Speaking somewhat abstractly, we may properly say that the deliberate movement of objects, persons, and messages to make an impression on another mind is all of one cloth. So close are the processes of transportation and communication, we have no feeling of discomfort when the words are exchanged from their usual context to give us the transportation of ideas and the communication of goods. There is also a direct relationship between development in one field and the other. The modern airport is inconceivable without telecommunications, and a lag in one field will hold back potential development in the other.

The historical role of transportation in the structuring and expansion of human societies is very obvious (57). The hard-surface Roman road, horse, and chariot, made possible the relatively speedy movement of soldier and administrator in an empire ranging from the rocky barrens of the Mediterranean to the dense forests of Northern Europe. The flexibility of the camel, a biological all-terrain vehicle (ATV) in a desert environment, accomplished the same end in the ancient Egyptian civilization. In both cases, the use of papyrus provided the media of administrative communication; a communication lacking in the instance of some other early civilizations which might otherwise have developed extensive administrative machinery (58).

Those of us living in former European colonies, which includes most of the present countries of the world, are particularly aware of the role of transportation in the specifics of settlement (59). The horse, which as an ATV of prairies and steppes permitted nomads to invade agricultural societies, and cattlemen to utilize the plains, was not as efficient in dense jungles and high mountains; accordingly, when we look at the map of South America we see that the great cities have developed at the seaboard and on the pampas, and only now in the age of flight are inland cities like Brasilia coming into their own.

The colonial empires of European countries were primarily facilitated by the development of sail and steam. Sail brought Europeans to the shores of other continents. Where terrain permitted, penetration was furthered by horse and canoe -- the early development of Canada particularly dependent upon the latter -- and large-scale settlement followed with the application of steam to rail. The North American West was won by the horse, but populated by the railway. In contemporary Canada and Alaska, the North is still being won -- but by air. (Penetration and limited use, however, is not necessarily a recommendation for extensive settlement. Arctic and tundra ecology is very sensitive; and the rain forests of the Amazon, Congo and parts of Asia are very important in the oxygen cycle).

Modes of transportation do not merely affect patterns of settlement and trade. They affect our life-style at its roots. Los Angeles dedicated itself to the use of the automobile, and has become a jungle of tangled superhighways. Teenagers secured access to the family car and jalopy and the life-style of North American youth was radically changed in one generation. In saying all this, we do not have to assume a single-cause, direct-effect relationship. We do have to be aware of the complex dimensions we add to society with every introduction of new technology. As suggested when talking about mass and minority media, the railway is a large and obvious phenomenon, the stirrup small and easily overlooked (60, 66).

There are transportation developments at two extremes which are currently of considerable significance. The large and obvious phenomenon is the jumbo and supersonic jet which shrinks the oceans and continents for a growing number of international and trans-continental travellers, and the spacecraft which probes towards neighbouring planets. At the other extreme, the ATV, such as the presently noisy mini-helicopter and hovercraft, is offering a potential freedom from the confines of road and rail and, in negative terms, in some instances offering a further threat to the ecological balance (61). We see merely a glimpse of their potential significance when a helicopter transports a prefabricated cabin and places it down on a mountain side. With the development of solar fuel generation, ground heat pumps, waste-disposal and water-recycling on a self-contained basis, it is no longer necessary for dispersed housing to be deprived of the facilities of municipal services. Other factors will be mentioned later, but at this point it is worth observing that present housing patterns are depriving us of the most fertile agricultural river valleys. British Columbia, for example, has some 2,200,000 people in over one-third of a million square miles of territory, yet one million of them are crowded into the Vancouver region of the Fraser valley lower mainland, and a writer suggests that "we, too, have a population problem, not so much with our numbers as with the way we live." (62)

Mass transportation, and highly complex and expensive equipment needing special servicing, such as the jumbo jet, requires centralized points of boarding and servicing. In this sense, transportation technology furthers the process of centralization. At the same time, however, the movement of goods and persons is multi-directional and can, depending upon other factors, promote dispersion, or decentralization (23). The same jeep, bus, and plane which takes the rancher's son along a dirt road, to the airport, and then to a life in the city, can be used to transport a city child to a life in a rural commune. We should not be hypnotized by the widespread contemporary phenomenon of the flight from rural to urban life; it is reversible and may in fact change direction in decades to come. With rampant population growth, however, the room for dispersion declines and the framework becomes filled out with compact flesh.

In our first chapter, we looked at a model which, in terms of its visual structure (though not necessarily its social effect, as when representing the telephone system) seems very hierarchic and centralized. On the following grid, we now see a model of a different sort. (This model is crudely patterned after the dispersion of populations in a polar projection of the Northern hemisphere.) Each point, or nodule, can be taken to represent anything from a single individual or computerized switching facility to a giant city or regional microwave network.


In this grid, if B1 is Los Angeles, then K2 is Yladivostok, O8 is Bombay, H12 Madrid, G10 London, B5 New York, C5 Montreal, and E2 Vancouver. If B1 is Joe standing on one side of a field, K6 is Bill halfway across and standing beside a large pond; and Jean at C4 is within speaking distance of a group, whereas Mary at M12 must shout to communicate with Leslie at H12. The line of points running down the E and D columns represents the microwave network of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, The line of points in the K column includes the trans-Siberian railway. Marketing systems will want to focus around C4, H1O, O8, and N4, rather than A12. On the other hand, with suitable technology, a marketing system of wider ambitions might well find L8, K12, or even the North Pole at about H5 a suitable point of focus.

The degree to which a mode of transportation prompts the establishment of centralized servicing depends upon the technological dimensions of that mode. The sonic boom of the supersonic craft, for example, detracts from its potential passage over dense populations. The time taken for it to reach efficient operating speeds is such that it cannot be used effectively on anything less than intercontinental or transcontinental flight. The flights of the future are thus likely to be those across oceans and along the fringes of the Arctic. Only a few locations would serve as points of dispatch, and in this sense, the supersonic craft prompts centralization.

Smaller craft, much smaller craft, can efficiently operate as point to point busses. Accordingly, when we look at a map of the total air services provided in the United States for example, we see a layer of long runs (e.g. columns C and K) crossing the continent and passing along the Eastern seaboard, but beneath that, a veritable web of feeder runs and tranverse patterns (e.g., B4 to D4) of multi-directional character. Whether a layer appears "centralizing" or "decentralizing" depends upon the perspective of the viewer (23). From below, the layer above is more centralized; from above, the layer below is more decentralized, if by "decentralized" we mean a greater number of points of entry and exit. The phenomenon presents us with a kaleidoscope extending all the way down to the ATV which itself is dependent upon at least one centralized operation, the spare-parts warehouse.

The net effect of all developments in transportation (and, as we shall discuss, communications) is the establishment of a structure or framework which might be compared to layers of mosaic. The top layer has few pieces, the next layer has many more, and so on down to the bottom, reflecting the layered political structure referred to Regionalism and World Integration. There are points or vertical escalation between layers, and if one is prepared to sacrifice speed, it is possible to traverse large areas of each layer at that particular level; as when one uses a road-bound car to cross a continent rather than park at an airport and fly. The net effect of the transportation web is to make it less necessary that people pass their lives in one physical location. Depending upon the willingness to travel, and the efficiency of linking modes of transportation, it is not necessary that homes, offices, and laboratories be crowded into particular locations; D6 need not feel isolated and pressured to relocate in C4.

We have mentioned the two extremes at which transportation technology has developed in recent years. In past eras, few persons (other than those groups making permanent settlement of a new land) had the opportunity to travel widely in times of peace. These days, the majority of citizens in the more prosperous countries can travel overseas at least once in their life; and even if the people they meet in less prosperous countries cannot as readily do the same, contacts and friendships can flourish. "The jet aircraft, distorting ancient time and distance, aids the process of global homogenization. At the same time, it enables John Bergeron of Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, to discover Jean Bergeron of Shediac, New Brunswick; and the two realize they share certain traits as members of a fragmented culture...and an ancient French sub-culture sparks across a continent."(63)

John may at the same time be a philatelist and Jean a photographer. These diverse interests will take them into yet other circles of relationship. The two Acadians symbolize what is happening within and between continents. The result is a flourishing of voluntary organizations which, at the binational and multinational level, already numbers in the thousands (64). The same relative ease of transportation renders unnecessary much of the rigidity of the center/hinterland patterns of the past. There is no longer as much pressure making a corporation locate both its research facilities and warehouse facilities in the same plant, or even the same country. If research personnel need to examine warehouse operations, they can fly there. If a rarely utilized item of equipment is needed in the laboratory, it can be shipped in a matter of hours. And to the extent that a particular process involves communication, rather than the transportation of physical objects, the need for a physical center itself is open to question. Yet the world at present shows little evidence of halting the headlong race into megopolis and the concentration of research in the leading centers of technology.

Electronic dispersion

The limitation on transportation as a factor in dispersion is its relative slowness and inconvenience at the lower reaches of the layer mosaic. The struggle to drive through the city region, or into the country from the terminals of a rapid-transit system, hampers the development of a different life-style in which we would live closer to Nature and with more breathing space between us. So long as office work, teaching, and similar occupations are geared to physical locations there are severe limitations on our potential ability to disperse back to abandoned hamlets and into the mountains and remaining forests. A mini-helicopter parking lot at the plant is as much a place of congestion as the automobile lot.

Already, however, a small number of executives, researchers, computer programmers, and a few skilled technologists, with computer terminals and modems in their homes, find it possible to carry on a variety of jobs at their place of residence or in facilities well removed from a central plant. It is technologically feasible to monitor an industrial operation on CCTV, to hold a conference or seminar by videophone, and to give instructions to an automated process, without driving to work. Children can be taught by CAl, and the household serviced by ordering from computerized department store catalogues, libraries, banks, etc. In our section on Voluntary systems and activities we mentioned that location is an important factor even with systems not particularly organised around the territorial dimension. Electronic technology can lessen even more the territorial or location factor. If the erotic-dance enthusiast is prepared to settle for an optically-3D representation of the show, this minority taste can be serviced by a dial-up circuit rather than a nightclub location. The sermon or ceremony can equally be attended electronically, rather than physically. On the other hand, the somewhat sterile quality of electronic as contrasted with direct human communication would at the same time prompt some at least to search for compensating relationships, and we could add further growth of holidays featuring participation in encounter or sensitivity groups, and a stronger interest in tactile pleasures such as sculpture and sexuality. (Drugs, contrary to the claims of many users, are an illusory means of replenishing human contact in an anonymous, depersonalized, overpopulated world; the parent assuming the adolescent uses drugs as a path to sexuality would be surprised to realize that drugs for many are an escape from the effort required to establish honest personal relations, whether sexual or otherwise).

When we speak of the dispersion potentialities of electronic technology, however, we have to be careful and acknowledge that technology permits varying degrees of dispersion.. We can be its captives, as well as its beneficiaries; illustrated in the ludicrous by the sunbather who will not swim because he cannot take his transistor radio with him, and more understandably by the home-buyer who rejects a particular location because it is not serviced by cable. The extension of wireless telecommunication, by utilization of frequencies presently beyond our technology, by more efficient allocation of frequencies, and by use of satellite transmission penetrating mountain valleys, is a necessary step if electronic dispersion is to be a fuller reality. In our concluding chapter, we will refer to the impact of electronic dispersion on the political structuring of mankind, and on the problem of censorship by the "state", i.e., levels of coordination.

Decentralized communication systems

The diagram in our section From Telephone to Telesphere is, as a representation of a city's telephone exchanges, incomplete. In reality, superimposed on the pattern of tandem trunks (the lines between A and B...A and N) is another such pattern connecting to the toll office and thence to toll trunks. On a long-distance call, the tandem office is by-passed. The total picture of the telephone system is not so much a hierarchic pyramid as a web of trunks with the multi-directional character of four-biased cloth. To picture it another way, gossip does not merely run up and down the street, it also passes through the block over backyard fences. Furthermore, the real-time speed of electronic communication, and its relative escape from the confines of distance, coupled with the processing speed of the computer, make possible an altogether different type of communication than that represented by filaments attached to a centre.

Refer momentarily to the grid in our section on Transportation. If two squares on the grid represent the maximum distance a person can shout in a large park, all communication between the left side and the right side must pass through E8. Furthermore, D6 and G8 will be in a position to censor or prohibit such communication. Such a pattern tends to favour centralized and hierarchic communication (23). If the area is small and voices can reach from one side to another, the result may be a confusing babble of sound, and again the tendency will be to introduce a system of restraint whereby some discipline is imposed on the number of traversing messages shouted from one point to another. If specific points are designated as message centres they can, as humans, become overloaded.

By contrast, the operating speed of a computerized telecommunication network permits location I8 to emit a message addressed to O7. The signal can travel up column K, across row 4, and down to O7; or the other way round. Since we really have a globe, rather than a rectangle, it may in fact travel all the way around the world if the computerized switching centers in intervening (between columns I and O) squares are busy. The net effect is to lessen dependance on a centralized "nervous system" of communication. As with the layered mosaic of modes of transportation, and the political structure layers discussed in Regionalism and World Integration, we now find an electronic web, with similar layers, and evidencing an interweaving of both skeleton-type patterns and web-cloth patterns.

In slow, clumsy communication (and transportation) systems, it has usually been advantageous to centralize decision-making at point B in the line A....B....C (assuming that A and C are roughly of equal importance in the total process). It may cost more to send two messages BA and BC than one, either AC or CA; but an origination from B ensured an impact on A and C at the same time and with minimal distortion during transmission. With advanced communication, the time and distance factors become relatively less important. A decision made at a headquarters adjacent to A can be delivered simultaneously at C. Furthermore, the decision can be made by electronic conference of persons physically dispersed in A, B, C and N. The decision to strike additional coinage may be made at one point and be processed by the mint a thousand miles away near metal refineries. The governmental structure may be unitary, yet with country-wide dispersion of its agencies. In short, the same electronic technology (and advanced transportation) which makes possible the centralized gathering of country-wide information, and the country-wide dispatch of minute decisions, also makes possible the dispersion of agencies away from the national capital, and the participation of "central government" decision-makers who physically may be dispersed around the nations or the globe.

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