RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2017

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251 Digital Power, Decolonising Life: Platforms and Place
Affiliation Digital Geographies Working Group
Convenor(s) Clancy Wilmott (The University of Manchester, UK)
Sam Hind (University of Warwick, UK)
Michael Duggan (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
Chair(s) Sam Hind (University of Warwick, UK)
Timetable Thursday 31 August 2017, Session 4 (16:50 - 18:30)
Room Skempton Building, Lecture Theatre 201
Session abstract This session explore the ‘decolonising’ (Ngugi 1986, Betts 1998, Smith 1999) possibilities of lived, digital experiences. From migrant workers in the gig economy, to software developers in the tech industry, and from the escalators of Hong Kong, to the estates of North London, digital lives are being increasingly shaped by discriminatory practices, protocols, infrastructures and politics (Nakamura 2009, Noble 2013; 2017, Edelman et al. 2016). These experiences stretch across, and so doing renegotiate spatial distinctions between global North/South, centre/periphery and urban/rural (Jacobs, 1996, Bishop et al. 2003). Whilst such techno-governmental assemblages may shape everyday decisions, movements and bodily practices, they are executed through an often hidden web of procedural, algorithmic, cartographic, or calculative means, often developed through or by colonial processes of governmentality, territorialisation, sovereignty and order. At present, digital life for many remains resolutely, undeniably and unceasingly ‘colonised’ – both in everyday and spectacular variations; despite the fading, and always likely improbable, emancipatory gains from new digital platforms, data sources, initiatives and organizations.

This session invites proposals providing empirical, methodological and conceptual strategies to ‘decolonise the digital’ that are intended to echo and reverberate around historical calls to ‘decolonise the mind’ (Ngugi 1986), and more contemporary efforts to ‘decolonise the curriculum’ (Kamanzi 2015, Shay 2015; 2016). It seeks to give a platform to a multitude of decolonising counterpoints to prevailing digital beliefs, practices, narratives, pitches and projects that have further entrenched privileged, western forms of geographical knowledge-making.
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2017@rgs.org
Transmodern subject-positioning; platform navigation
Giancarlo M Sandoval (Birkbeck, University of London, UK)
The following presentation proposes to look at strategies of what philosophers such as Rosa María Rodriguez Magda, Fernando Zalamea and Enrique Dussell call “transmodernity”, not as a signal towards a newer epoch of decolonized subjectivities which traverses modernity and post-modernity, but as a subject-position to be achieved discursively (acting on) and practically (acting on) to digital platforms. This presents the agent with a chance of epistemic navigation in which hybridity, when unconstrained, can lead to the development of what Srnicek & Williams (2015) call synthetic freedom. Hence, the platform logics that Benjamin Bratton (2016) are both controlling and capable of being edited. This speculative wager reveals itself as aiming to re-engineer epistemic frameworks through the utilization of the transmodern subject-position in which there are no identities, only identifications.
From Psychogeography to Recipricolgeography, a choice to roam
Maryclare Foa (University of the Arts London, UK)
This paper investigates how people physically and virtually experience the outside environment, it traces western his stories of activism and practice (in texts & songs), from Gerard Winstanley’s Diggers through Theroux’s Saunterers, to Beaudelaire’s Flaneur, Debord’s Situationist’s, Alfred Watkin’s Ley Lines, The Ramblers Trespass and Brian Haw’s Peace Protest. Addressing Merleau-Ponty and Bachelard’s phenomenological understandings of place, Rupert Sheldrake’s observation of place, Erving Goffman’s concepts of people in place, and Doreen Massey’s movement of space and place, sonic readings of the environment (Proust and Perac) are explored, and practitioner’s interventions with place are viewed (Agnes Denes, Francis Alys, Katie Patterson, and Phil Smith).

The absence of the female flaneur in this Psychogeographical lineage is redressed with texts by Rebecca Solnit and Anke Gebler, and regarding growing awareness of human impact on the environment, this paper proposes that the term Psychogeography be changed to Reciprocalgeography. Lastly these considerations are viewed in the context of “a defining condition of our timesi” mass migration. As over 65 million people (UNHCR 2017), are displaced from their homeland, the position of contemporary wanders and practitioners is now seen from a changed perspective. While the former (often celebrated), may choose experiences of endurance to revitalize and expand their lives, the latter (largely uncelebrated) undergo journeys of extreme duress in order to survive. This paper proposes that these current stories of migration are a key to our collective humanity, and calls for this institution (The RGS) to document and celebrate these extraordinary journeyers of today.

iDavid Cross, Artist, Activist, and Research Fellow, University of the Arts London in conversation UAL, 2006.
e-cards from Palestine: sharing our experience between activism and research
Valentina Carraro (City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)
Amany Khalifa (Grassroots Jerusalem, Occupied Palestinian Territories)
The combined effect of colonialism and digital technologies in Palestine are unmistakable: from the erasure of Palestinian localities from web-maps, to the deliberate undersupply of power and Internet services in Palestinian neighbourhoods, from geo-technologies of surveillance to Internet censorship. Digital technologies and media, however, are also integral to the work of many Palestinians groups that, like Grassroots Jerusalem, seek to resist the Occupation.

This intervention reflects on the collaboration between Grassroots Jerusalem and a researcher, working on mapping and advocacy projects with Palestinian communities. It draws on our discussions, visual materials, and reports from Jerusalem, in an attempt to explore the challenges emerging at the interface of academic research, activist engagement, and the digital. How can we negotiate our convergent but discrepant needs, as researchers and activists? What difficulties have we encountered in our attempts to subvert existing digital geographies, and harness technologies to the advantage of our participants? And, finally, what did we learn that may be useful to activists and researchers working on similar projects?
Discussants
Clancy Wilmott (The University of Manchester, UK)
Michael Duggan (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
Discussants