulation. Without a model for the multiple dimensions of information, theories of digital platforms, industrial agglomerations, communication networks, and globalized financial marketplaces produce contradictory paradigms that fail to model the economic geography of information economies. The relational space occupied by indexes and the relative space engendered by diagrams resolves the tension between materialist and immaterialist theories of information, by grounding the dimensions of information in space, thereby subjecting the production, circulation, and realization of informatic value to geographic constraints. By tracing the material semiotic affordances of indexicality and diagrammaticity through a range of digital infrastructures—from microchips to marketplaces—I demonstrate how the spatialities specific to these dimensions of information constrain the conditions under which information can be valued as information, and thereby shape the information economy.

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