2004 volume 36(2) pages 195 – 211
doi:10.1068/a3698

Cite as:
Dodge M, Kitchin R, 2004, "Flying through code/space: the real virtuality of air travel" Environment and Planning A 36(2) 195 – 211

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Flying through code/space: the real virtuality of air travel

Martin Dodge, Rob Kitchin

Received 4 April 2003; in revised form 25 July 2003

Abstract. Commercial air travel is a key global industry facilitating the complex daily movements of planes, people, goods, and services across the world. In this paper we analyse contemporary air travel through the conceptualisation of a culture of real virtuality. We contend that air travel now consists of passage through 'code/space'. Such code/space includes travel websites, check-in, security checkpoints, flight decks, air-traffic control, immigration, and customs checkpoints, which together form assemblages that define the practices and experiences of air travel. Code/space is qualitatively different to coded space, in which software influences the production of space, in that code and space are mutually constituted -- produced through one another. This mutual constitution is dyadic so that if either the code or space 'fail', the production of space 'fails'. Our formulation of code/space is nondeterministic and nonuniversal, and how code/space operates and is experienced is embodied through the performances and interactions of the people within the space (between people, and between people and code). In this sense, code/space is constantly in a state of becoming. We illustrate the nature of code/space, and the discursive regimes that support its production, and demonstrate how the code/spaces of an air travel are simultaneously local and global and induce Castells' notions of 'space of flows' and 'timeless time'.

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