I have a new article out in Security Dialogue, which uses the aftermath of the Boston Bombing as a way to understand new possibilities for crowdsourcing surveillance using data shared online. The abstract reads:

Possibilities for crowdsourced surveillance have expanded in recent years as data uploaded to social networks can be mined, distributed, assembled, mapped, and analyzed by anyone with an uncensored internet connection. These data points are necessarily fragmented and partial, open to interpretation, and rely on algorithms for retrieval and sorting. Yet despite these limitations, they have been used to produce complex representations of space, subjects, and power relations as internet users attempt to reconstruct and investigate events while they are developing. In this article, I consider one case of crowdsourced surveillance that emerged following the detonation of two bombs at the 2013 Boston Marathon. I focus on the actions of a particular forum on, which would exert a significant influence on the events as they unfolded. The study describes how algorithmic affordances, internet cultures, surveillance imaginaries, and visual epistemologies contributed to the structuring of thought, action, and subjectivity in the moment of the event. I use this case study as a way to examine moments of entangled political complicity and resistance, highlighting the ways in which particular surveillance practices are deployed and feed back into the event amid its unfolding.

Published version (paywall)
Accepted manuscript version (free)

Lally, N. 2016. Crowdsourced surveillance and networked data. Security Dialogue. doi: 10.1177/0967010616664459




I have new work in an upcoming show in the Fed Galleries at the Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, MI. The show, titled The Land of Here and Now, is a collection of work by 27 artists who have participated in the amazing Shared Space Studio residency in Pentwater, MI. The show opens on Thursday, June 9, 5:30-7:30pm (I’ll be there) and runs through July 23.

Other artists include: Rose Beerhorst, Aliya Bonar, Melissa Borell, Alex Difiglia, Evan English, Eliza Fernand (Co-Curator), Marlee Grace, Elodie Goupil, Emily Harris, Elijah Jensen-Lindsey, Amy Johnquest, Amanda Kennedy, Joey Korein, Jeffry Kriksciun, Amanda Matles, Michelle Murphy, Joshua Orion-Kermit, Brian Perkins, Amber Phelps-Bondaroff, Paul Richardson, Kenny Riches, Mary Rothlisberger (Co-Curator), Scotty Slade Wagner, Heather Smith, Morganne Wakefield, Natalie Woodlock



San Juan Islands, WA

In the Fall of 2014, I visited the Friday Harbor Laboratories to “revisit” critical GIS with a group of about thirty scholars. This month, our commentary on the workshop is making its way to print in Environment and Planning AIf you have institutional access, you can download it on their website. If not, you can download the accepted manuscript version. Or, if you want the TL;DR version, skip to the last two lines: “We are continually revisiting critical GIS. Join us.”

Thatcher, J., L. Bergmann, B. Ricker, R. Rose-Redwood, D. O’Sullivan, T. J. Barnes, L. R. Barnesmoore, L. Beltz Imaoka, R. Burns, J. Cinnamon, C. M. Dalton, C. Davis, S. Dunn, F. Harvey, J.-K. Jung, E. Kersten, L. Knigge, N. Lally, W. Lin, D. Mahmoudi, M. Martin, W. Payne, A. Sheikh, T. Shelton, E. Sheppard, C. W. Strother, A. Tarr, M. W. Wilson, and J. C. Young. 2016. Revisiting critical GIS. Environment and Planning A 48 (5):815–824.


The schedule is out for the series of sessions Ryan Burns and I have organized for the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers in San Francisco, March 29-April 2, 2016. All sessions are on March 30th in Union Square 16, Hilton Hotel Union Square, 4th Floor:

Toward a Geographical Software Studies 1: Political economy and infrastructures
Wednesday, 3/30/2016, from 10:00 AM – 11:40 AM

Laura Beltz Imaoka (University of California, Irvine), The Immaterial Value of Proprietary Software: Platforming ArcGIS

Ashwin Jacob Mathew (University of California, Berkeley/Packet Clearing House), Protocol as a Fieldsite

Till Straube (Goethe University Frankfurt), Seeing Like a Stack

Will Payne (University of California – Berkeley), What’s in a (Neighborhood) Name? Location-Based Services and Contested Delineations of Place

Discussant: James Thatcher (University of Washington – Tacoma)

Toward a Geographical Software Studies 2: Language and tools
Wednesday, 3/30/2016, from 1:20 PM – 3:00 PM

Matthias Plennert (FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg), Analyzing the hidden backbone of an open-data-project: a genealogy of the OpenStreetMap data model

Warren SACK (University of California – Santa Cruz), Out of Bounds: Language Limits, Language Planning, and Linguistic Capitalism

Luke R. Bergmann (University of Washington), Speculative computing: toward Geographic Imagination Systems (GIS)

Pip Thornton (Royal Holloway, University of London), The Production of Context and the Digital Reconstruction of Language

Discussant: Cheryl Gilge (University of Washington)

Toward a Geographical Software Studies 3: The visual and control
Wednesday, 3/30/2016, from 3:20 PM – 5:00 PM

Craig M. Dalton (Hofstra University), Seeing with Software: Mobile device users’ geographic knowledges

Aaron Shapiro (University of Pennsylvania), The Surface of Things: Google Street View, Computer Vision, and Broken Windows

Louise Amoore (Durham University)

Teresa Scassa (University of Ottawa), Mapping Crime: Civic Technology in the Emerging Smart Cities Context

Discussant: Clare Melhuish (University College London)

Toward a Geographical Software Studies: methods and theory
Wednesday, 3/30/2016, from 5:20 PM – 7:00 PM

Elvin K. Wyly (University of British Columbia)

Pip Thornton (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Daniel G. Cockayne (University of Kentucky)

Keith Woodward (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Monica Degen

Discussant: Matthew W. Wilson (Harvard University)

Session Description: A growing body of recent geographic scholarship has focused its attention on software and algorithms. Some of these studies analyze geographic technologies —GIS and the geoweb, for example— as such, while others investigate a myriad of digital technologies that have become ubiquitous within the spaces of everyday life. These software/code objects interact with and modulate the world in complex ways, enact processes that connect humans and nonhumans, and become entangled with social, cultural, political, and economic systems. Moreover, software created to visualize data is used to produce knowledge about urban environments and everyday life, but obscure the processes and contexts which underlie its development. Engaging these topics, geographers have developed concepts like the “automatic production of space” (Thrift and French 2002), “software-sorted geographies” (Graham 2005), and “code/space” (Kitchin and Dodge 2011) to describe how software and space are co-constituted in the contemporary world. Productive research is building on these topics to explore new ways geographies are produced (Rose, Degen, and Melhuish 2014), governed (Amoore 2011), materialized, represented (Woodward et al. 2015), and lived through software (Kinsley 2014).

This session seeks to bring together a range of spatial thinkers who are producing new studies, theories, and methods for understanding and producing software. We welcome submissions that address all facets of software: the context of its production, its internal operational logics, the material work it does in the world, and its spatial distribution of social and political effects.

Sponsorships: Geographic Information Science and Systems Specialty Group
Cyberinfrastructure Specialty Group
Political Geography Specialty Group


In his book Speed and Politics first published in 1977, the french philosopher Paul Virilio writes of an early computer-aided predictive policing system being tested in France in this fascinating footnote (170-171):




In an attempt to trace a history of radical thought within the discipline of geography (and assemble a reading list for my qualifying exams), I’ve been experimenting with co-citation visualizations. These network graphs rely on citation data from Web of Science, connecting texts that are cited together a minimum number of times, as indicated by the citation threshold slider. I focused mostly on the journal Antipode, which has offered a “radical (Marxist/socialist/anarchist/anti-racist/feminist/queer/green) analysis of geographical issues” since its founding in 1969. Unfortunately, Web of Science only indexes Antipode articles from 1990 through 2015. But I was able to see how older Antipode articles have been taken up by three major English language geography journals (The Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Progress in Human Geography, and Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers) by mapping co-citations of Antipode articles within them. This allowed me to go back to 1969 for the Annals, 1982 for Progress, and 1970 for Transactions and produce this graph:


Zooming in reveals discussions within the discipline. For example on the left, we find five scholars debating visuality within geography in a special issue in Antipode, while on the right, we find an ongoing discussion about the university, education, and pedagogy:


Below are all of the graphs I’ve done so far. Let me know if you find any interesting patterns!

Co-Citations of Antipode Articles in the Annals (top 1500 cited articles 1969-2015), Progress (top 1000 cited articles 1982-2015), and Transactions (top 1000 cited articles 1970-2015)

Co-Citations, All Antipode Articles, 1990-2015

Co-Citations in the 50 Most Cited Articles, Antipode, 1990-2015

Co-Citations of Antipode Articles in Antipode, 1990-2015

Co-Citations in the Annals (top 1500 cited articles 1969-2015), Progress (top 1000 cited articles 1982-2015), and Transaction (top 1000 cited articles 1970-2015)

This work relies on code written by number of people. I used Neal Caren’s python script with slight modifications to convert the Web of Science data into a D3 graph. Kieran Healy’s code helped me modify the visualization. And Jonathan Goodwin’s code and write-up were super helpful in adding the citation threshold slider and putting everything together.



A fetus “testifies” in the Ohio legislature via ultrasound (From

Later this week, I’ll be in Denver to participate in the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) Annual Meeting. On Thursday (4:00 to 5:30pm, Denver Sheraton, Plaza Ballroom D), I will be presenting a paper co-authored with Jennifer Denbow that outlines some of our recent research on ultrasound. Our abstract reads:

Developments in ultrasound software continue to produce new representations of bodily interiors, profoundly influencing medical, popular, and political understandings of pregnant bodies. While numerous feminist STS studies have explicated the importance of the resultant images, none have examined how legal regulations and economic interests interact with software production to produce these images. In this paper, we examine the development of ultrasound software through interviews with computer programmers, technical documentation, academic articles, and federal regulations. We explore how three different academic ultrasound laboratories conceptualize their work in relation to regulatory frameworks. These three sites, and the researchers within, are part of complex assemblages that influence the design choices and assumptions that go into producing ultrasound software. Through an examination of the technical and regulatory frameworks, as well as the software that laboratories produce, we argue that the regulatory and economic structures affect what software is produced and thus what images are possible. Thus, we argue that the production and use of ultrasound software is co-constitutive with legal regulations, economic interests, and understandings of reproductive bodies.

I haven’t gone through the program closely yet, but someone pointed me to a panel titled “Make Kin Not Babies: Toward Feminist STS Pro-Kin and Non-Natalist Politics of Population and Environment,” which looks fantastic. It includes contributions from Donna Haraway, Adele E. Clarke, Michelle Murphy, Kim TallBear, Alondra Nelson, and Chia-Ling Wu (Thursday, November 12, 10:30am to 12:00pm, Denver Sheraton, Governor’s Square 15). The abstract reads:

Feminist STS scholarship has long and richly addressed biogenetic reproduction, focusing on race, region, sexuality, class, gender, and more. However, feminist STS has also largely been silent about reducing the human burden on earth while strengthening ecojustice for people and other critters as means and not ends. Can we develop anti-colonial, anti-imperialist, anti-racist, STS-informed feminist politics of peopling the earth in current times, when babies should be rare yet precious and real pro-family and community politics for young and old remain rare yet urgently needed? How can we develop collaborative politics recognizing that peoples subjected to (ongoing) genocides may need more children? How can we intervene in the relentless glut of attention devoted to problematic, costly “rights” and “needs” for (mainly richer) women to have babies as an individual “choice”?

Questions: How to nurture durable multi-generational non-biological kin-making, while humans everywhere transition to vastly less reproduction? What alternative ways of flourishing can be nurtured across generations and across cultures, religions, nations? How to deter on-going anti-feminist population control efforts while generating innovative discourses that legitimate non-natalist policies and choices? How to promote research on forms of contraception women and men want (and can use under diverse circumstances) and reproductive services that actually serve? How to build non-natalist kin-making technologies and sciences in housing, travel, urban design, food growing, environmental rehabilitation, etc.?

Where are the feminist utopian, collaborative, risky imaginings and actions for earthlings in a mortal, damaged, human-heavy world? Why hasn’t feminist STS taken the lead in such fundamental endeavors?



Rachael Squire has an interesting post on the Geopolitics and Security blog from Royal Holloway. She describes recent news stories about Russian submarines operating near deep sea communication cables and provides us with some historical context. I will be interested to see where this research goes. She writes:

Last week, reports emerged of a Russian submarine ‘aggressively operating’ near US undersea cable infrastructure. According to the New York Times and a subsequent report by CNN, the presence of Russian subs near such vital infrastructure has prompted fears that Russia might be planning to ‘attack’ the cables in ‘times of tension or conflict’. The ‘cable’ posing a security threat is not a new phenomenon. During the Cold War for example, cable tapping was a key intelligence gathering strategy by both the US and Soviet Union. As a case in point Operation Ivy Bells saw fast-attack submarines and combat divers deployed to ‘drop waterproof recording pods on the lines’. The divers would return every few weeks to gather the pods before delivering them to the NSA. The latest reports, however, hint at something different to Cold War cable hacks. According to the NYT the primary threat is that the cables would be cut or severed.

Artist and geographer Trevor Paglen has also been doing some interesting work researching, photographing, and mapping undersea cables. Hyperallergic has a nice review of his recent exhibition at Metro Pictures, which includes the following two images:


Trevor Paglen, “Bahamas Internet Cable System (BICS-1) NSA/GCHQ-Tapped Undersea Cable Atlantic Ocean” (2015), c-print


Trevor Paglen, “NSA-Tapped Fiber Optic Cable Landing Site, Morro Bay, California, United States” (2015), c-print and mixed media on navigational chart


Over on Geographical Imaginations, Derek Gregory points out two new projects, both of which sound fascinating. One is Eyal Weizman’s new “Forensic Architecture” lecture, which extends Weizman’s earlier work on Rebel Architecture, nicely summarized in this video:

Gregory also mentions a new book titled A Prehistory of the Cloud by Tung-Hui Hu, which he predicts will “surely be one of the must-reads of the year.” Hu traces a history of cloud computing, finding its roots in older networks like railroads and in older forms of political power. Lisa Banks writes:

Hu’s riveting genealogy of the cloud takes us into its precursors and politics, and boldly demonstrates how fantasies of sovereignty, security, and participation are bound up in it. Much more than a data center, the cloud is a diffuse and invisible structure of power that has yielded a data-centric order. Imaginative and lucidly written, this book will be core to digital media studies.


Recently, I’ve been interested in accounts like these that take the “new” out of “new media” by historicizing digital technologies–showing how they emerged from particular imaginaries, discourses, and historical precedents. Armand Mattelart’s short book Networking the World, 1794-2000 does a nice job of this, showing how numerous communication networks, from the telegraph to the internet, have been met with utopian hopes that describe a new connected, democratic, and peaceful world. He writes:

Messianic discourse about the democratic virtues of technology, which mask what is at stake in the struggles for control of the structure and content of knowledge networks, are of use in geopolitics. The champion of information superhighways, Albert Gore, adopts the same tone as the prophets who have preceded him since the end of the eighteenth century, when he presents to the “great human family” his world project for a network of networks: the global information infrastructure (GII). (92)


Over on, James Bridle has a nice post that, like some of Gregory’s writing, connects military history to contemporary digital technologies and the politics of vision. He writes:

When radar signals were received aboard an aircraft carrier, they were displayed on a radar oscilloscope. But in order for this information be used in the midst of battle, the positions needed to be transcribed to a large glass viewing pane, and as part of this process they needed to be inverted and reversed. To perform this operation quickly and accurately, the radar operators were trained and drilled extensively in “upside down and backwards town”, a classified location where everything from newspapers to street signs were printed upside down and backwards. This experience would not so much create a new ability for the radar operators, as break down their existing biases towards left-to-right text, allowing them to operate in multiple dimensions at once.

This process, in Kevin’s reading and in mine, is akin to much of our experience of new technology, when our existing frameworks of reference, both literary and otherwise, are broken down, and we must learn over once again how to operate in the world, how to transform and transliterate information, how to absorb it, think it, search for it and deploy it. We must relearn our relationship not only with information, but with knowledge itself.


And, finally, I recently came across two great collections of articles, books, and scholars writing critically about digital media. The first, from the Social Media Collective at Microsoft Research New England, is a Critical Algorithm Studies reading list, which “spans sociology, anthropology, science and technology studies, geography, communication, media studies, and legal studies, among others,” intentionally avoiding work from computer science. The second is the Remediating Political Theory / Repoliticizing Media Theory reading list compiled by Jason Adams from The New Centre for Research & Practice. It’s a list of writers with no descriptions, so it’s a little harder to navigate, but potentially useful for the meticulous reader.


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.