RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2014

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353 The Co-production of Digital Geography (1): Theorizing and Positioning Digital Geography
Convenor(s) Elisabeth Roberts (University of Aberdeen, UK)
David Beel (University of Aberdeen, UK)
Chair(s) David Beel (University of Aberdeen, UK)
Timetable Friday 29 August 2014, Session 2 (11:10 - 12:50)
Room Sherfield Building, Room 7
Session abstract The Co-production of Digital Geography: Geographers, the Internet, and Digital Practice

This session seeks to bring together geographers to critically examine the multifarious ways in which developments in digital technology and the Internet have changed geographic practices. Itwill take a two-pronged approach, creating both a space to reflect on digital research methodologies, as well as a platform to disseminate on-going or completed research that is exploring the interface between geography and digital technology.

From eJournals to virtual learning environments to mobile digital devices used in fieldwork, geographers 'are very much software workers’ (Dodge et al, 2009:1284). Not only have research methods, modes of analysis and dissemination altered, so has the scale and type of data available through the Internet and digital technologies. Beyond geographic research itself, these technological developments impact a number of academic activities such as public engagement, administrative responsibilities and career- and project- related online practices. Significantly, they offer an opportunity to create larger research impact and reach a broader spectrum of non-academic publics, through modes of dissemination and processes of engagement and dialogue. Websites, wikis, open access/source publishing, blogs, podcasting, videocasting, discussion forums, social networking sites and video-blogs offer a host of tools for social scientists to conduct innovative research.

Whilst geographers represent active and vibrant online communities, these practices have yet to receive significant critical analysis or be considered in the broader context of digital geographies. Social scientists are only beginning to utilize and critically reflect on the potential of the Internet and new technologies to impact on their research and work practices, examining emerging ethical issues, good practice, and skills gaps (Edwards et al 2012; Hesse-Biber & Griffin 2013). A set of work is emerging that theoretically reconsiders the spatiality of ICTs, the Internet and digital technologies distinct to geographic disciplines (Dodge and Kitchin, 2009; Graham and Zook, 2013) as well as the opportunities and risks of Big Data (Wilson, 2012; Dodge and Kitchin 2013). The session will complement this work by providing an opportunity to fully consider the implications of all forms of digitally mediated geographic practice. It will provide a forum to discuss theoretical and methodological questions together.
Linked Sessions The Co-production of Digital Geography (2): Reflective Digital Practice
The Co-production of Digital Geography (3) Engaging with Digital Resources
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2014@rgs.org
Digital Geographies
Elisabeth Roberts (University of Aberdeen, UK)
David Beel (University of Aberdeen, UK)
Our paper will open up three sessions on digital geographies, which seeks to bring together geographers to critically examine the multifarious ways in which developments in digital technology and the Internet have changed geographic practices. It therefore provides an overview of the multiple critical, theoretical perspectives from across different research contexts and geographical sub-disciplines. ‘Digital geographies’ describe a far-reaching set of geographical research that engages in various ways with a folded and entangled set of relationships that take place between humans, non-humans and technology. Such work seeks to comprehend, from a geographical perspective, the different ways in which increasing and (often seeming) pervasive digital technologies alter perceptions of space and place, as well as at times, changing the types of research questions asked and, the ways in which research is and can be done. We aim to highlight how digital geographies, through research conducted to date, opens up an enlivening space for research that circulates through the interconnectivity of the virtual and the lived, as spaces embedded with specific power relations, economies and practices. The paper will distil a number of overarching current conceptualisations and debates related to ‘the digital’ from wide ranging geographical topics. Through this approach we illustrate the ways in which the digital has impacted across the discipline (and society more broadly) at a number of different points. Finally, we look to the future direction of digital geographies research and critically reflect on the potential of the Internet and new technologies to impact on geographic research and work practices.
Data spaces: towards a physical geography of digital media
Michael Gallagher (University of Glasgow, UK)
This paper considers the physical spaces of networked digital media. I suggest that such an account can contribute valuable insights both to studies of the geographies of digital media, and to critical reflexivity about their use for research.

Kinsley (2013) has argued persuasively for a materialist geography of the digital, countering the notion that virtual spaces exist in an imaginary realm, floating free of the ‘real’ world. I make a broader argument: that critical geographies of digital media need to get to grips with their physical spatiality. Electromagnetic waves, for example, are essential to the operation of networked media technologies, but these are best understood not as matter but as physical energy flows propagating through matter. Kitchin and Dodge (2011) have emphasised the role of software in the production of space; I make a case for also attending to the geographies of hardware. I consider examples of two kinds of physical digital media space: spaces of inscription, used for data storage, and spaces of circulation, used for data transmission.

The paper emerges from my own extensive use of digital media for research over the last five years, including a personal weblog, several audio and audio-visual works, a project exploring the use of digital media in research with children, and research on environmental audio methodologies.
Augmented cities and the geo/coding of places
Sung-Yueh Perng (National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Ireland)
Tracey Lauriault (National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Ireland)
Rob Kitchin (National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Ireland)
This paper seeks to understand augmented cities through the interplay of processes of abstraction and geo/coded specificities. Processes of abstraction in computing are part of architecture building and code writing. It is the practice of formalizing the relationship between various entities observed and the directing of how these behave once an algorithm is set in motion. In this instance, once a social media geo-platform is in play, mobile users geo/code places within the location-based framework become determined by the program. This is therefore the remediation geo-referenced information, that was exchanged by word of mouth and paper maps, to real-time positioning and mobile networking. Once these elements are programmed into the 'city', it becomes an engineered promise of enmeshed and diversely experienced and augmented 'locals'.

The assumptions built into geo-platforms, is that they can be represent anywhere and everywhere. This presumes that cities, the specific entities within them and the relations among these are interchangeable. Concurrently, geo-platforms are continuously being updated, functionality is added and often external actors build new apps and create services to extend them. This questions the initial assumption that one geo-platform fits all places and that places have no specificities. Meanwhile, there is the belief that a city's specificities can be encapsulated in a tweak and/or a hack. The recognition of this tension around processes of abstraction and specificities highlights the misplaced promise and the hope for the seamless alignment between programmed dreams and living in augmented cities.
Porosity, virality and the digital study of contagion
Stephen Hinchliffe (University of Exeter, UK)
Sam Kinsley (University of Exeter, UK)
Rebecca Sandover (University of Exeter, UK)
Clive Sabel (University of Bristol, UK)
How affects, ideas, dispositions and ‘facts’ spread in a digitally mediated milieu is an increasingly prevalent component of how we interrogate the performance of the ‘social’. This paper uses recent and ongoing work around the idea of ‘contagion’ as a means to open up conceptual and methodological debates in order to chart such digital geographies. In particular, we reflect on work concerning the contagion of ideas in social media through searching, scraping and graphing techniques (Marres and Weltevrede, 2013) to ask how do things spread, or better, how can we access the bio-social atmospheres that are the very conditions for contagion?

Exploring the affects of technological ‘black-boxing’, in proprietary digital networks, highlights both the challenges and the potentials of social media research. Thus, in this paper we critically reflect on the practices and technological engagements that underpin investigations of data and online life. Using examples of events performed with and through social media, this paper will explore the rise of ‘digital contagions’, their architecture and formation of networks. Such activities allow for understandings of how contagious atmospheres arise and how little of our thinking, reasoning, emotions or even our cells are ‘ours’. From micro-biomes to somnambulant subjectivities, ‘we’ are, it seems, porous selves.

This porosity has been understood for over a century (Deleuze and Guattari, 2004; Tarde, 1899, 1902, 1903, 2012) but it is only now, as Latour and Lipenay (2009) and others (for example: Sampson, 2012) have argued, that we can start to navigate the bio-social using the affordances of digital trace data. Nevertheless, this remains challenging work and this paper critically engages with both the opportunities and difficulties present in researching our digitally mediated porous selves.
Earth in Vision: interactive archives and ‘digital ideologies’
George Revill (The Open University, UK)
Kim Hammond (The Open University, UK)
Joe Smith (The Open University, UK)
This paper results from an ongoing AHRC funded project Earth in Vision which focuses on the archive of environmental programming collected by the BBC since the mid 1950s. Using a sample of 100 programmes (fifty hours) drawn from the archive the project critically examines the potential of this material as a resource for the making and debating of environmental histories in the context of imagining and planning for environmental futures. It builds on principles of co-production and social learning, and aims to support more plural and dynamic accounts of environmental change. The project is built around exploring the potential materials, structures and tools which could be made publically available on an interactive digital platform.

The paper asks what might be gained and lost when archive material is digitised, made available digitally, and put on a digital interactive platform? It also explores how and what kind of publics collect around such platforms? As conceptual starting points, the paper draws on work by Latour and others concerned with socio-technical orderings and assemblages, and Don Ihde’s post-phenomenology of communicative interaction. Ihde’s work on the relationships between technology and communications is particularly useful because it facilitates examination of the ways in which communicative infrastructures, media, materials, artefacts, translations and practices shape, channel and enable experience in historically and geographically specific ways (Ihde 2009; Langsdorf, 2006). Taken together with critique by digital humanities scholars, these conceptual bases enable us to address what have been termed the ‘digital ideologies’ supporting on line collections and archives.