Internet Geographer

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Philip Leverhulme Award: Internet Geographies

I am extremely happy to report the news that I have been awarded one of the 2016 Philip Leverhulme prizes!

I hope to use the resources offered by the Leverhulme Trust to extend my research into information and internet geographies.  This line of research asks who and where is made more powerful and given more voice by the new digital layers of place that augment the places that we live in, and who and where tends to get silenced and excluded. In previous research we have seen some of the ways in which the digital can amplify and strengthen those already in global informational cores. But, as ever more people get connected to the internet, we need to know more about what sort of change we’re seeing over time.

Going forwards, this will mean hiring a postdoc trained in some flavour of computational social science/ GIS/ big data/ quantitative geography to work with me  I’ll be posting a job ad soon, but in the meantime please get in touch if you’re interested in working with me on such topics.

It really is a massive honour to have this award and to have the opportunity to use it to further some of our ongoing work. None of this would have been possible without the help of some of my brilliant and  smart collaborators over the last few years. As part of the immediate group of researchers that I’ve supervised at the OII, I’ve had the luck to work closely with Sanna Ojanpera, Nicolas Friederici, Amir Anwar,  Isis Hjorth, Alex Wood, Chris Foster, Stefano De Sabbata, Ralph Straumann, Heather Ford, Joe Shaw, Nisa Haji Ibrahim, Devin Gaffney, Charlotte Smart, Caludio Calvino, Ahmed Medhat, David Palfrey, Richard Farnbrough, Ning Wang, Tessy Onaji, and David Peter Simon: all of whom have played an important part in designing, carrying out, and publishing our scholarship. I also have a broader network of collaborators that I’ve also had the fortune to directly research and publish with: Matt Zook, Monica Stephens, Taylor Shelton, Ate Poorthuis, Bill Dutton, Bernie Hogan, Vili Lehdonvirta, Helena Barnard, Tim Waema, Charles Katua, Casper Andersen, Shilad Sen, Andrea Ballatore, Grant Blank, Scott Hale, Taha Yasseri, Illhem Allagui, Andrew Boulton, Jaz Choi, Han-Teng Liao, Felix Akorli, Grace Illah, Claude Bizimana, Havard Haarstad, Ralph Schroeder, Greg Taylor, Matt Wilson, Jeremy Crampton, Stann Brunn, Sean Gorman, Eduardo Lopez, Iginio Gagliardone, Emmanouil Tranos, Jim Thatcher, Dorothea Kleine, Richard Heeks, Padraig Carmody, and Rina Ghose (apologies if I have missed anyone out).  

Just typing out that list of names made me realise how truly incredible the last few years have been, and what a privilege it is to get to work with so many people from such a diverse range of backgrounds. And this list doesn’t even include all of the other people who have helped along the way (such as the ever-helpful support staff at Oxford).

I didn’t intend for such a long post about this award, but once I started to write it became clear that there is no way to say ‘thanks’ for this award without thanking all of the people in my network who actually made it possible.

Mark

Reconsidering the Role of the Digital in Global Production Networks

Chris Foster and I have a new publication out in Global Networks. We previously shared a pre-publication version, but the piece is officially in the journal now. You can access an open-access version at the following link:  

Foster, C. and Graham, M. 2016. Reconsidering the Role of the Digital in Global Production Networks. Global Networks. DOI: 10.1111/glob.12142 (pre-publication version here).

Abstract:

Global production networks (GPN) has become a key framework in conceptualising linkages, power and structure in globalised production. However, this framework has been less successful in integrating the influence of digital information and ICTs in production, and this problematic in a world where relationships and power are increasingly mediated by digital information flows and resources.

We thus look to adapt the GPN framework to allow more substantive analysis of ‘the digital’. Primarily this is done through a theoretical analysis of the three core categories of the GPN framework - embeddedness, value and networks – to highlight how these categories can better integrate a more dynamic and contested conceptualisation of the digital. Illustrations from research on the digitalization of tea sector GPNs in East Africa highlight how these theoretical advances provide new insights on the digital and its expanding role in economic production.

“Perish or Globalize:” Network Integration and the Reproduction and Replacement of Weaving Traditions in the Thai Silk Industry

The practice of handmade silk weaving has disappeared from much of the world, but continues to be practiced by thousands of people in Northeastern Thailand. However, as the Thai economy becomes increasingly embedded into global flows and networks of commodities, capital and culture, there are worries that silk weaving as a practice will either cease to be reproduced or will have to radically change in order to service the global market. This paper, based on in-depth interviews and surveys with sellers of silk, examines this dilemma faced by the industry. It finds that the means through which economic information is codified and transmitted over space and the tastes of non-local markets are ultimately resulting in changes to production practices throughout the country. Despite the fact that the internet is enabling trade and thereby allowing production practices to continue, fears are being realized about traditional practices being replaced as producers become ever more integrated into global networks.

You can access the paper here:

Graham, M. 2011. “Perish or Globalize:” Network Integration and the Reproduction and Replacement of Weaving Traditions in the Thai Silk Industry ACME: Journal of Critical Geographies10(3) 458-482.

I just had to refer to this paper in a chapter I’m writing, so decided to post it here (I’ve never blogged it, and my website contained a dead link to it). 

If you like the topic, here is some related work that I did:

Graham, M. 2013. Thai Silk dot Com: Authenticity, Altruism, Modernity and Markets in the Thai Silk Industry. Globalisations 10(2) 211-230.

Graham, M. 2011. Disintermediation, Altered Chains and Altered Geographies: The Internet in the Thai Silk Industry. Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries. 45(5), 1-25

Graham, M. 2010. Justifying Virtual Presence in the Thai Silk Industry: Links Between Data and Discourse. Information Technologies and International Development. 6(4), 57-70.

Graham, M. 2011. Time Machines and Virtual Portals: The Spatialities of the Digital Divide. Progress in Development Studies. 11 (3). 211-227.

Graham, M. 2011. Cultural Brokers, the Internet, and Value Chains. In The Cultural Wealth of Nations. eds. Wherry, F. and N. Bandelj. Standford: Stanford University Press. 222-239 (email for a copy).

The geography of Wikipedia edits
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Wikipedia has a geography. This is something that my colleagues and I have explored previously in a variety of scholarship. 

For a new book on ‘Open Development’, my colleague Stefano De Sabbata and I decided to update our most recent paper about information geographies with the above maps of Wikipedia. 

The basic underlying inequalities haven’t changed. Using the number of edits to every language version of Wikipedia coming from all countries and territory in the last quarter of 2014 (the most recent full set of data available), the above maps show that the geography of participation on Wikipedia is highly uneven.  

Stark inequalities are readily apparent: Europe and North America contribute 35.2% and 23.6% of Wikipedia’s edits respectively. In contrast, Africa contributes only. 1.3% of the world’s total (although it is worth noting that a few years ago, Africa’s contribution was consistently less than 1%). In fact, contributions from Africa are so low that there are actually more edits that originate in the Netherlands than the whole continent combined.

While some of these disparities can be explained by the total number of Internet users in a country, even normalizing by the percent of the population online (the second map) results in Africa still registering far fewer edits than would be expected (see our paper on this topic for detailed statistical analyses).

These geographies of Wikipedia edits because they represent how people from different parts of the world get to represent each other. Some people and places continue to have little voice and continue to be left off the map.

For more on this topic, see:

Graham, M., Straumann, R., Hogan, B. 2016. Digital Divisions of Labor and Informational Magnetism: Mapping Participation in Wikipedia. Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 105(6) 1158-1178. doi:10.1080/00045608.2015.1072791.(pre-publication version here)

Graham, M. 2015. Information Geographies and Geographies of Information New Geographies 7 159-166.

Graham, M., De Sabbata, S., Zook, M. 2015. Towards a study of information geographies:(im)mutable augmentations and a mapping of the geographies of information Geo: Geography and Environment.2(1) 88-105. doi:10.1002/geo2.8

Graham, M., Hogan, B., Straumann, R. K., and Medhat, A. 2014. Uneven Geographies of User-Generated Information: Patterns of Increasing Informational Poverty. Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 104(4). 746-764. (pre-publication version here)

Or a recent talk I gave: