This dissertation examines the forms of organizing that occur when code – digital information, networks and interfaces – meets place. Over the past decade since the mainstream adoption of the Internet, there has been a growing body of scholarship about the role of media, communication and information technology in enabling the work of virtual organizations. However, the role of place has been significantly under-theorized. During the same period, our homes, offices and cities have become populated with a wide variety of mobile and wireless technologies – mobile phones, wireless fidelity (WiFi), radio frequency identification tags (RFID) and wireless sensors – that make up an invisible digital information layer in physical space. In order to describe emerging socio-technical arrangements, this dissertation analyzes the people and organizations for whom WiFi networks, and the spaces that they inhibit, play an important role. These include, for example, freelancers coworking from a Starbucks Coffee in New York, hacktivists innovating open source wireless protocols in a basement in Berlin and social entrepreneurs building bottom-up mesh networks in San Francisco. Drawing on theories from communications and science and technology studies, this dissertation applies network ethnography to analyze themes of social construction, sociality and locality. This dissertation argues that mobile and wireless technologies enable an ad-hoc, community or peer-to-peer form of organizing that is deeply embedded in physical location in contrast to current notions of virtual organizations. The concept of codescapes — the integration of digital networks with physical space — is developed to capture the emerging modes of communication, collaboration and innovation that are occurring at the intersection of technology and place. This conceptual reframing of forms of organizing is essential in order to understand the ways in which organizations, architecture, policies and technologies themselves are being reshaped.
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