RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2018

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357 Geographical Considerations of Digital Landscapes (2)
Affiliation Digital Geographies Working Group
Quantitative Methods Research Group
Convenor(s) Tess Osborne (University of Birmingham, UK)
Isabel Williams (Newcastle University, UK)
Chair(s) Tess Osborne (University of Birmingham, UK)
Timetable Friday 31 August 2018, Session 4 (16:50 - 18:30)
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 (1)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: ac2018@rgs.org
Deconstructing the model: a critical introduction to digital 3D modelling and imagined urban futures in the architecture, engineering and construction industry
Michael Duggan (King's College London / Living Maps, UK)
This paper contributes to recent debates around the impact of digital geo-visualizations on urban geography by focusing specifically on computer generated 3D models (not to be mistaken with 3D printed models) that represent cities, buildings and planned developments. These modes of mapping, produced by trained professionals across the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry have become go-to tools for digitally representing proposed developments for a range of stakeholders. As such, digital 3D models may be described as image-objects that have a powerful social and political agency to usher in urban futures. This paper argues that it is crucial to pay further attention to the production of these models as well as the work that they do if we are to understand the significant role that digital 3D modelling technologies play in these processes. The paper begins with a definition and overview of how digital 3D models are used in the AEC industries. It then proceeds to discuss how such models help to constitute future imaginaries of urban life. Using an deconstructive framework adopted from the field of critical cartography, the paper ends by detailing a holistic approach to examining digital 3D models based on 1) deconstructing the model, 2) contextualizing the model, and 3) examining the performativity of the model.

Mixed-Methodologies; Exploring methods of combining the qualitative and quantitative to create ‘digital’ representations of landscape.
Isabel Williams (Newcastle University, UK)
The exponential development of digital technologies is making it increasingly important to consider how geographers use ‘the digital’ not only as a tool for facilitating geographical research, but as the focus of enquiry. Whilst this digital turn has had profound effects on geographic thought and practice, there is a growing need to consider how best to implement methodologies that can facilitate investigations. Specifically, there is greater need to develop new, novel approaches to research, such as mixed-methodologies (DeLyser & Sui, 2013).

Taking a methodological stance, this paper explores how the digital can be used as a tool to facilitate and contribute to geographical enquiry. It understands the digital not restricted to either a piece of software or hardware, but anything from a geographical information system (GIS), social media, and video cameras. The paper considers the utilisation of digital mapping techniques alongside quantitative and qualitative data sets, to explore how we can design new methods of data visualisation capable of representing and communicating people’s experiences. It presents a case for using mixed-methodologies and a qualitative GIS, to create new visual representations of the relationships between people and place (Cope, et al. 2009). In doing so, the paper argues that mixed-methods can facilitate the construction of new data visualisations.

Ultimately, the paper shows how it is possible to digitise landscapes, through a mixed-methods approach, to consequently begin to understand the geographies of digital landscapes; whether from a previously existing platform (i.e. virtual worlds) or based on the interpretations of constructed digital representations.
Interpreting Hybridised Landscapes: Mobile Digital Interpretations (MDIs) and Outdoor Rural Heritage Landscapes
Brian Moss (Newcastle University, UK)
This paper explores the concept of the hybridised landscape that is created when users explore outdoor rural heritage landscapes using Mobile Digital Interpretations (MDIs). When using such technology to interpret the environment, the individual is occupying spaces beyond the physical, and is simultaneously occupying the digital, informational landscape presented via the Smartphone MDI. This hybridised landscape is a rich palimpsest, incorporating the past heritage of the space, the materiality of the physical environment, and the digital landscape formed through the adopted technology.

How this hybridised landscape is understood and negotiated by the user shapes the interpretative experience of that individual. This paper investigates this phenomenon, reporting on fieldwork which combined participatory action research and visual ethnographic studies at various sites across the UK. For the user, this hybridised landscape is viewed as a lived, dynamic field of potentially (Flynn, 2008). The materiality of the landscape is merged with the content within the MDI and framed by spatial representations and the users’ previous experiences. The process of understanding, interpreting and acting in this subsequent hybrid landscape comes from the individual. This brings forth interesting ideas around co-habitation or co-presence in multiple realities, which will be unpacked in this paper. Through the semantics of movement, the inter-play between these multiple realities and the occupation of the hybridised landscape becomes apparent. Actions in this space are a performative act; the additional digital landscape formed through co-habiting the space with a smartphone creates new approaches to moving, acting, thinking and interpreting.
Evaluating the use of digital game landscapes as tools for visual quality assessment
Ruth Swetnam (Staffordshire University, UK)
Jan Korenko (Staffordshire University, UK)
This paper investigates and reflects upon the use of digital game landscapes as tools for visual quality assessment. It explores three distinct but related questions. First, can game landscapes engage the missing “young-voice” in landscape evaluations? Second, is it possible to represent the reality of typical landscape vistas? Third, does familiarity with such technologized environments impact on overall landscape ratings? This research draws on empirical work undertaken for the Welsh Government to evaluate the impact of their agri-environmental scheme Glastir on the rural landscape of Wales. This project employed a new, GIS-enabled method to evaluate visual landscape quality, tested using an online photographic preference survey. Whilst the survey was successful, receiving over 2500 responses, those under 25 years were significantly underrepresented in the self-selecting sample.
To address this gap and embrace the digital turn, we stepped out of the real-world landscapes that most Geographers are comfortable with, into the virtual landscapes of gaming. Our response, was to create a virtual Welsh landscape which could be navigated in games software and manipulated to mimic landscape changes. A second survey incorporating images of this virtual landscape was targeted at computer games design students and then delivered to the wider public with both groups undertaking the same assessment. This paper will consider results from this pilot study and reflect on the questions above, alongside a discussion of the visual accuracy of the Welsh landscape created. Wider methodological issues will be outlined alongside some of the interdisciplinary challenges involved.