Virtual Geodemographics: Consumer Insight in Online and Offline Spaces

Virtual Geodemographics: Consumer Insight in Online and Offline Spaces

Alex D. Singleton (University of Liverpool, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-040-2.ch022
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Computer mediated communication and the Internet has fundamentally changed how consumers and producers connect and interact across both real space, and has also opened up new opportunities in virtual spaces. This book chapter describes how technologies capable of locating and sorting networked communities of geographically disparate individuals within virtual communities present a sea change in the conception, representation and analysis of socioeconomic distributions through geodemographic analysis. It is argued that through virtual communities, social networks between individuals may subsume the role of neighborhood areas as the most appropriate unit of analysis, and as such, geodemographics needs to be repositioned in order to accommodate social similarities in virtual, as well as geographical, space. The chapter ends by proposing a new model for geodemographics which spans both real and virtual geographies.
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Towards A Geodemography Of Cyberspace?

Before reconsidering the role of geodemographics as a tool for generalized representation it is important to define how online spaces are constructed, as this influences how they can be understood and measured. There is long established interest in how new forms of interaction and place forming processes are enabled by information and communication technology (Adams, 1998; Batty, 1997; Valentine & Holloway, 2002). A useful typology of online and offline spaces is provided by Batty (1997:340):

  • 1.

    place/space: the original domain of geography abstracting place into space using traditional methods;

  • 2.

    cspace: abstractions of space into c(omputer)space, inside computers and their networks;

  • 3.

    cyberspace: new spaces that emerge from cspace through using computers to communicate;

  • 4.

    cyberplace: the impact of the infrastructure of cyberspace on the infrastructure of traditional place.

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