Geographers are only just starting to theorize and study the emerging phenomenon of cyber- space. City of Bits, however, is one of the few works about . City of Bits: Space, Place, and the Infobahn. William J. Mitchell; Emerging World Cities in Pacific Asia. Fu-chen Lo and Yue-man Yeung, editors. City of Bits: Space, Place, and the Infobahn. William J. Mitchell, Author MIT Press (MA) $20 (p) ISBN

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With this interactive site, Mitchell, dean of architecture and planning at M. The seven chapters are amply hyperlinked, reviews will be posted on an ongoing basis, and readers adn invited to leave comments, to which the author may respond. Mitchell even provides the URLs to hundreds of ‘surf sites’ that cover subjects from advertising to the World Wide Web.

Eventually, however, the book must be read. Here the site falters somewhat.

Mitchell spends a lot of time musing about cyberspace’s history and the digital future in overwrought prose, describing a book as ‘tree flakes encased in dead cow,’ and the Internet as a ‘worldwide, time-zone-spanning optic nerve with electronic eyeballs at its endpoints? It’s doubtful, for example, that a nation unable to agree on a national health care plan would support homes networked as virtual clinics, replete with diagnostic and monitoring devices.


Mitchell is on firmer ground when he offers suggestions on how virtual and physical public spaces should relate.

City of Bits: Space, Place And The Infobahn

Citizen access to electronic public sites such as government agency Web pages and community networks shouldn’t be limited off computers in the home or business, he writes.

People need access via civic architecture: Here Mitchell is more realistic: Finally, as parks and squares must be attractive to all, so should the public areas of cyberspace.

An interface that depends on ‘cryptic xpace writes Mitchell, ‘is as much a barrier to most people as is a flight of steps to a park user in a wheelchair. The bandwidth-disadvantaged are the new have-nots.

City of Bits: Space, Place And The Infobahn

It’s simple; if you cannot get bits on and off in sufficient quantity, you cannot directly benefit from the Net. The consequences of this are brutally obvious. If the value of real estate in olace traditional urban fabric is determined by location, location, location, as spxce pundits never tire of repeatingthen infobahj value of a network connection is determined by bandwidth, bandwidth, bandwidth.

Accessibility is redefined; tapping directly into a broadband data highway is like being on Main Street, but a low baud-rate connection puts you out in the boonies, where the flow of information reduces to a trickle, where you cannot make so many connections, and where interactions are less intense.

The bondage of bandwidth is displacing the tyranny of distance, and a new economy of land use and transportation is emerging — an economy in which high-bandwidth connectivity is an increasingly crucial variable.


Since the cost of a high-bandwidth cable connection grows with distance, information hot spots often develop around high-capacity data sources, much as oases grow up around wells. Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future?

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Space, Place And The Infobahn. Soon users of Columbia University’s law library will be able to retrieve texts from computer workstations because the school opted to digitize its collection instead of constructing a new building.

And so the digital realm overpowers and redefines our physical environment and, in the process, raises new architectural and urban design issues, claims William Mitchell in the online version of his book City of Bits.

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