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Posts tagged augmented realities
Digitally Augmented Geographies - New Publication

I have another new publication out this week. Thanks to the editors (Rob Kitchin, Tracey Lauriault, and Matt Wilson) for all of their efforts in putting this book together!

Graham, M. 2017. Digitally Augmented Geographies. In Understanding Spatial Media. eds. Kitchin, R., Lauriault, T. P., and Wilson, M. W. London: Sage. 44-55.

The term ‘spatial media’ has traditionally been used to describe the intersections between information and geography. It signifies information that describes, or is about, a particular place. A street map of Chicago, geographic data files about Copenhagen, a postcard with a picture of Oxford on it, a travel guide to Sweden, are all examples of spatial media; in other words, information about geography. 

It was only relatively recently that geographic information became so easily infused into spatial media. For most of human history, geographic information was tethered onto particular parts of the world. It passed from person to person, often changing because it was so difficult to attach it to stable containers. But then, a succession of technological advancements (like papyrus and the printing press) allowed for the invention of books, newspapers, maps, and other media. What these mediums had in common was that they that fixed geographic information to its containers: they made it immutable. A paper map for instance, could be moved from place to place without the map itself changing.

This chapter, however, is about something different that has recently happened to spatial media. What has occurred is not just a move from mutable geographic information to immutable geographic information, but also the increasing proliferation of what could be called ‘augmented spatial media.’ Instead of just being fixed to containers, information can now augment and be tethered to places; it can form parts of the layers or palimpsests of place (Graham et. al., 2013). A building or a street can now be more than stone, bricks, and glass; it is also constructed of information that hovers over that place: invisible to the naked eye, but accessible with appropriate technological affordances. In other words, while it has long been argued that “the map is not the territory” (Korzybski, 1948; Harley, 1989; Crampton, 2001), this chapter argues is that the map is indeed becoming part of the territory.

An Informational Right to the City? Code, Content, Control, and the Urbanization of Information - New Paper

After much work, many discussions, a lot of writing and rewriting, and many many presentations around the world, Joe Shaw and I have our 'Informational Right to the City' article in print. 

An Informational Right to the City? Code, Content, Control, and the Urbanization of Information

Henri Lefebvre talked of the “right to the city” alongside a right to information. As the urban environment becomes increasingly layered by abstract digital representation, Lefebvre's broader theory warrants application to the digital age. Through considering what is entailed by the urbanization of information, this paper examines the problems and implications of any “informational right to the city”. In directing Tony Benn's five questions of power towards Google, arguably the world's most powerful mediator of information, this paper exposes processes that occur when geographic information is mediated by powerful digital monopolies. We argue that Google currently occupies a dominant share of any informational right to the city. In the spirit of Benn's final question—“How do we get rid of you?”—the paper seeks to apply post-political theory in exploring a path to the possibility of more just information geographies.

Download it, and our related pieces at the links below:

Shaw, J. and Graham, M. 2017. An Informational Right to the City? Code, Content, Control, and the Urbanization of InformationAntipode.  10.1111/anti.12312

Graham, M. and Shaw, J. 2017. An 'Informational Right to the City'?New Internationalist. Feb 8, 2017

Shaw, J and Graham, M. (eds). 2017. Our Digital Rights to the City. London: Meatspace Press.

Pokémon Go and the Need to Critically Consider Augmented Realities

Pokémon Go is currently taking the world by storm. The game uses smartphones to overlay the material world with digital elements, encouraging users to travel around to different places in order to progress in the game.

The addictive gameplay has led to police departments warning people that they should be more careful about revealing their locations, players injuring themselves, finding dead bodies, and even the Holocaust Museum telling people to play elsewhere!

But I think the game is also worth noting because it offers a nice illustration of some of the themes that Matt Zook, Andrew Boulton, and I wrote about a few years ago in the following piece.

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. (pre-publication version here)

In the piece we note that there are four kinds of power that manifest in the coming together of material and virtual spatialities:

Distributed Power: The power of a distributed group of actors to influence what is and isn’t present in our augmented world. In other words, the augmented world is created in the way that it is not because of the decisions of a single actor, but from a network of people (often in opaque and untraceable ways). 

Communication Power: The fact that some actors have more power than others to control and use the digital layers of place. A street takes on very different meanings for those with and without access to digital content. 

Code Power: The ability for code and algorithms to impact how our augmented world are produced and brought into being. 

Timeless Power: The flattening of time. Because of the ways that many augmented digital layers are constructed, time in augmented spaces takes on different temporalities. Some digital layers are relatively static and timeless; others are live. 

These ways of thinking about power and augmented realities are important because digital augmentations are never imposed onto any sort of socially neutral space. There are existing social, economic, and political contexts that influence how people use these augmented spaces. Think for instance, of whether minorities might feel safe in all areas the game leads them to, or - for similar reasons - whether women can augmented their worlds in the same ways men can. 

As ever more of the world becomes augmented, and as ever more people augment their lives with digital content, I hope that we can use (and improve) these ways of thinking about the power-laden practices we bring our augmented worlds into being with.

The addictive gameplay has led to police departments warning people that they should be more careful about revealing their locations, players injuring themselves, finding dead bodies, and even the Holocaust Museum telling people to play elsewhere!

But I think the game is also worth noting because it offers a nice illustration of some of the themes that Matt Zook, Andrew Boulton, and I wrote about a few years ago in the following piece.

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. (pre-publication version here)

 

In the piece we note that there are four kinds of power that manifest in the coming together of material and virtual spatialities:

Distributed Power: The power of a distributed group of actors to influence what is and isn’t present in our augmented world. In other words, the augmented world is created in the way that it is not because of the decisions of a single actor, but from a network of people (often in opaque and untraceable ways). 

Communication Power: The fact that some actors have more power than others to control and use the digital layers of place. A street takes on very different meanings for those with and without access to digital content. 

Code Power: The ability for code and algorithms to impact how our augmented world are produced and brought into being. 

Timeless Power: The flattening of time. Because of the ways that many augmented digital layers are constructed, time in augmented spaces takes on different temporalities. Some digital layers are relatively static and timeless; others are live. 

These ways of thinking about power and augmented realities are important because digital augmentations are never imposed onto any sort of socially neutral space. There are existing social, economic, and political contexts that influence how people use these augmented spaces. Think for instance, of whether minorities might feel safe in all areas the game leads them to, or - for similar reasons - whether women can augmented their worlds in the same ways men can. 

As ever more of the world becomes augmented, and as ever more people augment their lives with digital content, I hope that we can use (and improve) these ways of thinking about the power-laden practices we bring our augmented worlds into being with. 

The problem with “cyberspace”
image

Why should we be careful when we use the term “cyberspace” or capitalise the “i” in “internet”? That is the question I tackle in a piece I wrote that traces the history of the word ‘cyberspace’, and argues that it can be unproductive to apply in many contemporary settings.

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

The paper argues that many of the ways in which we discuss, imagine, and envision the internet rely on inaccurate and unhelpful spatial metaphors. In particular, the it focuses on the usage of the ‘cyberspace’ metaphor and outlines why the reliance by contemporary policy makers on this inherently geographic metaphor matters.

The metaphor constrains, enables, and structures very distinct ways of imagining the interactions between people, information, code, and machines through digital networks. These distinct imaginations, in turn, have real effects on how we enact politics and bring places into being.

The paper traces the history of ‘cyberspace,’ explores the scope of its current usage, and highlights the discursive power of its distinct way of shaping our spatial imagination of the internet.

See also:

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