Archive for the 'articles' Category


In an article in Cartographica I describe a new tool that I call shaping. The abstract reads:

shaping is a Web-based tool that enables direct manipulations of cartographic space to sculpt, cut, expand, and contract map regions. Breaking with rigid Euclidean understandings of projected space found in GIS, these operations support creative cartographic work that understands space as fluid, dynamic, relational, and situated. Each operation is described in detail, along with possible use cases informed by literature in geography and cartography. Most manipulations of space found in shaping can be translated into QGIS, enabling the transformation of vector and raster layers of geographic information. By enabling direct and real-time manipulation of cartographic space, shaping acts as an expressive tool that engages with geographic information. It is also an example of how accessible tools can be built that are interoperable with existing GIS while still being useful on their own.

Lally, Nick. 2022. “Sculpting, Cutting, Expanding, and Contracting the Map.” Cartographica: The International Journal for Geographic Information and Geovisualization 57 (1): 1–10.

If you are fast, you can download a copy using this link. If that doesn’t work, email me and I will send you a pdf. You can find the code for the project and play with the online demo on my github repository:


(1) Madison’s Race to Inequity, 2020
This piece was originally written in 2015 for the digital magazine, Edge Effects, following the shooting of teenager Tony Robinson by a Madison police officer. Concerned about our explicit critiques of the police department and mayor, some of the editors attempted to introduce changes to the text that toned down and whitewashed the discussion of Madison’s complex history of anti-Black racism. Feeling that our original statement should appear as originally written, we declined to make the changes. The piece never appeared in Edge Effects. The Abolition Geographies Collective have kindly invited us to include this piece on their website. While it responds to events from over five years ago and while many of the key figures – such as the mayor – have changed, it sadly feels just as timely today. This summer saw widespread mobilizations in the wake of the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. And the struggle for justice for Tony Robinson continues. We humbly offer this document in solidarity with current police and prison abolition organizing in Madison, UW–Madison, and elsewhere.

Lally, Nick, Elsa Noterman, and Keith Woodward. 2020. “Madison’s Race to Inequity.” Abolition Geographies Collective. || local version

(2) For geographical imagination systems, 2020
For many, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and related libraries for programming languages define the terrain of geographical computing today. But what if GIS were locales within wider realms of geographical imagination systems (gis), realms more adequate to diverse theoretical commitments of geographical thought? Examining how various thinkers in spatial theory have conceived of phenomena, space, knowledge, and their entanglements, this article advocates for geographical imagination systems that change the infrastructures of geographical computation and broaden its associated objects of intellectual inquiry. In doing so, it centers questions such as: What if knowledge were understood as interpreted experience? What if phenomena were represented as individuated out of process and internal relations? What if spaces and coordinates were co-produced with phenomena? Interludes juxtapose such considerations with concrete possibilities realized by an experimental prototype gis under development. But, as the article also argues, crucial to the future of geographic computation adequate to geographical inquiry will be diverse creative conversations in code (valued alongside and) intellectually interwoven with scholarly interventions made through mediums such as the written word.

Bergmann, Luke and Nick Lally. 2020. “For geographical imagination systems.” Annals of the American Association of Geographers. [Published version (paywall) || Accepted manuscript version (free)]

(3) Computational parasites and hydropower: A political ecology of Bitcoin mining on the Columbia River, 2019

Over the past three years, the dams of Chelan County, Washington, its watershed and fish, the electrical grid and the laborers who maintain it, and cleared land with warehouses filled with computers, have all been enrolled as part of the decentralized digital infrastructure of Bitcoin. While popular accounts of the Bitcoin network correctly report the massive scale of energy it consumes and its potential environmental ramifications, in practice, the material geographies of Bitcoin are highly uneven and intertwined with specific infrastructural, ecological, and economic systems. In this article, we examine Bitcoin’s impacts on Chelan County, untangling the processes that occur as the distributed, digital infrastructure consumes the very real material resources of one place to produce digital goods used in another. In so doing, we examine not only the material costs of networks like Bitcoin, but also their historical ties to older processes of accumulation.

Lally, Nick, Kelly Kay, and Jim Thatcher. 2019. “Computational parasites and hydropower: A political ecology of Bitcoin mining on the Columbia River.” Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space. [Published version (paywall) || Accepted manuscript version (free)]


In the last week, I’ve come across several open access articles that might be of interest to geographers who engage with computers and software in their work. The first, written by James Ash, Rob Kitchin, and Agnieszka Leszczynski, begins with a nice summary of work in the discipline that has dealt with digital issues. The authors then argue that we shouldn’t have a separate field of “digital geography,” but, rather, we should think about how the digital has reshaped many of our objects of study. Here’s the abstract:

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.

You can download a copy on the Social Science Research Network page.

Also of interest is the new issue of Surveillance & Society–a double issue with a theme of “Surveillance Asymmetries and Ambiguities.” While I haven’t read it through yet, many of the abstracts sound very promising as scholars attempt to complicate understandings of power relations, especially in relation to computational surveillance practices.