geographies of software, AAG 2017

September 9th, 2016. Filed under: conferences.

Calls for papers for the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers (April 5-9, 2017 in Boston, MA) have been circulating online and there are a bunch of them! I’m happy to see a number of sessions focus on software, technology, and/or digital objects in a number of different contexts. I have listed all of the ones I know of below. Please let me know if I have missed any and I will add more as I come across them.

Click on the title for the full call:

digital \\ human \\ labour
“this call is for papers exploring specifically the various intersections of ‘digital’, ‘human’ and ‘labour’.”

Urban-economic perspectives on technology
“In this session we seek to bring together papers focussed on the topics of urban and economic geography that take up critical perspectives on technology.”

Cities & Data Beyond Smart Urbanism
“We… invite empirical and theoretical contributions that conceptualize and/or extend current perspectives on the co-articulation of data and cities beyond narratives of smart urbanism.”

Real Estate Technologies: Genealogies, Frontiers, & Critiques
“We seek papers which address discursive and/or material relationships between technology, broadly defined, and real estate in its many forms.”

Curating (in)security: Unsettling Geographies of Cyberspace
“In calling for the unsettling of current theorisation and practice, this session intends to initiate an exploration of the contributions geography can bring to cybersecurity and space.”

Is another smart city possible? Sharing cities and the urban commons in a digital age
“We welcome papers addressing these themes in general, or with reference to specific urban commons including: open data commons, open source apps, community wifi, alternative energy, housing, food sharing, transportation (bike share, ride share), public spaces, community gardens, planning, PPGIS etc.”

Mobile bodies, technologies and methods: critical perspectives
“The focus will be on how these technologies can be engaged with by critical geographers to bring new perspectives to their analysis of everyday embodiment.”

Robotic futures
“What does the growing integration of robots and robotic technologies into everyday life do and/or mean for the theorization of sociospatial relations?”

Data Infrastructures, Nature, and Politics
“This session explores the making and un-making of data infrastructures by which conservationists and corporations – as well as development practitioners, scientists, and state planners – generate scaled, uneven, and actionable knowledge about the environment.”



digital \\ human \\ labour

1 the human labour of digital work
Discussant: Mark Graham
The spread of the internet to three and a half billion people around the world has significant implications for the human labour. It is now relatively straightforward to outsource business processes to anyone, anywhere, that has a digital connection. This session aims to bring together scholarship that explores the human labour of this digital work. Who carries it out? How does it affect the livelihoods of workers? What sorts of political and organisational governance regimes bring it into being? And what are the ethical, spatial, social, and economic implications of a world in which human labour is increasing disembedded into digital networks.

2 the digital labour of being human
Discussant: Gillian Rose
Digital technologies are now embedded in many aspects of everyday life in many places, mediating everyday experiences of embodiment, mobility, and communication.  It is clear that many of these mediations are reproducing existing ways and forms of ‘being human’, but it is also clear that new forms of (post)humanities are emerging, co-produced with, for example, VR headsets, big data, and social media platforms.  This session aims to bring together scholarship that addresses these monadic emergences.  What new forms of distributed agency, performative gestures and navigational orientations could and should be mapped, and in what ways?  What are their temporalities and spatialities, and what geometries of power and difference do they enact?

3 the algorithmic labour of being
Discussant: Jim Thatcher
Alongside the rise in access to internet technologies and their everyday usage, has come an entwined rise in the analysis and manipulation of digital information through algorithms. Just as new technologies introduce interfaces, mediations, and affordances to (re)produce representations of self, so too do the algorithms which sort, select, and present information constrain what can be done and known through the use of said devices. Similarly, even as the very real geography of the labor of digital work shifts and extends across the globe, algorithms increasingly insert themselves betwixt and between laborers, customers, and corporate interests, altering traditional employment relations through the mediation of technology. Building from the themes of the previous two sessions, this session aims to bring together research on the many ways in which algorithms and quantification function in the world. Questions of interest include, but are not limited to: What sorts of new spatial relations are possible through the algorithmic mediation of labor relations? Where is the work of algorithms done? What are the historical roots of this process? What new forms of knowledge and power have been enabled (and constrained) by these systems?

For consideration of inclusion, please submit abstract to Jim Thatcher (jethatch — AT – by October 15th, 2016.  Please format your abstract in a text file of no more than 250 words, including a title, your name, institutional affiliation and email address in the document.
If you have any additional questions, please contact Jim Thatcher (jethatch — AT –, Mark Graham (mark.graham — AT – or Gillian Rose (gillian.rose — AT –


Urban-economic perspectives on technology
Session organizers: Daniel Cockayne (University of Waterloo), Ryan Burns (University of Calgary)

In this session we seek to bring together papers focussed on the topics of urban and economic geography that take up critical perspectives on technology. Research focussing closely on technology in geography has spoken to questions of big data, smart cities, workplace culture, representations of urban spaces online, and the impact of technology sectors on housing prices. Geographers have described the complexities that digital media and internet access introduce to the production of space, which they have described variously in terms of augmenting and facilitating existing inequality, as well as introducing new kinds of unevenness and productive power dynamics. Society and high technology are theorized as mutually imbricated, and co-produced through the complex interrelationship of labor and goods markets, working practices, and attentional economies. Digital media and technology in general are thus closely implicated in contemporary considerations of both uneven economic development and urban transformations.

Research on technology that takes up urban and economic geographic perspectives has taken a variety of frameworks, from a focus on Marxian political economy, and Foucauldian biopolitics, to Stiegler’s writing on the economy of contribution. Still, with quickly changing and expanding implementations and effects of technology and data, as well as a general research focus on the global north, geographers have many further theoretical and empirical insights to contribute to urban and economic geography.

Thus we aim in this session to create a space for urban and economic geographers (and others) to talk across sub-disciplines, to consider questions and concepts of common concern, and examine how technology as a topic, approach, empirical grounding, or framework for thought and research might bring together ideas from different traditions within geographical theory and scholarship.

We welcome conceptual, empirical, and methodological papers in, but not limited to, these broad topics:
– new urban digital economies
– urban and economic variegations in data and technology production and use
– technology, financial services, and the financialization of the tech industry
– the urban process under digital capitalism
– right to the smart city
– technology and uneven development
– datafication, profit, and biopolitics
– digital media and gentrification
– payment platforms, mobile money, and microloan apps

Send abstracts of 250 words to Ryan Burns (ryan.burns1 — AT – and Daniel Cockayne (daniel.cockayne — AT – by October 1st.


Cities & Data Beyond Smart Urbanism
Agnieszka Leszczynski, University of Auckland
Taylor Shelton, University of Kentucky

The intensifying convergence of cities and data has garnered increasing attention across a range of academic disciplines, as well as within the public and private sectors. Much of this attention, however, has been framed within the rhetoric of ‘smart urbanism.’ The ‘smart city’ has emerged as a ubiquitous and hegemonic concept, and the de facto placeholder and designator for the co-articulation of the urban with big data, algorithms, and data-driven governance. This prompts us to ask how the confluence of data and cities may be, and perhaps needs to be, engaged and thought beyond the exclusive confines of the smart city? How, for example, does data-driven urban governance function as a Foucauldian technology in the service of objectives beyond or other than that of smart urbanism? What other kinds of temporalities and spatialities emerge at the interstices of data and cities that cannot be reduced to, or captured by, the categories, time frames, and geographies of the smart city? How might these non-smart city relationships demonstrate alternative, counter-hegemonic possibilities for cities and data? While some initial work has begun to move beyond the smart city – for example, engaging the convergence of data and cities in terms of projects of urban future-ing (Leszczynski 2016; Perng, Kitchin & Evans 2016) – our thinking ‘beyond the smart city’ remains relatively limited. We accordingly invite empirical and theoretical contributions that conceptualize and/or extend current perspectives on the co-articulation of data and cities beyond narratives of smart urbanism. We intend for the range of topics and perspective to be open. Possibilities include, but are not limited to:

•    urban algorithmic governance & governmentality
•    affective dimensions of data & cities
•    technics, subjects & cities
•    urban quantification (as an extension of the quantified-self)
•    urban augmented realities
•    digital representations / data visualization & the city
•    (contentious) politics of urban data
•    counter-data & the city

We encourage interested participants to articulate how their conference paper extends or challenges smart cities hegemonies in engagements with cities and data. We welcome abstracts of no more than 250 words to be submitted to both Agnieszka Leszczynski (agnieszka.leszczynski — AT – and Taylor Shelton (johntaylorshelton — AT – by October 15th.


Real Estate Technologies: Genealogies, Frontiers, & Critiques
Call for Papers, 2017 AAG Annual Meeting, Boston, MA

Organizers: Will Payne (University of California, Berkeley), Dillon Mahmoudi (Portland State University), Sarah Knuth (University of Michigan)

Session Description: The production, perception, and representation of urban space and property relations have been urgent “technological” questions since before the birth of geography as a discipline. From the punctuated modernization of buildings and infrastructure to successive revolutions in the mapping of cities and neighborhoods, both from above and below, cities have been (re)shaped by an ever-advancing technological frontier. Real estate has been at the forefront of this technological deployment and upheaval throughout the modern era. Almost a century ago, the real estate profession’s foundational quest to rationalize property markets and financing radically reshaped buildings and neighborhood plans, rewrote property law, codified appraisal practice – and, for decades after, crystallized spatial patterns of injustice through processes of state-sponsored urban “renewal,” highway construction, and sanctioned exclusion of mortgage financing differentiated by race, class, and location. Today, real estate in global cities, both established and emerging/aspirational, is experiencing yet another major technical and technological boom, as transnational barriers to accumulation and speculation fall and capital (re)discovers urban cores across the Global North. New advanced materials and construction techniques, digital mapping, and frontier forms of property appraisal, marketing, financialization, and exclusion complicate and obfuscate our understandings of real estate as a social, cultural and political economic relation. Futurist visions of smart, digital, and green cities collide with new technologically mediated displacements and resistance struggles.

In this session, we argue that critical geographers are poised to offer unique insights into these urban technology politics, past and present. Organizing questions ask how technologies developed and used for real estate: 1) reorder existing exchange practices, spaces, and relationships; 2) capture or create accumulation frontiers; and 3) render property technical, quantifiable, and governable. The session aims to bring together scholars broadly interested in urban geography, critical political economy, and technology studies (whether of STS, Critical GIS/quant, or other stripes). We seek papers which address discursive and/or material relationships between technology, broadly defined, and real estate in its many forms. We welcome papers from a variety of urban contexts and real property regimes.

Paper might cover topics as varied as, but need not be limited to:
•    Technologies of real estate appraisal or the use of real estate websites such as Trulia, Zillow, Redfin, and Walk Score;
•    Location-based services like Yelp, Foursquare, and Google Local, and their role in residential gentrification (e.g. Zukin et al. 2015);
•    Local social networks and crime reporting services such as Nextdoor or Nixle;
•    Speculative architectural visualizations and websites (e.g., Rose et al. 2014, Sheller 2009);
•    Efforts to actualize smart cities like the Hudson Yards project (Mattern 2016);
•    Historical “technologies” such as street numbering (Rose-Redwood 2008);
•    The idea of named neighborhoods themselves as “spatial projects” (Madden 2014), often mediated by business interests and other non-state actors;
•    In this spirit of Elvin Wyly’s call for “strategic positivism,” (Wyly 2009) technological projects that aim to thwart or expose the growth machine and speculation, such as the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project (, “Am I Rent Controlled?”( and Property Praxis (;
•    Advanced green/cleantech construction, certification and appraisal, and financialization (Knuth 2016, Rydin 2016);
•    New speculation about “fintech” as a vehicle for real estate financialization;
•    Intermediation and the gig/sharing economy, such as Airbnb;
•    Technological obsolescence, blight, and property de/revaluation (Weber 2002);
•    Tech clusters and corporate/real estate bubbles (Bardhan and Walker 2011, McNeill 2016);
•    Futurism and technologically mediated organizing around urban land and property (e.g., urban food movements, Tarr 2015).

Interested participants should send abstracts to Will Payne (willbpayne — AT –, Dillon Mahmoudi (dillonm — AT –, and Sarah Knuth (sknuth — AT – by Monday, September 19th.

•    Bardhan, Ashok and Walker, Richard. 2011. “California Shrugged: Fountainhead of the Great Recession.” Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society 4 (3): 303–322.
•    Knuth, Sarah. 2016. “Seeing Green in San Francisco: City as Resource Frontier.” Antipode 48 (3): 626–644.
•    Madden, David J. 2014. “Neighborhood as Spatial Project: Making the Urban Order on the Downtown Brooklyn Waterfront.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 38 (2): 471–497.
•    Mattern, Shannon. 2016. “Instrumental City: The View from Hudson Yards.” Places Journal, April.
•    McNeill, Donald. 2016. “Governing a City of Unicorns: Technology Capital and the Urban Politics of San Francisco.” Urban Geography 37 (4): 494–513.
•    Rose, Gillian, Degen, Monica and Melhuish, Clare. 2014. “Networks, Interfaces, and Computer-Generated Images: Learning from Digital Visualisations of Urban Redevelopment Projects.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 32 (3): 386-403.
•    Rose-Redwood, Reuben S. 2008. “From Number to Name: Symbolic Capital, Places of Memory and the Politics of Street Renaming in New York City.” Social & Cultural Geography 9 (4): 431–452.
•    Rydin, Yvonne. 2016. “Sustainability and the Financialisation of Commercial Property: Making Prime and Non-Prime Markets.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 34 (4): 745–762. doi:10.1177/0263775816633472.
•    Sheller, Mimi. 2009. “Infrastructures of the Imagined Island: Software, Mobilities, and the Architecture of Caribbean Paradise.” Environment and Planning A 41(6): 1386–1403.
•    Tarr, Alexander. 2015. Have Your City and Eat It Too: Los Angeles and the Urban Food Renaissance. Dissertation, UC Berkeley.
•    Weber, Rachel. 2002. “Extracting Value from the City: Neoliberalism and Urban Redevelopment.” Antipode 34 (3): 519–540.
•    Wyly, Elvin. 2009. “Strategic Positivism.” The Professional Geographer, 61 (3): 310-322.
•    Zukin, Sharon, Lindeman, Scarlett and Hurson, Laurie. 2015. “The Omnivore’s Neighborhood? Online Restaurant Reviews, Race, and Gentrification.” Journal of Consumer Culture, p.1469540515611203.


Curating (in)security: Unsettling Geographies of Cyberspace

In calling for the unsettling of current theorisation and practice, this session intends to initiate an exploration of the contributions geography can bring to cybersecurity and space. This is an attempt to move away from the dominant discourses around conflict and state prevalent in international relations, politics, computer science and security/war studies. As a collective, we believe geography can embrace alternative perspectives on cyber (in)securities that challenge the often masculinist and populist narratives of our daily lives. Thus far, there has been limited direct engagement with cybersecurity within geographical debates, apart from ‘cyberwar’ (Kaiser, 2015; Warf 2015), privacy (Amoore, 2014), or without recourse to examining this from the algorithmic or code perspective (Kitchin & Dodge, 2011; Crampton, 2015).
As geographers, we are ideally placed to question the discourses that drive the spatio-temporal challenges made manifest though cyber (in)securities in the early 21st century. This session attempts to provoke alternative ways we can engage and resist in the mediation of our collective technological encounters, exploring what a research agenda for geography in this field might look like, why should we get involved, and pushing questions in potentially unsettling directions. This session therefore seeks to explore the curative restrictions and potentials that exude from political engagement, commercial/economic interests, neoliberal control and statist interventions. The intention is not to reproduce existing modes of discourse, but to stimulate creative and radical enquiry, reclaiming curation from those in positions of power not only in terms of control, but by means of restorative invention.
We intend to have an interactive and lively discussion that we hope will be productive for a growing field of inquiry between disciplines. In light of this, potential contributions could combine or exceed those outlined below:
· Algorithms and algorithmic governance
· Alternative theories of space / cyberspace / cybersecurity
· Artistic interventions / performances
· Big data
· Cyber / digital finance
· Disciplinarity and knowledge production
· Hackers and activism
· Human-Computer Interaction (HCI)
· Materiality and virtuality
· More-than-human agency
· Networks
· Power and resistance
· Precarity, affect and vulnerability
· Privacy and surveillance
· Surveillance and encryption

Session Guide
To submit a contribution, please contact one of the panel organisers. Abstracts should be no longer than 200 words and should be submitted by October 7th 2016.
Panel Organisers

Andrew Dwyer (University of Oxford, UK)
Email: andrew.dwyer — AT –
Pip Thornton (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
Email: pip.thornton.2013 — AT –
In addition, if you wish to offer contributions that are not in a conventional lecture mode, please provide a brief description of what your output intends to be in addition to the 200 word abstract.


Is another smart city possible? Sharing cities and the urban commons in a digital age

Session organisers: Julian Agyeman (UEP, Tufts University), Ayona Datta (Geography, King’s College London), Rob Kitchin (NIRSA, Maynooth University) and Duncan McLaren (LEC, Lancaster University).

In practice, so-called ‘smart cities’ typically fit a technical, corporatist and neoliberal model. Claims of citizen involvement rarely extend beyond lip-service. Profoundly political questions regarding social inclusion, environmental sustainability and cultural diversity are unanswered by a uniform technological solutionism. The same technologies also enable sharing platforms in commercial, cooperative, civic and communal forms. Here too there are tensions between the ‘death-star platforms’ (Uber, etc), venture-funded, monopolistic sharing models driving precarity and more community oriented initiatives.

Is another model possible? Do sharing and commoning offer a third way, neither state and market? What politics would make such a path feasible?  Can existing commons be protected from or enhanced by smart city policies and business models?

Some questions contributors might consider:

•  How do we think about the urban commons in the era of ubiquitous computing, the app and gig economy, smart city-led urban development?
•  How is the smart/shared city understood, and can be re-envisioned/remade, through different lens? Political economy, political ecology, post-political, postcolonialism, feminism, critical discourse analysis, etc.
•  How can the tensions between smartness and sharing be managed / made constructive? Eg Surveillance vs locational matching …
•  What prospects are there for alternative funding and business models for smart and sharing cities?
•  How can the smart city democratize the urban commons to produce various forms of active and dissenting urban citizenships?
•  What do the range of postcolonial applications of the smart city in emerging economies tell us about the future trajectories, itineraries and local manifestations of a global trope?
•  What are the practical/political interventions needed?  Within communities, within local government, within business …
•  What would genuine citizen / resident participation and involvement look like? What tools could generate real engagement?

We welcome papers addressing these themes in general, or with reference to specific urban commons including: open data commons, open source apps, community wifi, alternative energy, housing, food sharing, transportation (bike share, ride share), public spaces, community gardens, planning, PPGIS etc.

If contributors are interested, papers will also be considered for a planned forthcoming edited volume intended to explore new dimensions of smart/sharing cities.

Abstracts (maximum of 250 words) should be submitted via email to ayona.datta — AT – by September 30th 2016.

All accepted participants will be required to register and submit your abstract to the AAG following the AAG guidelines and to send your PIN number to ayona.datta — AT – by October 27, 2016.

Further reading:
Sharing Cities: a case for truly smart and sustainable cities. Duncan McLaren and Julian Agyeman, MIT Press, 2015.
The City as Commons: A policy reader. Ed Jose Ramos, 2016. Available at


Mobile bodies, technologies and methods: critical perspectives

A variety of technologies have emerged in the last decade that make it easier and cheaper than ever before to make representations of everyday mobile embodiment.  Increasing numbers of people are quantifying and self-tracking their everyday lives recording behavioural, biological and environmental data (Beer, 2016; Neff & Nafus, 2016) using a variety of technologies, for example:
•    lightweight wearable cameras such as the GoPro allowing users to record footage of their most banal everyday activities;
•    devices such as the Fitbit and Apple Watch bringing  continuous physiological monitoring out of the medical realm and into mainstream culture;
•    apps like Strava allowing people to quantify their cycling, running and walking activities;
•    lightweight devices for measuring brain activity (EEG) and stimulation (EDA) becoming sufficiently robust and discreet to be used in non-lab environments.
None of the underlying technologies are novel, but as they are made accessible in cheaper and more user-friendly packages, new techniques and sources of data are becoming more readily available for geographical analysis. Engagement with these technologies has created a rapidly expanding area of investigation within geography.

The emergence of the quantified-self poses both opportunities and dilemmas for geographical thought.  We wish to move past simplistic protests that dismiss such technology as offering another take on Haraway’s (1988) ‘god trick’, presenting partial, and highly situated data as objective truth.  Instead, this session will build on the potential identified by Delyser and Sui (2013) to take more inventive approaches toward mobile methods.  The focus will be on how these technologies can be engaged with by critical geographers to bring new perspectives to their analysis of everyday embodiment.  Themes include, but are not limited to:
–    Bringing physiological data into dialogue with qualitative perspectives
–    Hacking and repurposing different technologies and the data they generate
–    Technologically engaged embodied arts practice
–    Augmented and virtual realities
–    Biosensing and the sensory
–    Wearables beyond the quantified self

If you would be interested in submitting a paper or would like to discuss your ideas, please drop us a line informally in advance of the deadline.  Full abstracts of no more than 250 words to be submitted by 14 October to the session organisers Phil Jones (p.i.jones — AT – and Tess Osborne (t.c.osborne — AT –


Beer D (2016) Metric power. Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.

DeLyser D & Sui D (2013) Crossing the qualitative- quantitative divide II: inventive approaches to big data, mobile methods, and rhythmanalysis. Progress in Human Geography 37;2 293-305.

Haraway D (1988). Situated knowledges: the science question in feminism and the privilege of partial perspective. Feminist Studies 14;3 575-599

Neff G & Nafas D (2016) Self-tracking. Cambridge MA., MIT Press.


Robotic futures

This Call for Papers seeks to organize four independent but related sessions on the examination of robotic futures across the discipline of geography. Each session has an organizer to which contributors are encouraged to send prospective papers.
Please send paper titles and abstracts (200 words) to the appropriate corresponding session organizer(s) by September 15, 2016 (see below for details):

• Robotic Futures I: Nature/Environment & Technology: Lily House-Peters (Lily.HousePeters — AT –

• Robotic Futures II: Algorithmic Subjectivities: Vincent Del Casino (vdelcasino — AT – & Jeremy Crampton (jcrampton — AT –

• Robotic Futures III: Urban Life & Technological Sovereignties: Casey Lynch (caseylynch — AT –

• Robotic Futures IV: The Politics of Security: Ian Shaw (Ian.Shaw.2 — AT –

Robotic Futures Sessions Summary
Recently, geographers have taken up the question of robots and robotic technologies within the confines of a broadly engaged human and environmental geography. From the rise of robotic warfare to the development of smart cities and borders to the reliance on code, big data analytics, and autonomous sensing systems in environmental management, geographers are interrogating what robots and robotic technologies mean not only for discipline, surveillance, and security, but for making and remaking everyday life and the socio-natural environment.
This call seeks papers organized around a series of four sessions focused on a number of key empirical nodal points through which geographers might further investigate the central proposition:
What does the growing integration of robots and robotic technologies into everyday life do and/or mean for the theorization of sociospatial relations?
The four themed sessions will conclude with a fifth session consisting of a panel discussion of the session organizers to examine the broader questions and overlapping concerns related to reorganizations in social, political, and environmental relations and the interventions that robots and robotic technologies are playing today.

1. Robotic Futures I: Nature/Environment & Technology (Organizer: Lily House-Peters)
Advances in technology and robotic system design are targeting the environment producing new encounters with and understandings of nature. For example, environmental monitoring is increasingly carried out via UAVs/drones, autonomous sensor networks, and mobile robotic platforms. The ability of these systems to collect and wirelessly transmit data at continuous time scales, reach remote locations, and carry out panoramic measurements is shifting the temporal and spatial dimensions of environmental perception. Analysis of big data sets and ever-growing emphasis on models and algorithms transform not only how we know nature, but also the types of discursive formations that emerge and the kinds of interventions that become possible. Yet, attention in the geographical literature to these processes remains extremely limited. The focus of this session is to examine and attempt to theorize how the rise of robots (ie. drones, sensor networks, autonomous monitoring platforms) and robotic technologies (ie. computer code, algorithms, big data, models) are reorganizing ways of knowing, seeing, and talking about nature and the environment. This session seeks papers that engage with the following broad questions: How does the virtual world of autonomous sensor readings, computer code, algorithms, and models make and remake the material dimensions of nature? And vice versa, how do the material dimensions of nature serve to challenge robot(ic) logics? How are robotic technologies reorganizing the spatial and temporal dimensions of our perceptions of nature and the environment? What are the discursive shifts taking place as a result of the increased reliance on robots and robotics in environmental monitoring and how are these affecting decision-making, interventions, and the production of nature?

2. Robotic Futures II: Algorithmic Subjectivities (Organizers: Vincent Del Casino & Jeremy Crampton)
Robots are often imagined as material objects with bodies and form. Robots are also invoked in software, code, and algorithms. This is not to suggest an either/or ontology of robots but a both/and whereby geographers think about the theoretical and political implications of the hardware/software matrix and what it means for human and more-than-human bodies and relations. Picking up on the themes of assemblage theory and other theories of power and performance, this session seeks papers that empirically and theoretically interrogate robotic futures, human cyborg relations, and other robotic possibilities. Key questions to be addressed in this session include: How are more decisions being taken by algorithmic objects in fields across education, insurance, policing, and health? What are the attendant anxieties around algorithms and their failures, gaps or uncertainties? Can we identify algorithmic spaces that expand our notion of robotic capabilities? What sorts of human and nonhuman subjectivities are made possible and/or closed off by the emergence of new robots and robotic technologies? How might we theorize robots in the context of our historically anthropocentric human geographies? And, what role might robots play in our understanding of the spatialities of key concepts in human geography, including labor and labor politics, health and health care, or geospatial technologies and relations of power, to name a few?

3. Robotic Futures III: Urban Life & Technological Sovereignties (Organizer: Casey Lynch)
Innovations in robotic and information and communication technology (ICT) are increasingly impacting practices of urban planning, management, and politics. “Smart city” programs and the “internet of things” have allowed for the proliferation of a variety of sensors and other miniaturized computing technologies throughout the urban form, producing massive amounts of urban data to be stored, processed and exploited by municipal governments, private corporations, and other entities. In some cities, these developments are increasingly giving rise to oppositional movements interested in rearticulating the role of emerging technologies in urban life. For instance, competing discourses within a fledgling “technological sovereignty” movement in Europe seek to challenge “technological fetishism.” Borrowing from theorizations of “food sovereignty,” the idea of technological sovereignty calls for a critical analysis and radical restructuring of the existing political economic models through which technology is developed, produced, and controlled. This session seeks papers that: employ critical approaches to the role of emerging robotic technology and ICT in urban life; examine the work of urban actors or collectives that critically reconceptualize the potential role of technology in creating alternative urban economies or political framework; offer new ways of methodologically approaching or theorizing the role of technical objects in complex urban assemblage; critically explore the notion of “technological sovereignty” as a theoretical concept and/or political project; and/or consider questions of privacy, surveillance, or data security within the urban context.

4. Robotics Futures IV: The Politics of Security (Organizer: Ian Shaw)
This session seeks to explore how robots are transforming the spaces, politics, and subjects of security. Robotics are already emerging as vital actors in our security-worlds. From biometric borders, automated gun turrets, to mobile sea mines, a new class of robotic apparatuses are being developed, each of which embodies (and mobilizes) a future geography. The rise of U.S. drone warfare has received a great deal of media and academic discussion. Yet, paradoxically, this has tended to mask the wider robotic revolution in security: the banal and everyday deployment of robots by state and non-state actors. Accordingly, this session aims to consider a number of broad theoretical and empirical questions on the politics of security: How will robots transform the spaces of war and conflict? In what ways will robots transform the spaces and architectures of policing? How will robots transform the established logics of state sovereignty and governance? What potentials are there for resistance and subversion?


Data Infrastructures, Nature, and Politics

Organizers: Eric Nost (University of Wisconsin, Madison), Jenny Goldstein (Cornell University)
Discussant: Luke Bergmann (University of Washington)
Conservationists around the world are turning to new data collection, modeling, and visualization software they believe may help “save the planet”. For some conservationists, data paucity and irregularity may constrain environment governance more than political will, capacity, or legitimacy (e.g. Hsu et al. 2012). At the same time, corporations are developing new software for intensifying resource extraction or managing their use of ecosystem services. In both cases, as actors extend their use of new digital tools and grapple with big data, they run up against the social and technical limits of existing data management platforms, standards, and institutions – the data infrastructure. This session explores the making and un-making of data infrastructures by which conservationists and corporations – as well as development practitioners, scientists, and state planners – generate scaled, uneven, and actionable knowledge about the environment. In particular, we are interested in: contestation around data infrastructures that respond to or remake material environments; performative effects and surprising failures of data infrastructures (Bowker 2000); and the conditions under which technical approaches can further “appropriate,” just outcomes instead of re-entrenching state and capitalist power (Fortun 2004).

Political ecologists have shown how economic forces and institutional cultures shape who is called upon to make environmental science, which perspectives are deemed legitimate, and the values and interests characterizing this knowledge. But as STS scholars have argued, knowledge production relies on sociotechnical infrastructures–proprietary and open source devices, embodied practices, and social institutions–that are variously ubiquitous but transparent, learned but reliable (Edwards 2007). While political ecologists have shown how environmental science generated with digital tools like GIS and remote sensing drives particular land management policies (Robbins 2001; Turner 2003), we aim to characterize the broader infrastructures supporting the use of these tools and how these infrastructures themselves are sources of contested policy and material change. Although much recent political ecological work on infrastructure has focused on tangible systems, we seek to apply insights from this work to digital infrastructure, with the help of research from STS and geographies of technology (Wilson 2011; Leszczynski 2012, Ash et al. 2015) to better understand the new social relations, regimes of governance, and natures brought about by changes in the management of environmental data. Work from developing world cases is especially encouraged.

We are particularly interested in presenters who address one or more of the following:
•    What it means to an environmental expert in the age of big data and how volunteered, crowdsourced data reconfigures environmental expertise (Eden 2012; Lave 2015)
•    How data infrastructure transforms environmentalism and generates ecological/geographical imaginaries (Easterling 2014)
•    How conservation organizations change when they become data brokers and/or managers
•    Misalignments and tensions between designers, managers, and users of environment-related data infrastructure (Oudshoorn and Pinch 2003)
•    Who bears the costs of maintaining digital infrastructure, who gets to be involved in creating databases, and who defines what data is valuable
•    How data management infrastructures operate within bureaucracies
•    Critical physical geography approaches linking data infrastructure regimes and specific ecological outcomes
•    Methodologies for researching digital infrastructures (Star 1999)
•    Histories of data infrastructure (Jackson et al. 2007)

We invite interested participants to send their title, 250-word abstract, and affiliation to Eric Nost (nost– AT – and Jenny Goldstein (jeg347– AT – by October 15, 2016. We will notify accepted participants by October 22. As this session has a discussant, we will ask participants to circulate their papers several weeks prior to the conference.


Ash, J; Kitchin, R; Leszczynski, A. 2015. Digital turn, digital geography? The Programmable City, Working Paper No. 17.

Bowker, G. 2000. Biodiversity Dataversity. Social Studies of Science 30(5): 643-683.

Fortun, K. 2004. Environmental Information Systems as Appropriate Technology. Design Issues 20 (3):54–65.

Easterling, K. 2014. Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space. London: Verso.

Edwards, P. 2007. A Vast Machine. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Eden, S. 2012. Counting fish: Performative data, anglers’ knowledge-practices and environmental measurement. Geoforum 43 (5):1014–1023.

Hsu, A., A. de Sherbinin, and H. Shi. 2012. Seeking truth from facts: The challenge of environmental indicator development in China. Environmental Development 3 (2012):39–51.

Jackson, Steven J., Paul N. Edwards, Geoffrey C. Bowker, and Cory P. Knobel. 2007. Understanding Infrastructure: History, Heuristics, and Cyberinfrastructure Policy. First Monday 12(6).

Lave, R. 2015. The Future of Environmental Expertise. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 105 (2):244–252.

Leszczynski, A. 2012. Situating the geoweb in political economy. Progress in Human Geography Published (1):1–18.

Oudshoorn, N. & Pinch, T. 2003. “Users and Non-Users as Active Agents in the De-Stabilization of Technologies” in How Users Matter: The Co-Construction of Users and Technology.

Robbins, P. 2001. Fixed categories in a portable landscape: the causes and consequences of land-cover categorization. Environment and Planning A 33 (1):161–179.

Star, Susan Leigh. 1999. The Ethnography of Infrastructure. American Behavioral Scientist 43(3): 377-91.

Turner, M. D. 2003. Methodological Reflections on the Use of Remote Human Ecological Research. Human Ecology 31 (2):255–279.

Wilson, M. W. 2011. Data matter(s): legitimacy, coding, and qualifications-of-life. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space (January).

Zoomers, A., A. Gekker, and M. T. Schäfer. 2016. Between two hypes: Will “big data” help unravel blind spots in understanding the ‘global land rush?’. Geoforum 69:147–159.

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