The Urban Communication Reader III
Edited By Matthew D. Matsaganis, Victoria J. Gallagher and Susan J. Drucker
7 Containing RFID: Questioning Communication, Technology, and Culture
RFID Technology as Communication Infrastructure
Questioning Communication, Technology, and Culture
Fundamentally, this chapter is a tribute to James Carey, whose work has inspired and provoked the questions guiding most of my research over the past decade. Carey’s work is important for the ways in which he rejected the scientism of much mainstream communication work, instead developing a qualitative line of inquiry examining the ways in which new technologies transform the rituals that constitute community. Carey (1992) drew on the work of John Dewey and Harold Innis (Dewey, 1954; Innis, 2008) to develop a framework for making sense of communication as a container for culture. Instead of thinking of a container as an abstraction, given the increasing interconnection between concrete forms of urban life and the flow of things and ideas mediated by technology, it makes sense to apply the container metaphor to unpack these mediations. Drawing on the transformations associated with both shipping containers and radio frequency identification (RFID) technologies, this chapter applies Carey’s notion of the container to interrogate the economic, political, and cultural changes cities confront as communication technologies alter relations of space, time, and power.
This critically important container framework offers a set of questions about the relationships among power, technology, media and culture and offers a way of identifying the relevant context and scale for examining communication technology, a framework Carey used to analyze changes in the relations among cities (1992, p. 153). The study...
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