New concept of accessibility

Unlike past decades, location does not matter so much anymore. We can perform most of our social activities online in virtual manners. To what extent is this happening? The internet has radically changed our perceptions of accessibility by weakening the traditionally strong links between activity, distance, place and time – this in turn is influencing the structure of our cities and regions.
What are the implications of this for inclusion/ exclusion of various social groups?
What are the implications of this for city and transport planning strategies in urban and rural areas?

• In this era, individuals and organisations live in ‘multiple spaces’ incorporating the physical,electronic, and virtual worlds, which are creating numerous new socioeconomic opportunities and challenges.

• The interaction between social networks and activity-travel patterns affect the urban-spatial evolution. New places might become dominant by personal advocating in social media platforms.

• Spatial locations of social network members are important for the performance of joint activities.

• Places are not only passive containers, but are indeed the very expression of cultures.

• New technologies create virtual spaces.

Mobile communications are associated with the disconnection of activities from specific locations, leading to increasing flexibility in the timing and location of activities (Couclelis, 2004; Dal Fiore et al., 2014; Lenz & Nobis, 2007; Schwanen & Kwan, 2008). Patterns of mobility have become less structured and thus less predictable. This shift has introduced increasing complexity in travel-related decision processes and practices, and the recent literature has been “recalculating its route” to meet the challenge and promote new research agendas.

Two basic elements represent the social context of the traveller: “the geography of activity space” (which is determined, amongst other things, by the spatial locations of social network members and the performance of joint activities) and other “non- geographical elements of knowledge” (Axhausen, 2006). These elements are conceptually contradicting each other; on the one hand social networks function as resources in the context of travel decisions, by leveraging the person’s knowledge and abilities. On the other hand, the joint activities with other network members requires the scheduling and coordination with others, thus imposing constraints on the individual’s travel decision process.

Axhausen (2003) puts the interaction between social networks and activity-travel patterns within the context of urban-spatial evolution. Urban decentralisation and dispersion, enabled by transport technologies, have contributed to the spread of social networks which have become less embedded in the local context and practices of daily lives. The spatial spread of social networks has been supported by emerging telecommunication technologies. These processes may have

1.   The quality of contacts may have changed due to increased spatial separation such that the distribution of contact densities should be formed of fewer strong ties and more superficial ties.

2.   The number of active contacts may have increased because telecommunication technologies assist in maintaining remote relationships and also increase the amount of free time available for social interaction. Moreover, the decreasing costs of telecommunications allow more contact time.

(This also follows from the conceptual analysis in Carrasco et al., 2008).

3.   As the spatial locations of people are less important in establishing social contacts, people can be more selective and more satisfied from their social network.

The main conclusion from this description of trends is that the increase in leisure travel could be attributed to the trends in the spatial spread of social networks. This conclusion relates to the line of research focusing on social networks as generators of social travel. However, the description of these trends also has implications regarding the effect of social networks on travel through the exchange of information.

McCullough (2007) noted that places are not only passive containers, but are indeed the very expression of cultures. Arora (2012) broadened this notion and suggested a framework that captures the cultural dimensions of new media spaces based on five typologies: 1) utilitarian-driven; 2) aesthetic-driven; 3) context-driven; 4) play-driven; and 5) value-driven. This framework transfers mapping of diverse actors and networks from the real world to the virtual space to capture and organize diverse cultural aspects. This framework allows the exploring of online spaces to be transformed into physical places, serving as spatial metaphors for unravelling social relations, histories, and attitudes.

  • Arora, P. (2012). Typology of Web 2.0 spheres: Understanding the cultural dimensions of social media spaces. Current Sociology, 60(5), 599-618.
  • Axhausen, K. W. (2003). Social networks and travel. Institut für Verkehrsplanung und Transportsysteme (Zürich).
  • Axhausen, K. W. (2006, June). Social factors in future travel: an assessment. In IEE Proceedings-Intelligent Transport Systems (Vol. 153, No. 2, pp. 156-166). IET Digital Library.
  • Carrasco, J.A., Hogan, B., Wellman, B.& Miller, E.J. 2008. Collecting Social Network Data to Study Social Activity-Travel Behavior: an Egocentric Approach. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design 35: 961-980.
  • Couclelis, H. (2004). Pizza over the Internet: e-commerce, the fragmentation of activity and the tyranny of the region. Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, 16(1), 41-54.
  • Dal Fiore, F., Mokhtarian, P. L., Salomon, I., & Singer, M. E. (2014). “Nomads at last”? A set of perspectives on how mobile technology may affect travel. Journal of Transport Geography, 41, 97-106.
  • Lenz, B., & Nobis, C. (2007). The changing allocation of activities in space and time by the use of ICT—“Fragmentation” as a new concept and empirical results. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 41(2), 190-204.
  • McCullough, M. (2007). New media urbanism: grounding ambient information technology. ENVIRONMENT AND PLANNING B PLANNING AND DESIGN, 34(3), 383.
  • Schwanen, T., & Kwan, M. P. (2008). The Internet, mobile phone and space-time constraints. Geoforum, 39(3), 1362-1377.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.