Drawing on Manuel Castells’ inspiring concepts of space of flows and space of places (1996), we argue that digital platforms play the key role of an interface, a medium, between the space of places and the space of flows. Indeed, digital platforms can be considered as network orchestrators, managing flows of data and information which are produced by users and distributed globally by means of the platform itself. In order to demonstrate how the interfacing process operates on urban space, we investigate the Airbnb platform by applying Castells’ ideas. The contribution develops a spatio-temporal analysis of 12,126 georeferenced listings (accommodations) and 651,515 reviews left by Airbnb users on the platform from 2010 to 2019 in Florence (Italy). Listings and reviews act as an echo chamber for the space of flows and forge specific places that accommodate the requirements of the Airbnb community. Furthermore, the progressive transformation of private apartments into nodes of the global tourism network creates an increasingly fragmented spatial array combining globally connected portions of the city and geographically contiguous but unconnected spaces. Such a process is geographically uneven and reproduces well-known patterns of value concentration where symbols create a virtually-forged urban reality, destined to mimic the place projected in the platform.
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Romano A., Capineri C., Bonini T. (2023)
Interfacing the space of flows and the space of places in the platform society. Ten years of Airbnb in Florence
Rivista Geografica Italiana