Tag Archives: digital geography

Seminar 2: Tweeting the Smart city by Prof Gillian Rose

We are very excited to announce that our next seminar will feature Professor Gillian Rose (Oxford University), jointly organised with Social Sciences Institute and Geography Department. The seminar is entitled: Tweeting the Smart city: The Affective Enactments of the Smart City on Social Media and you can find further seminar details below. We look forward to seeing many of you in the seminar!

Time: 13:00 to 14.30, Thursday, 26th October
Venue: Rocque Lab, Rhetoric House, South Campus, Maynooth University (Building #17 on the campus map)
Digital technologies of various kinds are now the means through which many cities are made visible and their spatialities negotiated. From casual snaps shared on Instagram to elaborate photo-realistic visualisations, digital technologies for making, distributing and viewing cities are more and more pervasive. This talk will explore some of the implications of that digital mediation of urban spaces. What forms of urban life are being made visible in these digitally mediated cities, and how? Through what configurations of temporality, spatiality and embodiment? And how should that picturing be theorised? Drawing on recent work on the visualisation of so-called ‘smart cities’ on social media, the lecture will suggest the scale and pervasiveness of digital imagery now means that notions of ‘representation’ have to be rethought. Cities and their inhabitants are increasingly mediated through a febrile cloud of streaming image files; as well as representing cities, this cloud also operationalises particular, affective ways of being urban. The lecture will explore some of the implications of this shift for both theory and method as well as critique.


New paper: Digital Turn, Digital Geography?

James Ash, Rob Kitchin and Agnieszka Leszczynski have published a new paper entitled ‘Digital Turn, Digital Geography?‘ available as Programmable City Working Paper 17 on SSRN.


In this paper, we examine the relationship between the digital and geography. Our analysis provides an overview of the rich scholarship that has examined: (1) geographies of the digital, (2) geographies produced by the digital, and (3) geographies produced through the digital. Using this material we reflect on two questions: has there been a digital turn in geography? and, would it be productive to delimit ‘digital geography’ as a field of study within the discipline, as has recently occurred with the attempt to establish ‘digital anthropology’ and ‘digital sociology’? We argue that while there has been a digital turn across geographical sub-disciplines, the digital is now so pervasive in mediating the production of space and in producing geographic knowledge that it makes little sense to delimit digital geography as a distinct field. Instead, we believe it is more productive to think about how the digital reshapes many geographies

Keywords: digital, geography, computing, digital turn, digital geography

The paper is available for download here.

Digital Geography

Last Friday I acted as a discussant for three sessions (no. 1, no. 2, no. 3) on Digital Geography presented at the RGS/IBG conference in London.  The papers were quite diverse and some of the discussion in the sessions centred on how to frame and make sense of digital geographies.

In their overview paper, Elisabeth Roberts and David Beel categorised the post-2000 geographical literature which engages with the digital into six classes: conceptualisation, unevenness, governance, economy, performativity, and the everyday.  To my mind, this is quite a haphazard way of dividing up the literature.  Instead, I think it might be more productive to divide the wide range of studies which consider the relationship between the digital and geography into three bodies of work:

Geography of the digital

These works seek to apply geographical ideas and methodologies to make sense of the digital.  As such, it focuses on mapping out the geographies of digital technologies, their associated socio-technical assemblages and production.  Such work includes the mapping of cyberspace, charting the spatialities of social media, plotting the material geographies of ubiquitous computing, detailing the economic geographies of component resources, technologies and infrastructures, tracing the generation and flows of big data, and so on.

Geography produced by the digital

This body of work focuses on how digital technologies and infrastructures are transforming the geographies of everyday life and the production of space.  Such work includes examining how digital technologies and ICTs are increasingly being embedded into different spatial domains – the workplace, home, transport systems, the street, shops, etc.; how they mediate and augment socio-spatial practices and relations such as producing, consuming, communicating, playing, etc; how they shape and remediate geographical imaginaries and how spaces are visioned, planned and built; and so on.

Geography produced through the digital

An increasing amount of geographical scholarship, praxis and communication is now undertaken using digital technologies.  For example, generating, recording and analyzing data using digital devices and associated software and databases; the collection and sharing of datasets and outputs through digital archives and repositories; discussing ideas and conducting debate via mailing lists and social media; writing papers and presentations, producing maps and other visualizations using computers; etc.  A fairly substantial body of work thus reflects on the difference digital technologies make to the production of geographical scholarship.

Taken together these three bodies of work, I would argue, constitute digital geography.

At the same time, however, I wonder about the utility of bounding digital geography and corralling studies within its bounds.  To what extent is it useful to delimit it as a defined field of research?

It might be more productive to reframe much of what is being claimed as digital geography with respect to its substantive focus.  For example, examining the ways in which digital technologies are being pervasively embedded into the fabric of cities and how they modulate the production of urban socio-spatial relations is perhaps best framed within urban geography.  Similarly, a study looking at the use of digital technology in the delivery of aid in parts of the Global South is perhaps best understood as being centrally concerned with development geography.  In other words, it may well be more profitable to think about how the digital reshapes many geographies, rather than to cast all of those geographies as digital geography.

Nonetheless, it is clear that geographers still have much work to do with respect to thinking about the digital.  That is a central task of my own research agenda as I work on the Programmable City project.  I’d be interested in your own thoughts as to how you conceive and position digital geography, so if you’re inclined to share your views please leave a comment.