Time-Space Convergence

The world has never been more connected than it is now. Regardless of where you may live, you may have access to devices connected to the Internet and fast transport (private automobiles and planes). Access to these amenities and services actually appear to decrease distance. Places and people feel much closer to you, even if geographically, they are very far away. Sounds elaborate, but there's a term for this: time-space convergence. Let's take a look at the definition of time-space convergence.

Time-Space Convergence Time-Space Convergence

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Table of contents

    Time-Space Convergence: Geography Definition

    Time-space convergence is the process of travel time diminishing as technological advancements in transportation and communication bring places closer together. Travel times have been consistently decreasing for the last 200 years as stagecoaches replaced walking, railroads replaced stagecoaches, and automobiles replaced railroads. With every step, less time is required to travel to places, making travel easier and more frequent.

    Along with travel, communication technology such as phones, computers, and the internet have further closed the space between places. Whereas letters and face-to-face interaction were the primary forms of communication 200 years ago, we now have ways of meeting people and getting to know them without even stepping out of our rooms!

    Time-Space Convergence, Stagecoach in Gotthard Pass Time-Space Convergence Geography Definition, StudySmarterFig. 1 - Stagecoach in Gotthard Pass, Switzerland; stagecoach travel made places feel 'bigger' than they do now because of the amount of time and distance spent traveling

    Time-space convergence may also mean that the world feels smaller. Humans are social creatures and interactions are a major part of our day, regardless of what tasks or jobs we have to perform. With the ability to travel and communicate with people from all over the world, the distances between us feel much smaller. This has the potential to be a great thing for places and people that thrive on diversity, innovation, and change. However, it means some places have had major disruptions in their way of life and may have seen declines in their population as a result.

    Difference Between Time-Space Convergence and Time-Space Compression

    Before moving forward, you may have also heard of time-space compression. This is an entirely different concept, although it deals with the same issue of time and space. Time-space compression is a Marxist theory proposed by David Harvey to describe how the physical importance of a place decreases as the pace of life increases.2 Harvey proposed this as a result of studying the change in the number of events and activities in day-to-day life in the early 20th century.

    He attributed the rise of globalization to increases in communication across larger distances. As a result, there is greater individualization as people are able to connect anywhere in the world without needing to meet in person. Per his theory, this individualization has led to an increase in social media and a decline in traditional social institutions.

    There are several critiques of space-time compression in that it oversimplifies much bigger processes in the world. First, every person and place is experiencing the world differently, and overgeneralizing the human experience incorrectly categorizes some groups. Second, globalization is occurring as a result of many more factors than just greater speed in communication, even if it is a contributing factor.

    Time-Space Convergence Example

    There are several examples of time-space convergence within transportation and communication technology. While transportation advancements deal more with the physical transfer of things or people, communication advancements highlight the importance of faster information transfer.

    Transportation and Accessibility: US Expansion

    Cities and towns were developed based on how connected they were to resources, people, and other places. If places were geographically isolated, difficult to cross, or simply uninhabitable, it was unlikely anyone would travel there.

    With transportation advances, physical limitations have greatly diminished. As long as a rail line or road can be built, most places are now accessible. Take, for instance, the expansion of the US from east to west. When European settlers first built colonies in the east, they were all in proximity to each other, limited by stagecoach travel.

    Time-Space Convergence, Map of Virginia Railroad Time-Space Convergence Examples, StudySmarterFig. 2 - Map of the Virginia Central Railroad and Planned Construction (1852)

    Over time, the US government acquired more lands westward, and the issue of connectivity and travel arose. Early pioneers took to walking and horseback travel, exposing themselves to dangerous conditions. That was until the mid-1800s when railroad companies began to build new lines across the US. Additionally, the invention of steamboats allowed people to navigate rivers and travel around the US. Farmers had more opportunities to settle in states with more fertile lands.

    These developments spurred several things. First, productivity and industrialization took off, increasing trade throughout different regions in the US. Second, cities began to grow in areas well connected by new transport. Distances that used to take days or weeks to cross only took a few hours. Waves of immigrants migrated west, finding new settlements accessible and full of opportunities.

    Communication and Information Technology

    The US is now well-connected primarily by planes and highways. What has brought people even closer together are the major improvements in speed and timing of communication. Communication technology really took off in the late 1800s with telegraphs linking most of the world together. We've evolved to telephone networks and wireless internet, with personal devices that allow us both greater flexibility and access to one another. Now, companies can hire workers from all over the world, a step only made possible by the growth in communication tools and the importance of information technology.

    Time-Space Convergence, Telegraph Communications Time-Space Convergence Example, StudySmarter

    Fig. 3 - Telegraph Communications in the World (1917); The world became linked by cables and lines with telegraph technology

    As developed countries move into expanding their quaternary sectors, the creation and diffusion of information are critical to being competitive and successful. For instance, in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted governments to shut borders and require companies to make as much of their work as remote as possible. Jobs that required close proximity to others were largely disrupted.

    The surge in transitions to remote work disrupted the lives of most workers, creating a new phase in major global economies. This transition only currently affects about 20% of the US workforce, with the majority of other workers requiring interactions with others.3 However, there's a higher acceptance of remote work, which is only made possible by the rise of smartphones, laptops, and broadband internet. This, in turn, decreases the space between work and home, as they are both experienced in the same place.

    Time-Space Convergence vs Time-Space Divergence

    Time-space convergence is a result of increased interconnections. The opposite of this is time-space divergence, in which transport times have increased while the reliability of services has decreased.4 This is based on increased congestion and worsening transport services due to inequality in access and quality of these services.

    As traveling times increase, mentally the distance also increases. Take, for instance, long queues at the airports after 9/11. Due to the security breaches that occurred at multiple airports, more thorough scans were implemented. This increased waiting times before even boarding the plane, reducing how quickly we could transport ourselves to other places and reducing time-space convergence.

    Time-space divergence can occur anywhere from major cities to small, remote towns. However, lower-income people are most affected by restrictions on transport. This creates an imbalance in the accessibility to opportunities, as people may be limited in where they can go.

    Time-Space Convergence, Traffic grid-lock Time-Space Convergence vs Time-Space Divergence, StudySmarter

    Fig. 4 - Traffic grid-lock in Sao Paulo, Brazil due to traffic light failures; travel times are greatly reduced and people may experience time-space divergence

    Poor urban and transportation planning also contributed to time-space divergence. Increased traffic congestion within cities is a result of failures in the transport system, where the seamless flow of people is slowed and lengthened. These failures depend on the greater transport network and the priorities within them. For cities with the highest traffic congestion rates, there are also low rates of public transit use, walking, and cycling. This means people are using and competing for use of roads rather than relying on other modes. This is due to heavy investments in car infrastructure in order to make them the most convenient mode of transport. However, if traffic congestion persists and worsens, it will increase time-space convergence and decrease the reliability of even private transport modes.

    Time-Space Convergence: Globalization

    Globalization has been made possible by the convergence of technology in the areas of transportation and communication. This has led to a 'shrinking' of the world and a corresponding increase in interaction between people and societies.

    The process of globalization has been advanced by the development of international organizations, such as the World Trade Organization, and by the increasing role of multinational corporations. These organizations increase connections and communication across borders.

    There are some key challenges brought on by globalization, including inequality and environmental degradation due to increased levels of economic activity. Despite the challenges, globalization is likely to continue as technological advances make the world increasingly interconnected (hence, more time-space convergence and diffusion). It is important to manage the process of globalization in order to minimize the negative effects and maximize the positive effects.

    Time-Space Convergence - Key takeaways

    • Time-space convergence is the process of travel time 'shrinking' as technological advancements in transportation and communication bring places closer together.
    • The US expansion westward in the 1800s can be partly attributed to technological advancements in transportation which made previously uninhabited locations more accessible (time-space convergence).
    • Remote work is an acceptable form of working due to advances in communication technology which allow people to work anywhere in the world. Because people can still communicate and perform their jobs, the distance doesn't feel so big.
    • The opposite of time-space convergence is time-space divergence which is the increase in journey times due to congestion and worsening or unequal transport services.
    • Globalization has been made possible by the convergence of technology in the areas of transportation and communication. This has led to a 'shrinking' of the world and a corresponding increase in interaction between people and societies.

    References

    1. Fig. 1, Stagecoach in Gotthard Pass, Switzerland (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stagecoach_Gotthard_Pass.jpg), by Mlodajedza (https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=User:Mlodajedza&action=edit&redlink=1), licensed by CC-BY-SA-4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en)
    2. Harvey, D. The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1990.
    3. Parker, K., Horowitz, J. M., Minkin, R. "COVID-19 Pandemic Continues To Reshape Work in America." Pew Research Center. Feb. 16, 2022.
    4. Knowles, R. D. Transport shaping space: differential collapse in time–space. Journal of Transport Geography. 2006. DOI: 10.1016/j.jtrangeo.2006.07.001.
    5. Fig. 4, Traffic grid-lock in Sao Paulo (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Traffic_gridlock_in_Sao_Paulo,_Brazil.png), by Unknown Author, licensed by CC-BY-SA-4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en)
    Frequently Asked Questions about Time-Space Convergence

    What is time-space in human geography?

    Time-space is the interaction between spatial and temporal functions and how people, environments, and places interact and change within them.

    Is time-space convergence the same as time-space compression?

    No, time-space convergence is the process of travel time 'shrinking' as technological advancements in transportation and communication bring places closer together. Time-space compression is a Marxist theory proposed by David Harvey to describe how the physical importance of a place decreases as the pace of life increases.

    What is an example of time-space convergence?

    An example of time-space convergence is the advancements in communication technology such as smartphones and laptops which allow some people in the quaternary sector to perform remote work. 

    What is the relationship between space time convergence and globalization?

    Globalization has been made possible by the convergence of technology in the areas of transportation and communication (i.e. time-space convergence). Globalization also accelerates time-space convergence as a result.

    Why is time-space convergence important?

    Time-space convergence is meant to describe the feeling of interconnectedness people are increasingly experiencing. 

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    The process of travel time is 'shrinking' as technological advancements in transportation and communication bring places closer together.This is the definition for...

    Which two main technological advancements have increased time-space convergence?

    Time-space convergence has only been occurring in the last decade. 

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