RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2014

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409 The Co-production of Digital Geography (3) Engaging with Digital Resources
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 4 (16:50 - 18:30)
Room Sherfield Building, Room 7
Session abstract 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 (1): Theorizing and Positioning Digital Geography
The Co-production of Digital Geography (2): Reflective Digital Practice
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2014@rgs.org
Co-producing geographical data and developing archive content in Pararchive
Andy Turner (University of Leeds, UK)
Simon Popple (University of Leeds, UK)
Fiona Philip (University of Leeds, UK)
Daniel Mutibwa (University of Leeds, UK)
The aim of the Pararchive project is to co-produce a new 'open' digital resource that will allow anyone to search and collect on-line resources and to combine them with their own media (film, photographs and other ephemera) in order to tell their own stories, make new archives, be creative, start new projects and do their own research. It will, for example, allow communities to research and document their histories via the creative linking of their own digital content with archival material from public institutions such as the BBC and the Science Museum.

While there are many existing websites and tools that allow people to use public archival material, they are usually either commercial or institutional, which means that they are hosted within controlled spaces that constrain what and how digital content can be used. The Pararchive project aims to work with communities to develop new resources from the 'bottom-up' (instead of the conventional 'top-down'), and hope to co-produce a more open resource that functions effectively for a diverse range of users and communities, and which facilitates creative use of public archival content.

Pararchive has engaged with 4 established Community Groups including one based in Stoke which is mapping its industrial heritage focussing on architectural tiles, and one based on the Isle of Bute which is mapping its agricultural heritage. These mapping activities are inherently geographical and the stories of these places already overlap. We hope to tell you a bit about these overlaps and about how archive content is being enriched geographically through co-production and re-use.
Researching the Internet of Things and its spatiality: Actions and everyday practice
Ilze Black (Queen Mary University of London, UK)
Graham White (Queen Mary University of London, UK)
This paper is part of a larger project that develops a critical and phenomenological understanding of the Internet of Things and its social spatiality by uncovering the embodied, experiential meanings of the IOT for a group of open source developers.

The initial motivation for the Internet of Things was a fusion of the physical and digital worlds, enabled by pervasive network connectivity of everything everywhere, thus extending the digital into the physical. Through a phenomenologically inspired ethnographic analysis of the spatial practice of a particular group of developers, of their organisation of conceptual content by language and software tools, we reveal how the representational space of IoT is lived, experienced and challenged and how, as lived space, it is far from being a uniform continuum.

This research is conducted both in real-time and virtual environments. It follows the development of one of the first IoT platforms and the subsequent development of the community driven Air Quality Network. We look at the use of digital platforms such as Meetup, Xivly and digital mailing lists to enable this geographically dispersed community.

We argue that the principles of knowledge exchange and the gift economy are here appropriated into a contemporary mode of production. We also argue that, by willingly submitting to such appropriation, these communities of developers not only take up the avant-garde role of pushing the boundaries of this particular nexus but also, most likely temporarily, occupy the dominant position in a space, both real and digital, otherwise dominated by corporate interests.
The use of digital techniques in the co-production of geography with vulnerable communities
Karen Martin (University of Kent, UK)
Marialena Nikolopoulou (University of Kent, UK)
The production of geography in collaboration with vulnerable communities can be problematic as participantsʼ commitment to the research is impacted by the pressures of poverty on their everyday lives. These challenges increase when digital techniques are employed for data collection or dissemination as no assumptions can be made about the technologies that participants have access to.

We are working with three Trussell Trust foodbanks in the London borough of
Lambeth to investigate where food banks clients and volunteers find and offer support in their local neighbourhood.

Digital technology plays two roles in this study. Firstly, place is used as a focal point for interviews with food bank clients and volunteers. Places where support is found and offered are marked on a paper map. In addition, Google Streetview is used to identify places that are important to food bank clients and volunteers but fall outside the scope of the paper map. Secondly, a primary output of the study is a digital map created from the information gathered during the interviews, along with a review of
food provision and food production initiatives in Lambeth.

This study offers insights into using digital techniques for data collection and dissemination with vulnerable communities. The mixed-methods approach is an opportunity to observe whether disseminating outcomes in a digital format creates a greater impact than using paper-based methods.

The outcomes for this study contribute to understanding of methodologies and techniques for using digital technologies when working with vulnerable communities in the co-production of geography.
The ICT revolution, interdisciplinarity and human geographers: engaging with digital research resources
Lorna Philip (University of Aberdeen, UK)
Kate Pangbourne (University of Aberdeen, UK)
Geography is an inherently broad field of enquiry that historically and today draws upon ideas from many subject areas. Geography’s interdisciplinarity is a quality that has been deepened by particular paradigmatic shifts – the ‘quantitative revolution’ of the 1960s and the more recent ‘cultural turn’ are especially significant in this respect. Indeed, Thrift characterises the rich interchange of ideas within and outwith geography as necessitated by the need to “recognise and understand the myriad new geographies constantly being brought into existence” (Lau, L and Pasquini, M., 2008). The rapid growth in information and communication technology (ICT) is another paradigm shift that geographers have engaged with, which itself creates new geographies. ICT is having far-reaching spatial and cultural impacts, with multiple effects on the discipline of geography: it develops new products that geographers can use to further their research (such as CAQDAS or GIS), it generates new types of data and new abilities to measure or record phenomena.

In this paper we discuss some of the impacts the ICT paradigm shift is having upon interdisciplinary research, as viewed through the engagement challenges uncovered as part of the PolicyGrid project. PolicyGrid (funded under the ESRC Digital Social Research programme) developed OurSpaces, a Virtual Research Environment (VRE) designed to use semantic web technology to support interdisciplinarity in various research configurations. VREs generally support geographically dispersed working but ourSpaces additionally calls for users to engage reflexively and flexibly about how their own disciplinary knowledge influences both their personal research process and the ‘doing’ of research when teams consist of researchers from more than one, and sometimes many, disciplines. On the basis of our experience with the PolicyGrid project, drawing upon interviews with academics working on interdisciplinary research projects and secondary data analysis, we contend that many researchers remain ambivalent about both interdisciplinarity and ICT, particularly with respect to their own deep engagement with more advanced digital resources designed to support research.
Discussant
Rob Kitchin (National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Ireland)
Discussant