A geographer's perspective on information technology and industrial activity

Y. Arai, K. Hashimoto, H. Nakamura, H. Sato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It has been a long time since information technology (IT) came to be a key driver in industrial progress. IT is also driving a huge social transformation. Concern over the impact of this transformation has extended into various academic fields. Although the rapid diffusion of IT has been covered extensively in Western Europe and North America, these works show poor relations between object and method, making them difficult to comprehend. We aim to illustrate the trends highlighted by these studies, which focus on the usage of IT in industrial activity and its impact. This article consists of six sections. In section 2, we will look at how IT has been considered in the academic discipline of geography. We will consider the influence of IT to the spatial activities of business organizations in section 3 and 4, focusing on the characteristic of individual industries in section 3, then on business function and office location in section 4. In section 5, we will discuss urban impacts of developing information infrastructures. Finally in section 6, we look at the literature and indicate existing issues. In current geographical studies, the impact of IT on the location of business activity is evaluated in four ways. In the first type of study, IT is seen replacing face-to-face communication. In the second type of study, time saving from IT is examined, and its resulting impact on the location of business activity. In the third type of study, savings in communication costs are discussed, especially the reduction in long distance charges from using digital and satellite technologies. Fourth comes the impact of information infrastructure on regional development. In spite of geographers' empirical observations on the spatial influences that IT brings to business, further issues remain. Because information is invisible, it is difficult to investigate its flow or stock in an enterprise, so we can find few empirical studies, just a lot of work discussing the spatial effect of IT in general. Next, while there are many discussions about business location in relation to IT, there are few studies discussing how IT affects business functions. Yet we know IT does change many functional aspects of an organization. Japanese geographers have paid little attention in their research to non-electrical information activities such as face-to-face contact nor the impact on communication costs. Capitalist societies are being greatly transformed by IT. Though no grand theory on the future direction of society has yet been offered, there is no doubt that IT plays an important role. Enterprises have received positive impacts from IT. A careful, deep understanding of IT impacts on business and a careful debate on how this can be extended to the entire society have great significance in geography. But because of a lack of empirical studies, specific research in this particular sector will also have significance. The following four areas are identified for further study: 1) The application of IT in individual industries; 2) The general impact of IT on information behavior in business; 3) Social aspects of IT relating to globalization and flexibility; and 4) Technological innovation and the labor market.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)550-571
Number of pages22
JournalJapanese Journal of Human Geography
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Business organization
  • Information infrastructures
  • Information technology
  • Office location
  • Regional development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development


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