Internet Geographer


Posts tagged information geography
On how Google frames, shapes and distorts how we see the world

Carole Cadwalladr has written an excellent set of articles for the Observer on how Google 'frames, shapes and distorts how we see the world'. Her main argument is that because Google representations of the world shape it, we need to hold the company responsible for the information that it mediates. It cannot simply hide behind the argument that an innocent algorithm determined what information is made visible or invisible.

This is an argument Matt Zook and I have been making since the mid-2000s when we wrote a series of pieces showing how early versions of Google Maps not just represent places, but actively shape how people interact with places. As such, we need to treat Google's spatial representations as core/intimate parts of the places that they represent: a digital layer of increasingly hybrid digital/material places. It follows that if Google nowowns, controls, and shapes core parts of our cities and our everyday lives, then we need to be asking critical questions about what we should do about that.

Joe Shaw and I will have an article on that topic (drawing on Henri Lefebvre's 'right to the city' concept) coming out within a few weeks. But in the meantime, you can see our earlier writing on the topic below:

Graham, M. 2015. Why Does Google Say Jerusalem is the Capital of Israel? Nov 30, 2015

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

Ford, H. and Graham, M. 2016. Provenance, Power, and Place: Linked Data and Opaque Digital geographies. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. doi:10.1177/0263775816668857 (pre-publication version here).

Ford, H., and Graham, M. 2016. Semantic Cities: Coded Geopolitics and the Rise of the Semantic Web. In Code and the City. eds. Kitchin, R., and Perng, S-Y. London: Routledge. 200-214.

Graham, M. 2013. The Virtual Dimension. In Global City Challenges: debating a concept, improving the practice. eds. M. Acuto and W. Steele. London: Palgrave. 117-139.

Graham, M and M. Zook. 2013. Augmented Realities and Uneven Geographies: Exploring the Geo-linguistic Contours of the Web. Environment and Planning A 45(1) 77-99.

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)

Zook, M. & M. Graham. 2007. The Creative Reconstruction of the Internet: Google and the Privatization of Cyberspace and DigiPlace. Geoforum, 38, 1322-1343.

Zook, M. & M. Graham. 2007. From Cyberspace to DigiPlace: Visibility in an Age of Information and Mobility. In Societies and Cities in the Age of Instant Access. Ed. H. J. Miller. Springer, 231-244.

Zook, M. & M. Graham. 2007. Mapping DigiPlace: Geocoded Internet Data and the Representation of Place. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design. 34(3) 466 – 482.

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.


Mapping Flickr

Flickr is one of the world’s most popular photo sharing websites, and represents a key way in which people form impressions about different parts of our planet. In other words it is an important part of the digital augmentations of places

Antonello Romano has been doing some great work mapping content from the site, and I’ve pulled some of his data together into this map. What we see are huge differences in the amount of images augmenting different parts of the world. To anyone familiar with some of our previous research, this will be unsurprising. But it is again perhaps the scale of some of these differences that never ceases to astound. 

I’ve shaded each country as a percentage of the USA’s total rather than as absolute numbers, so that this digital information inequality can be better visualised. You can see, for instance, that there are only five countries in Africa that have more than 0.1% of the USA’s total number of photos about them. 

These geographies of information matter: they shape what is known, and what can be known about a place. And even in our age of connectivity, large parts of the planet remain left off the map. 

The Digital Geographies specialty group mailing list

I have been working with some brilliant colleagues and collaborators to set up a new ‘Digital Geographies’ speciality group up at the Association of American Geographers. The AAG is currently reviewing our application package. But what you can do in the meantime, is sign up to our newly-created mailing list (set up by the tireless Jim Thatcher). 

Those of you thinking of attending the AAG, might also be interested in the related call for papers that we’ve put together: Digital\Human\Labour