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An Informational Right to the City? Code, Content, Control, and the Urbanization of Information - New Paper

After much work, many discussions, a lot of writing and rewriting, and many many presentations around the world, Joe Shaw and I have our 'Informational Right to the City' article in print. 

An Informational Right to the City? Code, Content, Control, and the Urbanization of Information

Henri Lefebvre talked of the “right to the city” alongside a right to information. As the urban environment becomes increasingly layered by abstract digital representation, Lefebvre's broader theory warrants application to the digital age. Through considering what is entailed by the urbanization of information, this paper examines the problems and implications of any “informational right to the city”. In directing Tony Benn's five questions of power towards Google, arguably the world's most powerful mediator of information, this paper exposes processes that occur when geographic information is mediated by powerful digital monopolies. We argue that Google currently occupies a dominant share of any informational right to the city. In the spirit of Benn's final question—“How do we get rid of you?”—the paper seeks to apply post-political theory in exploring a path to the possibility of more just information geographies.

Download it, and our related pieces at the links below:

Shaw, J. and Graham, M. 2017. An Informational Right to the City? Code, Content, Control, and the Urbanization of InformationAntipode.  10.1111/anti.12312

Graham, M. and Shaw, J. 2017. An 'Informational Right to the City'?New Internationalist. Feb 8, 2017

Shaw, J and Graham, M. (eds). 2017. Our Digital Rights to the City. London: Meatspace Press.

The Geography of Twitter

A few months ago, Antonello Romano and I published some maps of Twitter. Those maps showed which parts of the world produced more content than others. However, what they failed to do is account for differences in Internet penetration around the world. 

The above map normalises the Twitter data by internet population data: revealing the parts of the world that are home to internet users who are more likely to publish content on the platform. 

You can see that the differences between places are not slight ones. Internet users in some countries (like Malaysia) are dozens of times more likely to tweet than internet users in places like India or Kenya. 

As in painfully obvious in 2017, information in social media streams can have an outsized influence. Knowledge shared on Twitter can shape how people around understand society, the economy, and politics. But, as we see here, that knowledge has distinct geographies. It is far more likely to be created in some places than others.

Further reading:

Graham, M, S. Hale, and D. Gaffney. 2014. Where in the World are You? Geolocation and Language Identification in Twitter. The Professional Geographer 66(4) 568-578. (pre-publication version here)

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. 2015. Information Geographies and Geographies of Information New Geographies 7 159-166.

Graham, M., S. Hale & M. Stephens. 2011. Geographies of the World's KnowledgeConvoco! Edition.

Mapping Twitter

I've been working with Antonello Romano to update some of our older research into the geography of Twitter

Below you can see some maps from a sample of about 2.5 million tweets collected worldwide over 48 hours in October 2016. These are collected using the Twitter streaming API (at most a 1% sample).

Because of the nature of the data, I wouldn't read too much into any specific differences. But what these maps broadly achieve is that they give us a sense of the digital cores and peripheries of our world.

The two 'world at night' style maps give a sense of which parts of the world light up the internet with content, and which parts are still relatively left in the dark. The choropleth map (the one in which countries are shaded) then gives us a sense of which countries produce the bulk of content. The US (25%) and Brazil (14%) together produce more than a third of the world's content. 

Other parts of the world produce only a tiny amount of content in comparison. In all of Africa combined (2.7% of the world's total), there are is less content produced than in Turkey (4%) or Spain (3%).

We live in a world in which almost half of humanity is connected to the internet. And almost anyone, anywhere, in any position of power is connected. This means that information in social media streams (like Twitter) can have an outsized influence. Knowledge shared on Twitter can shape how people around understand society, the economy, and politics. But, as we see here, that knowledge has distinct geographies. Let's remember that even in 2016, this is anything but a truly global network. 

Further reading:

Graham, M, S. Hale, and D. Gaffney. 2014. Where in the World are You? Geolocation and Language Identification in Twitter. The Professional Geographer 66(4) 568-578. (pre-publication version here)

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. 2015. Information Geographies and Geographies of Information New Geographies 7 159-166.

Graham, M., S. Hale & M. Stephens. 2011. Geographies of the World's KnowledgeConvoco! Edition.

Shaping the new world of work

The European Trade Union Institute has just put together a 40-page report that comes out of their conference on 'Shaping the new world of work. The impacts of digitalisation and robotisation', held from 27-29 June 2016 in Brussels.

I spoke in the Plenary on 'technology', and spoke about both fears for digital workers, and potential ways of building worker power and collective action. 

Download a copy of the report: 'Shaping the new world of work'.