Internet Geographer


There is no such thing as 'offline' or 'online'

This is a topic that both I have other have written about for a while, but wanted to write a quick update with links to two relevant papers for conversations being had at AOIR. 

I was in a session beautifully titled 'When does IRL matter?', and the papers in it adopted a range of stances about digital metaphors and the spatiality of the digital. This was refreshing to see because in the conference some papers seemed to imply that the 'online' has some sort of ontologically real status: that it is place that you can transport yourself into. But papers in this session, such as those by Tim Jordan and Kat Braybrooke, rather discussed the hybrid ways that digital experiences intersect with lived practices (for instance by bringing in Doreen Massey's notion of 'power-geometries').

So I wanted to use that discussion to link to two papers that I've published on the topic. In them I argue that our relationship with geography is never 'online' or 'offline'. Any time we use digital tools and technologies, we are augmenting our world with data or algorithms. Or we are mediating our activities through digital tools. But there is never any 'space' that we can transport ourselves into that is 'online'. Imagining the world that way - with such unhelpful spatial metaphors - distracts us from the grounded material ways in which the digital is embedded in daily practice, augments and mediates spatial practice, is always 'real', but never allows us to transcend the messy politics of everyday life.

I articulate this argument in much more detail in these two pieces:

Graham, M., M. Zook., and A. Boulton. 2013. Augmented Reality in Urban Places: contested content and the duplicity of code. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. 38(3), 464-479.

Graham, M. 2013. Geography/Internet: Ethereal Alternate Dimensions of Cyberspace or Grounded Augmented Realities? The Geographical Journal 179(2) 177-182.