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Call for papers: Digital Work in the Planetary Market (AAG 2020)

Call for papers: Digital Work in the Planetary Market

Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers
Denver, Colorado
April 6-10, 2020

Session Organizers: Mark Graham, Fabian Ferrari

Work, and the networks that extract value from it, are increasingly embedded into planetary systems. As ever more work is commodified and traded beyond local labour markets, this session seeks to focus on those systems that purport to pay little attention to the locations in which work is done. Workers embedded into digital production networks produce immaterial outputs. Those outputs can be instantly transmitted to anywhere on the planet. This means that, for work that relies on the production and processing of codified rather than tacit knowledge, proximity is no longer needed between workers and the objects and subjects of their work.

For many, the fact that Amazon contractors in Romania listened to Alexa conversations or that Facebook commissioned Indian workers to read private messages has been a privacy scandal. Beyond privacy concerns, these cases are exemplary of a planetary network of extracting cognitive human labour that happens in real-time. Those developments reflect reshaped value chains and skill requirements. For example, the increasing complexity of AI supply chains dovetails with an increasing demand for high-quality training data labelled by workers in the Global South. Work can now seemingly be deterritorialised at a planetary scale.

The goal of this paper session is to remove some of the opacity of digital work in the planetary market, inviting new theoretical frameworks, methodological approaches, and innovative ways of visualising research findings. Papers in it might address the following questions:

  • What do the global value chains of trans-national networks of machines and digital workers look like? How do we theorise the ways that they are governed and take form?

  • What do digital production networks that fuse automated systems and human production do to create value; and, despite their seeming immateriality, how do they use and create economic geographies?

  • What are the infrastructures that mediate, augment, and extract value from digital work?

  • How should we understand the relative embedded- and disembedded, material and immaterial, and territorialised and deterritorialised natures of digital production?

  • How should we theorise the politics of technological artefacts within the rise of planetary networks of computing?

  • How do we apply infrastructural thinking to holistically studying the actually existing economic geographies of AI design, training and augmentation? In other words, how should we think about the conjunction of innovations in deep learning, natural language processing, computer vision, and autonomous vehicles with the planetary networks of computing and digital production that they rely on to function?

  • What are the economic geographies of globally-traded digital work? What are the ways in which the materiality of digital work is concealed and who benefits from doing so?

  • What are the relationships between the increasing commodification and the disembedding of digital work?

  • What does it mean to work in an international digital production network, what possibilities do workers, in opaque networks of digital production, have to decommodify and improve the conditions under which they work?

If you are interested in participating in this paper session, please send a title and 250-word abstract by Wednesday, October 9th to Mark Graham (mark.graham@oii.ox.ac.uk) and Fabian Ferrari (fabian.ferrari@oii.ox.ac.uk).

AAG 2015 CFP - From Online Sweat Shops to Silicon Savannahs: Geographies of Production in Digital Economies of Low-Income Countries


From Online Sweat Shops to Silicon Savannahs: 
Geographies of Production in Digital Economies of Low-Income Countries

AAG Annual Meeting, Chicago, April 21-25, 2015

Organizers:
Mark Graham, Nicolas Friederici, and Isis Hjorth University of Oxford

Throughout the early 21st century, Internet and mobile phone access in developing countries has skyrocketed, and today the majority of people on the planet are connected through information and communication technologies (ICTs). Yet, while basic ICT access is increasingly level across income groups and geographies, production in the global digital economy is still, and maybe increasingly, dominated by incumbent multinational technology corporations or fast-scaling web startups. These businesses tend to roll out their products (with some local adaptation) across the globe, but maintain their coordinating and creative activities in places like Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv, or London, exploiting both agglomeration and dispersion economies in digital production (Malecki & Moriset, 2007; Moriset & Malecki, 2009).


How does digital production in low-income countries fare in the face of this dominance? Policymakers and the private sector in several low-income countries (especially in Sub-Saharan Africa) have set out to transform their economies through ICTs, explicitly emphasizing local digital production. Two sectors that are often seen as promising are (1) low-skill/cost-competition, such as business process outsourcing and digital microwork, and (2) high-skill/entrepreneurial innovation, such as startups developing and commercializing mobile and online applications.


However, what are the concrete and realistic potentials and possibilities for low-income countries to become important hubs for digital production? What are palpable economic outcomes of Kenya’s status as the “Silicon Savannah” or Lagos as the “Silicon Lagoon,” and who are the winners and losers of local ICT entrepreneurship and innovation? Do ICTs really deliver economic inclusion and employment to remote geographies and low-income groups, or are we witnessing the rise of online sweatshops that further enhance exploitation of vulnerable populations?


This session will explore these themes, encouraging contributions from a variety of perspectives. We invite authors to consider digital production in low-income/developing countries through lenses such as:

  • Empirical or theoretical perspectives on digital production and its (uneven) geographies
  • Discourse around digital production and its promises and risks
  • Distributions of value creation and extraction across actor groups (winners/losers)
  • Tensions of scaling versus local adaptation in digital production, in application to geography and inclusion/exclusion effects
  • Uneven production geographies within countries, in particular, differences and divides between rural/peri-urban/urban clusters
  • Socio-demographic analyses of economic actors engaging in digital production
  • Case studies of low-skill/cost-competition digital production (e.g., business process outsourcing, microwork, etc.)
  • Case studies of high-skill/entrepreneurial innovation in digital production (e.g., mobile/online applications startups, technology innovation hubs)
  • Analyses and recommendations for local and international policy pertaining to digital production

To be considered for the session, please send your abstract of 250 words or fewer, to: mark.graham@oii.ox.ac.uk, nicolas.friederici@oii.ox.ac.uk, and isis.hjorth@oii.ox.ac.uk

The deadline for receipt of abstracts is October 1 2014. Notification of acceptance will be before October 7. All accepted papers will then need to register for the AAG conference at aag.org. Accepted papers will be considered for a special issue or edited volume edited by the organizers.
 


Malecki, E. J., & Moriset, B. (2007). The paradox of a “double-edged” geography: local ecosystems of the digital economy. In The Digital Economy: Business Organization, Production Processes and Regional Developments (pp. 174–198). New York, NY: Routledge.
Moriset, B., & Malecki, E. J. (2009). Organization versus Space: The Paradoxical Geographies of the Digital Economy. Geography Compass, 3(1), 256–274.

AAG 2015 CFP - Digital Connectivity, Inclusion, and Inequality at the World’s Economic Margins
Digital Connectivity, Inclusion, and Inequality at the World’s Economic Margins
AAG Annual Meeting, Chicago, April 21-25, 2015

Organisers:
Mark Graham and Chris Foster, University of Oxford

We are in the throes of a global transformation of digital connectivity. Over six billion people have access to phones and two and a half billion people use the internet. Meanwhile, governments, international organisations, and corporations are developing plans, projects, and policies to connect the remaining disconnected. Fibre-optic cables, laptops for every child, and drones, balloons, and satellites all beaming down internet access are just some of the strategies being actively planned to bring connectivity to the rest of the world in the coming years. 

As we approach a situation in which almost half of humanity is online, we need to explore the difference people expect connectivity to make at the world’s economic peripheries. Will connectivity amplify or deepen economic inequalities? Should we expect empowerment, inclusion, and opportunities; or further exploitation and extraversion?

This session brings together papers that seek to explore the differences that connectivity makes, and can make, in the contemporary international division of labour and on-going global shifts in economic flows. It will critically explore ‘Bottom of the Pyramid’ networked capitalism, and the opportunities, struggles, and alternatives that it underpins. It will also facilitate a space for research that addresses the central question of ‘who benefits and who doesn’t from the increasing networking of the world’s population?’

Potential topics include:

  • Discourses around connectivity, inclusion, and exclusion in the Global South
  • ICT and development policies and who they ultimately benefit.
  • Changes to global value chains or production networks
  • Opportunities for upgrading or disintermediation
  • Empirical or theoretical engagements with the idea of ‘connectivity’ and the roles that it can play amongst the world’s poorest
  • Contemporary or historical treatments of the links between connectivity and inequality
  • Alternative ways of imagining or envisioning connectivity at the world’s economic peripheries
  • Case studies of global ‘body shopping’, digital work, or bottom of the pyramid capitalism
  • Policies and initiatives for digital connectivity which support inclusion and reduced inequality

Submission Procedure:

To be considered for the session, please send your abstract of 250 words or fewer, to: mark.graham@oii.ox.ac.uk and christopher.foster@oii.ox.ac.uk

The deadline for receipt of abstracts is October 1 2014. Notification of acceptance will be before October 7. All accepted papers will then need to register for the AAG conference at aag.org. Accepted papers will be considered for a special issue or edited volume edited by the organisers.
Call for papers: Data Shadows and Urban Augmented Realities (at the Association of American Geographers)

Call for Papers: Data Shadows and Urban Augmented Realities


Most parts of our urban areas have become both digitally connected and represented by digitalized information. Digital layers of geographic information (commonly referred to as “augmented reality” by computer scientists) can take myriad forms. The most visible of which are probably the digital maps that many people use to navigate through cities. Google, Yahoo!, Wikipedia, Apple, OpenStreetMap, Baidu, and many other companies and organisations all host publicly accessible platforms that partially reflect parts of our world. These services also become the platform for an almost unimaginable amount of additional content that both reflects the materiality of cities and augments it with additional content. This additional volunteered (and emitted) geographic information is comprised of photographs, blogs, tweets, social media checkins, webcams, videos, and encyclopedia articles. These layers of digital representations are then further reproduced and repurposed in the ways that they annotate the urban environment


The ambition of this session is to interrogate the increasing prevalence of both geographically referenced digital information and the code through which it is regulated. By asking what these augmented realities are, where they are and where they are not, and how they are brought into being, we can both unpack the language we use to speak about digital augmentations and explore the ways in which digital extensions of place are becoming increasingly important in everyday, lived geographies.

This session seeks two kinds of papers. First it aims to provide space for papers that explore the ways in which we should imagine, describe, critique, and even name, the digital and informational augmentations of our lives. Second, the session seeks papers that critically examine information geographies and augmented realities in specific contexts. How do informational augmentations impact on how we bring our worlds into being? What and where do they exclude? What narratives and discourses do they allow, and what do they conceal? How are they governed, regulated, and challenged?


Please submit abstracts of less than 250 words to Mark Graham (mark.graham@oii.ox.ac.uk) and Matthew Zook (zook@uky.edu) before October 31, 2013.  We will review abstracts in order to form cohesive sessions.