Place, Space, and Time

What does it mean to be “someplace”? What does it mean to exist independently of physical constraints? How fast is fast? When is “right now”?

For millennia, geography has defined human civilizations. As our communications capability increases, as measured by technical specifications if not necessarily emotional ones, the need to be physically located in a certain place to do a job, support a social movement, or complete a business transaction is becoming less of an absolute constraint. Mobile phones, cloud computing, and other tools (such as lightweight project management software or online social networks) allow people and resources to be organized without physical contact; this might be called the emerging domain of space, as in “cyber.” People can put up virtual storefronts on eBay, let Amazon be their supply chain, rent computing from Google to run code written in India, and let PayPal be their treasury system. keeps track of customers and prospects; ADP runs payroll once enough employees sign on. Thus, the actual “business” could physically be the size of a laptop computer.

As place becomes negotiable, so does time. Asynchronous television viewing, for example, is reshaping the cable TV landscape. Comcast bought NBC Universal, which in turn was part of the Hulu joint venture. Apart from sports, college students watch very little television at its scheduled time, or over its traditional channel for that matter. Shopping has ...

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