RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2018

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259 Do algorithms ‘dream’ of space and place? AR and VR as a new frontier of software-mediated spatiality
Affiliation Digital Geographies Working Group
Convenor(s) Michal Rzeszewski (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poland)
Leighton Evans (Swansea University, UK)
Chair(s) Michal Rzeszewski (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poland)
Timetable Friday 31 August 2018, Session 1 (09:00 - 10:40)
Room Sir Martin Evans Building - Physiology B Lecture Theatre
Session abstract The emergence of Augmented Reality (AR) and re-emergence of Virtual Reality (VR) as a viable commercial technology represent new kinds of mediating software where digital objects can be overlaid over the perception of physical space or entirely digital spaces can be created which offer new possibilities for the manipulation, control and dictation of spatiality within those virtual worlds. Software – the end product of code execution that is perceived, experienced and interacted with through VR and AR applications – is increasingly transforming spatialities of our everyday lives and perception of urban spaces (Evans 2011, 2015, Melhuish et al. 2016) Geographical investigations of the relation between space/place and code are many (Leszczynski 2017) and range from automatic production of space (Thrift and French, 2002), through software sorted geographies (Graham 2005) and hybrid spaces (Gordon and Silva 2011) to code/space (Kitchin and Dodge 2011, Kitchin 2017). This session aims to explore the realm of possible theorizations of spaces and places augmented and produced by the use of AR and VR technologies. We answer the call for critical and empirical focus on algorithms (Kitchin 2017) by asking questions about their geographies, biases, origins and everyday uses as implemented and extended through these commercial technologies.

Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: ac2018@rgs.org
The Playeur and Pokemon Go: Examining the Effects of Locative Play on Spatiality and Mobility
Leighton Evans (Swansea University, UK)
Michael Saker (City, University of London, UK)
Pokémon Go is a hugely popular hybrid reality game (HRG) that enables players to occupy a space that is simultaneously physical and digital. This paper summarises the initial findings of a research project designed to explore the impact of Pokémon Go play on spatiality and mobility. Utilising the results of an online survey which received 375 responses from users of Pokémon Go between May 2017 and July 2017 we draw on the concept of the ‘playeur’ (Saker and Evans, 2016) as an approach to understanding the effects of locative play on spatiality and mobility. Three distinct findings are apparent from the research. First, the underpinning game mechanics lead participants to traverse their environment using modified routes in order to play the game effectively. Second, participants frequent new places that they otherwise would not visit outside of the playing the game. Third, reshaped mobilities are supported by the pleasure participants experience through locative play. The overlaying of digital objects in physical space within an established location-based game mechanism provides and incentive change everyday spatial and mobility practices, often in radical ways for players.
Value Disputes in Mixed-Reality Landscapes
Oliver Laas (Tallinn University / Estonian Academy of Arts, Estonia.)
ICT-s are both tools for communication and interpretive technologies that push us toward viewing reality in increasingly informational terms. They are transforming the world into an infosphere—an informational environment constituted by all informational entities, their properties, and mutual relations. Augmented reality (AR) technology—a technology for viewing an interacting with the physical environment through a computer-generated overlay—blurs the boundaries between virtual and real spaces. Such technologies are creating mixed-reality landscapes by merging the infosphere with physical landscapes. Mixed-reality landscapes can become the grounds for value disputes. For example, Pokémon Go (2016) players have trespassed on private property, crowded cemeteries, and sacred sites in their quest to “catch them all.” The ensuing conflicts were at least partly due to conflicting values related to different places and place-related affordances in the mixed-reality landscape within which the game was played. How should such conflicts be resolved? Should we always give preference to physical locations and their non-play-related affordances? Such question will become increasingly pertinent as AR technology continues to develop. The presentation will seek to answer these questions by drawing on James J. Gibson’s ecological theory of perception, Luciano Floridi’s Information Ethics, Aldo Leopold’s land ethics, and Arne Naess’s deep ecology.
Hybrid Natures: Reimagining human-nonhuman relations through Augmented Reality Games
Emma R. Tait (University of Cambridge, UK)
Since the explosive debut of Pokémon Go (2016), Augmented Reality (AR) has become a part of the wider discussions around the social, political and ecological implications of new digital technology. AR occupies a very particular position in blurring perceived boundaries between virtual and actual space, which I argue create new ways to examine human interactions with the environment. This paper explores how experiences of wildlife through augmented reality games shape human-nonhuman relations in the actual world. AR presents an opportunity to bring digital representations of elements of actual nature within virtual reach of people’s everyday lives. The experiences of environment mediated through AR are a combination of design and interpretation between game developers and game players. This design and interpretation relationship is negotiated through the gameplay itself. An essential part of this play is facilitated through game storylines. Gamers engage in a variety of worldbuilding practices to understand their relationship to the game environment and to enable their ability to play the game successfully. What is especially interesting about AR, unlike strictly virtual spaces, is that it does not present a scenario in which the gamer must establish a sense of place with no conception of the landscape of the game. AR modifies people’s everyday landscapes. It is this modification, I argue, that presents new ways of understanding actual world human-nonhuman interactions