RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2018

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328 Geographical Considerations of Digital Landscapes (1)
Affiliation Digital Geographies Working Group
Quantitative Methods Research Group
Convenor(s) Tess Osborne (University of Birmingham, UK)
Isabel Williams (Newcastle University, UK)
Chair(s) Isabel Williams (Newcastle University, UK)
Timetable Friday 31 August 2018, Session 3 (14:40 - 16:20)
Room Main Building - Large Chemistry Lecture Theatre
Session abstract It is often argued that geography is in the midst of a digital turn in which digital devices and technologies have had major effects on geographic thought, scholarship, and practice (Ash et al, 2016). Geographers have used the ‘digital’ to approach a broad range of geographical topics, not just as a tool or object to assist with research, but also as the subject of geographical enquiry. Such research has ranged from the presentation of cases for mixed-methodologies and the uses of digital technologies to capture and record qualitative data (Yeager and Steiger, 2013; Rogers, 2013), to attempts to understand the implementations of technology and how it affects social interactions, experiences, and everyday life (Dodge and Kitchin, 2009). Such work has also attended to the construction of virtual sites and spaces, the utilization of such and by whom (Ash, 2009).

As a response, this session is interested in exploring the concept of digital landscapes. The term ‘digital landscape’ can encompass a variety of themes/topics/fields, such as computer generated virtual worlds (including video games and virtual realities), to the digital representations of landscapes (using GIS and CAD, for example). Whilst these digital engagements with landscapes are not overly novel, there remains a need for geographic consideration of the practice, experience, and politics of digital landscapes, in the context of the wider digital turn in geography.
Linked Sessions Geographical Considerations of Digital Landscapes (2)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: ac2018@rgs.org
Building Immersive Memoryscapes
Jon Swords (Northumbria University, UK)
Memoryscapes is an interdisciplinary research project which brings together researchers from geography, computer sciences, architecture and the humanities to work with Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums (a museums and archives service) and FaulknerBrowns Architects (an architectural firm). It explores how immersive digital technologies can be used to re-contextualise heritage assets from museums into public spaces by augment urban landscapes to produce heritage-led immersive experiences. The aim is that such experiences increase accessibility and participation with heritages beyond institutional setting in the places from which they gain meaning. But the diverse disciplinary and practical knowledges involved in generating immersive memoryscapes, the media through which they are experienced, and the places they are installed present epistemological and methodological challenges the research team has needed to overcome. Drawing on work which acknowledges the discursive nature of heritage as plural and contested (Smith, 2006; Ashworth, et al., 2007) and interpretation as a ‘writerly’ exercise (Barthes, 1987; Pickles, 2004), this paper reflects on the processes undertaken to understand and embrace the diverse vocabularies, constraints and working practices of organisations working in the heritage, ‘place-making’ and digital technology sectors to produce interactive digital landscapes. This paper explores these ‘productive tensions’ which accompany colliding epistemologies (Brown and Knopp, 2008) through the concept of an immersive platform stack and present an optimistic account of bringing together, and learning from this range of organisations.

Grinding their Gears? Effects of 'Grindr Tourism' in Tel Aviv on LGBT+ Spatial Practices
Rachel Katz (University of Manchester, UK)
As a globally popular app for gay and bisexual men to interact, Grindr has become a fixture in the landscape of what is often uncritically and broadly called “the gay community.” However, narratives about a singular community ignore the specificities of the boundaries, roles, and prejudices within LGBT+ spaces.
This study argues for the merits of a spatial framework as opposed to a communities-based approach to studying Grindr within the tourism context by asking how Grindr reconfigures notions of space among tourists and locals in Tel Aviv. It also critiques notions of tourism put forward by a Gay Tourism Industry that assume people travel to particular countries and spaces based on sexual identity. The project examines how Grindr alters tourist-local dynamics by employing a multi-method qualitative sociological approach. Tourists and locals in Tel Aviv tracked their Grindr routine through an audio diary and were interviewed by the researcher.
Grindr allows for a form of tourist engagement through technology; it facilitates the feeling and habitation of local spaces and interacting with the people who make them. This ongoing investigation speaks to Grindr’s potential as an alternative geography that creates spatial layers and potentially new routes of consumption within the tourist experience.
Representation, scale, and practice in digital culture
Bharath Ganesh (University of Oxford, UK)
This paper explores the role of representation, scale, and practice in political and cultural geographies of the digital, focusing specifically on social media. To date, geographers have often focused on spatially-tagged digital trace data, the role of big data in urban life, or ethnographic accounts of social media use. Drawing on current research into the cultures of online right-wing extremism, this paper develops a geographical toolkit to engage with the political and cultural spaces that exist on social media platforms, introducing new scales and practices for geographers to attend to in the context of digital landscapes. Referring to their representation, I explain how network statistics, databases, and hypertext can be used to map and understand relationality, power, distance, and proximity online. Next, the paper proposes three scales for research into social media: the milieu, the interface, and the body, and develops how these scales can be studied using both qualitative and computational methods. After exploring these scales, the paper demonstrates that ‘big data’ can assist in the analysis of discursive practices and circuits of affect in digital landscapes. Using right-wing extremism as a case study, the paper demonstrates how the concepts outlined above can inform how geographers engage with zones of digital culture. By combining qualitative and computational methods, this paper will illustrate how key concerns in political and cultural geography—including representation, scale, discourse, affect, and performance—can contribute to critical and progressive engagements with social media and other digital landscapes.
Digital urban voids: inequalities and the restaurant sector
Daniela Ferreira (Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal)
We are entering in the big data age, in which new forms of producing information emerge. One of these is volunteered information. To our study we will focus on volunteered geographic information (VGI), which is characterized by users being able to create spatial content about any place. The concept of sharing economy has been associated to this new mode of production with a significant capacity of influence, which is based in the freedom and creativity of the consumer.

Although the usefulness of VGI has been recognized in terms of enrichment of spatial information, the coverage of VGI is not equal for all territories and this is generating spatial inequalities. The production of VGI depends on the resources and availability of user-generated-content, and this has led to digital urban voids. Our work will focus on firms to which online visibility, through the rankings, reviews and filters of platforms that can create virtual representations about them and influence everyday life, is as significant as offline visibility.

Thus, the objective of this paper is to identify digital urban voids through a spatial correlation between the restaurant sector in Lisbon and its representation on TripAdvisor. After this, it is also important to discuss the new challenges that entrepreneurßs in digital urban voids face. How much of a disadvantage is it if they are not integrated in digital platforms? Although current literature has recognized the importance of VGI for firms, these challenges have not been studied so far.