Internet Geographer

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Posts tagged digital divide
Digital Divides in the United Kingdom
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If you've ever wondered what local geographies of internet access look like in the UK, I have a new paper out with Grant Blank and Claudio Calvino that can shed light on the topic. We use small area estimation to understand levels of access in different parts of the country.

We find some significant differences. In London, for instance, about 85% of the population is an internet users. Whereas in Newcastle only 64% have access.

You can access the full paper at the following link:

Blank, G., Graham, M., Calvino, C. 2017. Local Geographies of Digital InequalitySocial Science Computer Review.  DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0894439317693332

 

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

Kapuścinski Public Lecture - Uneven Geographies of Power and Participation in the Internet Era

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You can watch the whole lecture at the link above. For anyone interested in more about the topic, the following pieces could be of interest:

Graham, M., Straumann, R., Hogan, B. 2016. Digital Divisions of Labour and Informational Magnetism: Mapping Participation in Wikipedia. Annals of the Association of American Geographers. (in press) 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)

Here's why visions of ubiquitous connectivity aren't going to be realised any time soon
The last few months have seen a wealth of stories about visions to connect the world. Facebook, Google, large international organisations, states, and even Bono, dream of a world in the near future in which we are all hooked into the network.

In the midst of all of this, I found a comment made by Jimmy Wales particularly interesting.


This hope of the inevitability of ubiquitous connectivity is one that is widely reproduced by other policy makers, technologists, and thought leaders.

However, it is a hope that needs to be unpacked. There are two ways in which this hypothetical future in which everyone is connected could be brought into being.
The first one of these futures is a world where everyone can afford access. But as we demonstrated in our research about the global affordability of broadband, dropping prices is unlikely to be a sufficient strategy. There will remain billions of people making a subsistence living, for whom even extremely cheap access is unaffordable.  The average Mozambican worker, for instance, would need over one and a half year’s salary to pay for one year’s worth of broadband access.

In other words, Jimmy Wales’ prediction won’t happen simply by lowering prices.
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The second future is the one promoted by the likes of Mark Zuckerberg. One in which large corporations sponsor free (and importantly, limited) access for billions of people in return for attention monopolies. This brings a very different sort of Internet into being: one in which winners and losers, centres and peripheries, are already pre-selected by those who control your access.

What this all ultimately means is that it seems unlikely that any sort of open Web will be ubiquitously available in the near future. Simply lowering the cost of access will continue to leave out the very poorest; and handing over the project of connecting the disconnected to large technology firms will leave us with a very different (and far less desirable) sort of Internet.

To read a bit more about visions of connectivity, here are two of my recent papers: