Space, Power, Meditation and Internet Technologies

Power relations are played out in every space that one inhabits. A great deal of strategic thought and symbolism is enshrined within the spaces that we spend our time. Two of the most obvious relationships of power found through space are the body politic and wealth.

Certain capabilities may be expected to perform conventionally in a certain space, this therefore may be seen as a good example of body politic. For one to be on stage in front of an audience they need to be able to act, for one to be on the football pitch it is expected that they play football, for one to be on the roads it is expected that they drive and for one to be on the ski slopes it is expected that they ski. All of these are measurements of capability that reflect an individual’s bodily strength thus determining their position within given spaces. Special spaces are allocated to all that may have difficulty occupying the same space through disabled spaces, be it for a concert, cinema viewing or car park. Therefore, within public and private spaces there are power relations at play that are demonstrative of the biopolitics of capability and the spaces that people can inhabit are demonstrative of their capability in society. The ability to be capable enough to interact comfortably with space has a heroic element to it, with individuals like Ernest Hemmingway and Christopher Hitchens performing strength through their capacity to of inhabited and reported on strange and often dangerous spaces. Historically racial discrimination has emphasised the most brutal differences in the body politic, with power being determined through the allocation of space in totalitarian regimes like Nazi Germany, Apartheid South Africa and the American South.  

A lot of spaces are defined in part by capital. Normally, the spaces that people inhabit are private or belong to the state. Space has an inherent monetary value that is representative of the wealth of the given area. For instance, if a space is in a wealthy neighbourhood it is likely that that space will cost a lot of money. Therefore, individuals are likely to have access to similar spaces through virtue of their own wealth. The individual might socialise in spaces that are in themselves expensive and thus the friends that they make through these spaces are likely to be of a similar wealth to the host who has invited them, more explicitly, it is unlikely that people will visit a restaurant that they cannot afford. Therefore, the majority of spaces that we incur and interact with are determined or conditioned through, whether we know it or not, relations of capital.

Very often space can demonstrate a connective quality. A certain space is likely to give an indication of a social function. For instance, the experience of music, the experience of cinema, the experience of food, the experience of having the same memory, the experience of having the same DNA, in the example of church and the local pub there might be the collective experience of living in the same area. These qualities are central towards the creation of cultures and the building of networks. For instance, despite the ideas in Christianity being philosophically dull, the ability for the church to build strong social networks is great.

The practice of meditation and exploration of consciousness is conditioned and in part determined by the power relations at play within a given space. If meditation is the exploration of the senses – touch, taste, smell, temperature, pressure, sound – then the condition of these sensory experiences are determined through the contents of space. The food that you eat, the drink that you drink, the smoke that you smoke, the wi-fi that you use, the props, the tables, the chairs the cutlery, the oils, the steam, the tools are all determined by what one finds within space and the way space is conditioned is determined through conditions of biopower and capital. Meditation therefore might give one the means to understand the conscious states that arise within certain spaces, but they are not able to prevent spaces influence on consciousness. What’s more, the space of consciousness has parameters. There are things that won’t get heard. Sights that won’t be seen through virtue of the parameter of sights within a room. There are sound waves that won’t penetrate a certain space. There are smells that will not travel beyond certain rooms just as we have tastes that are only really experienced in the mouth. Given the influence of space on the states of consciousness it is important that meditation takes place within settings that are not likely to be threatening towards the body politic. Of course, the study of meditation is about experiencing pain, but some kind of distinction needs to be made between the reflection of pain and the creation of spatial settings that will actively harm the body, even if the practice of meditation might make the harm manageable and interesting.  

It may be the case that IoT devices effect on space is one of the most effective lenses to measure the social impact of mobile phones and Laptops. Through smart phones and Laptops every space, public and private, has become a supernode. Within almost every space we have 4G mobile network connection, and or Wi-Fi, meaning that a 10 cm by 6 cm object transforms every space into an accessible area to the world’s information and billions of other nodes. Generally, it is the case with the internet that everybody has access towards the same spaces. Access towards these spaces is a result of widespread surveillance that allows the technology monopolies to accumulate data that can be monetized through schemes like targeted advertising. Therefore just as the internet has turned every space into an opportunity to connect and assimilate knowledge, it also served to implement an oppressive form of biopower through virtue of knowing that you are unable to achieve privacy in the presence of an internet enabled device that may either be in the physical space, or outside of it, through belonging to someone within the physical space or someone that is connected towards the individual within the physical space moreover, all spaces now tend to have a series of surveillance devices within them as people always carry a smart phone. This will serve to influence the capabilities needed to effectively inhabit and perform within a given space, an example being the workers ability to be monitored digitally instead of physically. The ability to raise capital within smaller spaces is a result of the power of Internet of Things devices. This has been exemplified through the Coronavirus where businesses managed to function effectively in absence of a collective space through the capability of the internet.  

The performance, occupation and connection of space offers a detailed insight to how power functions. In many ways the biopower and character of an individual can be determined through the spaces that they inhabit. Relations of capital are greatly emphasised through private property but also the individuals that coalesce within that private property. The practice of meditation, despite offering the ability to connect with the senses, cannot be removed from the trappings of space, bio power, capital and technology, although it may well strengthen ones biopower capacity and will certainly give them a more accurate understanding of the quality of space that will likely lead to more insightful observations on power relations. Space has been completely transformed through virtue of the mobile phone as every space becomes connected to all other nodes of society in a variety of creative and complex ways. In turn the power relations associated with carrying a mobile phone add another complex layer towards the impact on space and the accessibility towards digital spaces within small physical space.