My talk on Internet and information geographies is now freely available on the BBC’s iPlayer (or downloadable here - if you’re in an IP-address-block that the iPlayer doesn’t like) The talk argues that the geographies of information increasingly matter because of the more prominent role of augmentations of everyday life. But that those geographies of information often amplify earlier patterns of voice, representation, and participation. I work through a series of examples in order to conclude that:
The informational divides that we’re seeing reproduced can’t simply be explained away by a lack of connectivity. Connectivity is a necessary, but, by no means, a sufficient condition. But so is a broader ecosystem of information, an educated and tech literate population, having reliable infrastructure, not excluding half of the population (in other words, women), having the internet be trusted rather than subject to surveillance by the state, and having the critical mass for local-language tools, platforms, and communities.
We’ve always had inequality, but the digital layers of places mean that the internet and the ability to produce digital and coded information might start to amplify those older imbalances of voice and power and participation. We’re not just deepening the divides between different parts of our world, we’re also creating layers of places that aren’t necessarily representative of the underlying people, processes, and contexts that exist there.
So let’s think about that the next time we use Google to find a restaurant or look something up on Wikipedia. Let’s remember that our digital tools are usually just amplifying the already most visible, the most powerful, and the most prominent things, and let’s maybe look for alternatives; different stories; different narratives; different mediators. Our world is always going to be augmented by digital information, but let’s always try to remember what it leaves out.
If you’re interested in some of my relevant/recent publications on the topic, then check out:
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 (forthcoming).
Graham, M. 2014. The Knowledge Based Economy and Digital Divisions of Labour. In Companion to Development Studies, 3rd edition, eds V. Desai, and R. Potter. Hodder. 189-195.
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 the Urban Environment: contested content and the duplicity of code. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. 38(3), 464-479. (pre-publication version here)
Graham, M. 2011. Time Machines and Virtual Portals: The Spatialities of the Digital Divide. Progress in Development Studies. 11 (3). 211-227.