# Distance

# DISTANCE

One of the well-recognized benefits of science and technology is that they reduce distance across both space and time. Science looks back in time toward the origins of the cosmos and provides information about microscopic phenomena and distant planets. Technologies of transportation and communication reduce the significance of distance limitations on human travel and personal interaction, making globalization a commonplace experience. But while celebrating the ways in which science and technology bring the far near, some thought must also be given to the ways science and technology can make the near far.

The social critic Ivan Illich (1973) was among the first to note some cultural and political implications of distance reversal. The automobile, for instance, brings the suburbs within a daily commuting distance of the central city, while simultaneously placing a living interaction with the city itself outside the bounds of a simple stroll. Illich argued that automobiles "can shape a city into its image," practically ruling out other forms of locomotion. He coined the term *radical monopoly* to designate this type of exclusivity in rendering a service. Something analogous occurs when the telephone, the Internet, and cell phone enhance interactions with distant relatives and friends, while tending to situate immediate neighbors in other worlds. Such technologies invite people to virtually traverse distances at the same time that they might be contributing decisively to the impoverishment of local collectives, communities, and urban spaces. The advent of online education likewise tends to obscure the importance of nearness in knowledge acquisition (Huyke 2001).

As science attaches to the knowledge of distant places and times a kind of exotic glamour, one has to work hard to pay attention to what is immediately at hand. As people get used to online education, for instance, the illustrations brought forth by distant experts may outshine local experience and events. With the advent of biotechnology, high-yielding herbicide-resistant plants of major commodity crops become available throughout the world, shackling farmers to the patented plants and herbicides of a few multinational conglomerates, while also diverting them from local forms of agriculture and a more diverse produce.

Other commentators highlight the positive potential of such transformations in the character of distance. From the perspective of critical social theory, Andrew Feenberg (2002) calls for the democratic design and control of systems that facilitate self-organizing, nonterritorial communities throughout the globe. He likewise defends online education (which used to be called "distance education"), as long as it is "shaped by educational dialogue rather than the production-oriented logic of automation" (p. 130). The phenomenologist Don Ihde (1990) acknowledges an inevitable over-whelming of near "monocultural lifeworlds"—that is, ingrown German or Italian cultures, and especially indigenous cultures—but argues that independent of political efforts to limit the damage, such lifeworlds will become "pluricultural" through selective adoptions and incorporations. With the use of image-technologies, future traditions will inevitably be characterized by multiplicity and abundance, or what Ihde calls plurality. The local adaptation of global trends, a bringing of the far near sometimes known as "glocalization," can free individuals from the limitations of too specifically conceived traditions.

A third response seeks to identify those conditions that allow for personal, political, and cultural flourishing in the context of sciences and technologies that will continue to bring the far close and make the near distant. One insightful representative of this approach is the philosopher Albert Borgmann. In his 1984 book, *Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life,* Borgmann argued that the key to the good life is engagement with what he calls "focal things and practices" that order and intensify human experience, such as playing music or cross-country running. Contemporary technology, however, exhibits a guiding pattern, which he terms the "device paradigm," that is at odds with such experiences. Rather than needing to be played, music is able to be consumed by CDs and other devices, and running easily becomes an activity that takes place on a running machine rather than in nature.

The abstract problem of distance reversal is made concrete in the technological device itself, which increasingly hides its own near inner workings in favor of unhindered delivery of some commodity. The traditional hearth called forth ordered engagement in cutting wood and tending fire, and how it produced heat was transparent for all to see. The central heating system reduces engagement to a maintenance contract and is more or less mysterious to the consumer. Other examples permeate contemporary life: Few people know how digital clocks work, but such devices unambiguously state the time. Without the burdens of cooking, processed food is everywhere and available at any time. Humans progressively construct a world monopolized by the prominent availability of goods and a parallel disappearance of things and practices that might engage and challenge. Genuine nearness that could lead to "the unity of achievement and enjoyment, of competence and consummation" is replaced by the easy consumption of commodities that in the past would have required the expenditure of time or the traversing of space (Borgmann 1984, pp. 202–203). In the case of virtual reality, the line between the real and the virtual gets blurred in the context of "a deceptive sense of ease and expertise" that comes with digitalized cultural information about things (Borgmann 1999, p. 176).

Borgmann argues for a distinctive reform of technology. He has repeatedly called for the design of technologies that engage people bodily, socially, and politically. In opposition to Illich before him, Borgmann believes that more appropriate or enabling technologies will not constitute the deciding difference for a reformed future, because technological devices exhibit their own perfections and attractiveness. Instead he calls for a two-sector economy that would limit production with devices and of devices, leaving room for and encouragement of focal things and practices. To what extent such a project is politically feasible remains at issue. How it might help meet the challenges of time and space displacements found in scientific knowledge and technological tendencies is yet to be explored.

HÉCTOR JOSÉ HUYKE

SEE ALSO *Material Culture;
Place;
Space*.

## BIBLIOGRAPHY

Borgmann, Albert. (1984). *Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life: A Philosophical Inquiry.* Chicago: University of Chicago Press. A comprehensive inquiry and critique of the technological pattern that prevails in contemporary life.

Borgmann, Albert. (1992). *Crossing the Postmodern Divide.* Chicago: University of Chicago Press. A reflection on the importance of the local and the communal for articulating a vision of postmodern culture.

Borgmann, Albert. (1999). *Holding On to Reality: The Nature of Information at the Turn of the Millennium.* Chicago: University of Chicago Press. A reflection on the history and limits of technological information or information as reality

Borgmann, Albert. (2001). "Opaque and Articulate Design." *International Journal of Technology and Design Education* 11(1): 5–11. A philosophical discussion of technological design from the perspective of the things and practices people value the most.

Feenberg, Andrew. (2002). *Transforming Technology: A Critical Theory Revisited.* Oxford: Oxford University Press. An inquiry on the social values that frame contemporary technology and the possibility of a change in direction based on genuine democratic values.

Huyke, Héctor José. (2001). *Anti-profesor: Reflexiones contra el profesor y su estudiante, con particular atención en la sociedad, el conocimiento y las tecnologías que se promueven en el salón de clases* [Anti-professor: Reflections against the professor and the student with particular attention to the society, the knowledge, and the technologies that are promoted in the classroom]. Río Piedras: Editorial de la Universidad de Puerto Rico. A critique of the university professor's role in reproducing some of the most troubling predicaments of contemporary conditions of life.

Ihde, Don. (1990). *Technology and the Lifeworld: From Garden to Earth.* Bloomington: Indiana University Press. An exploration of some of the most crucial cultural issues presented by the tools and instruments of the contemporary age.

Illich, Ivan. (1973). *Tools for Conviviality.* Berkeley, CA: Heyday. A critical examination of the institutions that dominate modern life and obstruct creativity and joy.

# distance

dis·tance
/ ˈdistəns/
•
n.
1.
an amount of space between two things or people:
*I bicycled the short distance home* |
*the distance between front and rear wheels.*
∎
the condition of being far off; remoteness:

*distance makes things look small*| fig.

*a significant distance between German and Allied understandings of the war.*∎ a far-off point or place:

*watching them*∎ (the distance) the more remote part of what is visible or discernible:

**from a distance**.*I heard police sirens*|

**in the distance***they sped off*∎ an interval of time:

**into the distance**.*a distance of more than twenty years.*∎ fig. the avoidance of familiarity; aloofness or reserve:

*a mix of warmth and distance makes a good neighbor.*2. the full length of a race:

*he claimed the 10,000 meter title in only his second race over the distance.*∎ (the distance) Boxing the scheduled length of a fight:

*he has won his first five fights*∎ the distance from the winning post that a horse must have reached when the winner finishes in order to qualify for a subsequent heat. • v. [tr.] make (someone or something) far off or remote in position or nature:

**inside the distance**.*her mother wished to*∎ (distance oneself from) declare that one is not connected with or a supporter of (someone or something):

**distance**her**from**the rough village children.*he sought to distance himself from the proposals.*∎ Horse Racing beat (a horse) by a distance. PHRASES: go the distance Boxing complete a fight without being knocked out:

*he went the distance after being floored in the first round.*∎ (of a boxing match) last the scheduled length:

*six of his fights went the distance.*∎ Baseball pitch for the entire length of a game. ∎ last for a long time:

*this amplifier system should go the distance.*keep one's distance stay far away:

*keep your distance from birds feeding their young.*∎ maintain one's reserve:

*you had to say nothing and keep your distance.*within —— distance near enough to reach by the means specified:

*the parking lot is within easy walking distance*|

*he wanted to be*within spitting distance within a very short distance. within striking distance near enough to hit or achieve something:

**within**driving**distance of**his grandparents.*the aircraft carrier is dispatched to deep waters within striking distance of Moscow.*

# Distance

# Distance

Distance has two different meanings. It is a number used to characterize the shortest length between two geometric figures, and it is the total length of a path between two people, places, or things. In the first case, the distance between two points is the simplest instance. For instance, if one person is standing 8 ft (2.5 m) away from another person, then the distance the two people are standing apart from each other is 8 feet.

The absolute distance between two points, sometimes called the displacement, can only be a positive number. It can never be a negative number, and can only be zero when the two points are identical. (Distance differs from displacement in this sense because if one were to walk from point A to point B, and then return back to point A by reversing their steps, then displacement equals 0 but distance would be the length from A to B doubled.) Only one straight line exists between any two points, such as, *P* _{1} and *P* _{2} . The length of this line is the shortest distance between *P* _{1} and *P* _{2}.

In the case of parallel lines, the distance between the two lines is the length of a perpendicular segment connecting them. If two figures such as line segments, triangles, circles, cubes, etc. do not intersect, then the distance between them is the shortest distance between any pair of points, one of which lies on one figure and one of which lies on the other.

To determine the distance between two points, a person must first consider a coordinate system. An *xy* coordinate system consists of a horizontal axis (*x* ) and vertical axis (*y* ). Both axes are infinite for positive and negative values. The crossing point of the lines is the origin (O), at which both *x* and *y* values are zero.

The coordinates of point *P* 1 is defined as (*x* _{1}, *y* _{1} ), and point *P* _{2} by (*x* _{2}, *y* _{2} ). The distance, the length of the connecting straight line (P_{1}, P_{2} ), which is the shortest distance between the two points, is given by the equation . In many types of physics and engineering problems, for example, this equation is used in tracking the trajectory of an atomic particle or in determining the lateral motion of a suspension bridge in the presence of high winds.

## Path length

The other meaning of distance is the length of a path. This is easily understood if the path consists entirely of line segments, such the perimeter of a pentagon. The distance is the sum of the lengths of the line segments that make up the perimeter. For curves that

### KEY TERMS

**Absolute distance—** The displacement between two points, independent of orientation.

**Hessian normal form—** A definition of a line such that the line cuts the plane into positive and negative regions; this form attaches sign (+/-) to distance so that a distance measurement indicates displacement and orientation of the measured object from the line.

**Oriented distance—** A distance that indicates direction by sign.

**Path length—** The length of a path, generally determine by calculus.

are not line segments, a continuous path can usually be approximated by a sequence of line segments. Using shorter line segments produces a better approximation. The limiting case, when the lengths of the line segments go to zero, is the distance. A common example would be the circumference of a circle, which is a distance around the circle.

Distance is used commonly in everyday life. It describes how far someone drives to work, to school, or to the shopping mall. Distance is described in astronomy as how many light-years from the Earth to a particular celestial body such as Pluto or a star. It also describes the amount of space between atoms within the science of chemistry. Distance is used very frequently and, thus, is very important to the functioning of society.

Kristin Lewotsky

# Distance

# Distance

Distance has two different meanings. It is a number used to characterize the shortest length between two geometric figures, and it is the total length of a path. In the first case, the distance between two points is the simplest instance.

The absolute distance between two points, sometimes called the displacement, can only be a **positive number** . It can never be a **negative** number, and can only be **zero** when the two points are identical. Only one straight line exists between any two points *P*1 and *P*2. The length of this line is the shortest distance between *P*1 and *P*2.

In the case of **parallel** lines, the distance between the two lines is the length of a **perpendicular** segment connecting them. If two figures such as line segments, triangles, circles, cubes, etc. do not intersect, then the distance between them is the shortest distance between any pair of points, one of which lies on one figure, one of which lies on the other.

To determine the distance between two points, we must first consider a coordinate system. An *xy* coordinate system consists of a horizontal axis (*x*) and vertical axis (*y*). Both axes are infinite for positive and negative values. The crossing **point** of the lines is the origin (O), at which both *x* and *y* values are zero.

We define the coordinates of point *P* 1 as (*x*1, *y*1),and point *P*2 by (*x* 2, *y*2). The distance, the length of the connecting straight line (P1, P2) which is the shortest distance between the two points, is given by the equation d = RADIC(x MINUS x 2 1 2) + (y 2 1 - y2) in many types of **physics** and **engineering** problems, for example, in tracking the trajectory of an atomic particle, or in determining the lateral **motion** of a suspension bridge in the presence of high winds.

## Path length

The other meaning of distance is the length of a path. This is easily understood if the path consists entirely of line segments, such the perimeter of a pentagon. The distance is the sum of the lengths of the line segments that make up the perimeter. For curves that are not line segments, a continuous path can usually be approximated by a sequence of line segments. Using shorter line segments produces a better **approximation** . The limiting case, when the lengths of the line segments go to zero, is the distance. A common example would be the circumference of a **circle** , which is a distance.

Kristin Lewotsky

## KEY TERMS

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .**Absolute distance**—The displacement between two points, independent of orientation.

**Hessian normal form**—A definition of a line such that the line cuts the plane into positive and negative regions; this form attaches sign (+/-) to distance so that a distance measurement indicates displacement and orientation of the measured object from the line.

**Oriented distance**—A distance that indicates direction by sign.

**Path length**—The length of a path, generally determine by calculus.

# Distance

# 123. Distance

See also **264. MEASUREMENT** .

**echolocation**- the fixing of the position of an object by transmitting a signal and measuring the time required for it to bounce back, typically done by radar or sonar.
**hodometer**- odometer.
**nauscopy**- the ability, sometimes pretended, to sight ships or land at great distances.
**odograph**- a device that records the distance traveled; a recording odometer or pedometer.
**odometer**- a device for measuring the distance passed over, as by an automobile. Also spelled
**hodometer**. **pedometer**- a device that measures the distance walked by counting the number of steps taken.
**tachymeter**- a surveying instrument for measuring distance, height, elevation, etc.
**tachymetry**- the measurement of distance, height, elevation, etc., with a tachymeter.
**telemeter****1**. an instrument for measuring the distance of objects from the observer, as the range finder in artillery.**2**. an electronic device for taking readings from other distant instruments.**telemetry**- the science or use of the telemeter; long-distance measurement.
**telepheme***Rare.*- a communication or conversation by telephone.
**viameter**- an early form of odometer, for measuring the distance traveled by a carriage. Also
**viatometer**.

# distance

**distance** distance lends enchantment to the view proverbial saying, late 18th century; originally a quotation from the Scottish poet Thomas Campbell (1777–1844): ‘'Tis distance lends enchantment to the view, And robes the mountain in its azure hue.’ Compare blue are the hills that are far away.

go the distance complete a difficult task or endure an ordeal. A metaphor from boxing, meaning when used of a boxer, ‘complete a match without being knocked out’, and of a boxing match, ‘last the scheduled length’. In the US there is an additional baseball-related sense, ‘pitch for the entire length of an inning’.

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