We're at AAG in Boston

It was a busy year at AAG for yours truly and members of the lab

April 5, Chair

Session on Open Data

Open data, that is government data provided for free, with minimal restrictions on reuse, is often framed as a new, untapped resource for tech start up entrepreneurs to drive new, lucrative business models. Civil society groups also see the potential for open data to reveal the inner workings of government and to build arguments for change. Within the urban context, much open data forms the backbone of base maps, providing the canvas for visualization and analysis of a variety of secondary data sources. In cities, open data can be used to construct and to challenge arguments around the nature, character and use of space. Despite this interest in accessing, using, and exploiting government open data, there are critical questions to be asked about the dark side of government open data - from both provision and use perspectives. More specifically, what are the direct and indirect costs of government provision of open data? What external impacts are created through open data provision and use? The goal of this session is to explore the dark side of open data, addressing these costs for different open data stakeholder communities and interrogating the key trade-offs created by open data.

Paper, Facades of OD

Concepts of open government and open data have gained enormous discursive power in society. The International Open Data Conference, as a manifestation of that power, has become a prestigious event for the host country and draws thousands of individuals well-positioned in their home countries. The reasons open has such salience in government are multivariate: open confers transparency, accountability, efficiency, and empowerment. From political philosophy, openness in government can create a government responsive to the uncertainties of society, one that is willing to abandon rigid and unchallenged truths. Openness therefore carries normative baggage. Who wants to be labeled as closed? But, as I will argue, openness can serve as a façade for darker impulses. I first will run through the various connotations of openness and its manifestations in open data. For example, open data is being expressed quite differently in indigenous communities from the definitions of the Open Data Institute. Indeed, it is seen as colonial. I will unpack the very American-ness of openness and how this fuels further neoliberal delegation of responsibilities and relegation of citizen to consumer. I will talk of openness as a right versus a standard operating procedure. There are more immediate challenge of openness, that of "open washing", which has allowed repressive governments to use openness as a brand by exploiting open data to legitimize current undemocratic practices. Open washing can enable a superficial gesture without challenging the fundamental structures of governance. Finally I will engage the audience on how openness can surmount these dark moments.

April 6

Panelist, Participatory Research Expectations, Expertise, and Engagement: Navigating the tensions of participatory community research Panelist

Past work in critical pedagogy, participatory action research, and political ecology has emphasized the need for research that draws upon and develops existing expertise within communities, critiquing top down models rooted in researchers’ own questions, expertise, and positionalities. In practice, however, community groups often look to academics for guidance for both the technical aspects of research design and the best ways to frame and interpret research results. With limited time and financial resources, groups may expect academics to take charge, providing structure and direction that expedites the research process.

As part of this panel, we invite you to share your own experiences navigating the boundary between a bottom-up participatory process that develops community’s capacity for change and providing sought after expertise to often overburdened communities. While we invite you to speak freely from your own experience, we anticipate the panel discussion focusing on a series of questions

Discussant, Urban-economic perspectives on technology

In this session we bring together papers focused on the topics of urban and economic geography that take up critical perspectives on technology. Research focusing closely on technology in geography has spoken to questions of big data, smart cities, workplace culture, representations of urban spaces online, and the impact of technology sectors on housing prices. Geographers have described the complexities that digital media and internet access introduce to the production of space, which they have described variously in terms of augmenting and facilitating existing inequality, as well as introducing new kinds of unevenness and productive power dynamics. Society and high technology are theorized as mutually imbricated, and co-produced through the complex interrelationship of labor and goods markets, working practices, and attentional economies. Digital media and technology in general are thus closely implicated in contemporary considerations of both uneven economic development and urban transformations.

Research on technology that takes up urban and economic geographic perspectives has taken a variety of frameworks, from a focus on Marxian political economy, and Foucauldian biopolitics, to Stiegler's writing on the economy of contribution. Still, with quickly changing and expanding implementations and effects of technology and data, as well as a general research focus on the global north, geographers have many further theoretical and empirical insights to contribute to urban and economic geography.

Thus in this session we create a space for urban and economic geographers (and others) to talk across sub-disciplines, to consider questions and concepts of common concern, and examine how technology as a topic, approach, empirical grounding, or framework for thought and research might bring together ideas from different traditions within geographical theory and scholarship.

April 8

Debater, Whither Human Dynamics


The panel takes the form of a debate to stimulate engaging and fun discussions on human dynamics: how we geographers and GI scientists should take on the theme and how the research theme may influence or be influenced by, positively and negatively, the very fundamentals in geography and GIScience, broadly defined.

Two teams of two will argue on the motion: Human Dynamics will become the fifth tradition in Geography (in addition to Pattison's four traditions: spatial, area studies, man-land, and earth science).

Team arguing FOR the motion: Kathleen Stewart and Carson Farmer Team arguing AGAINST the motion: Renee Sieber and Luke Bergmann


Panel brings together key figures in Digital Geographies and asks them pointed questions in a short answer format.

April 9

Panelist, Learning and Applying Tools in Geography: Interdisciplinary Applications in GIS

A Geographic Information System (GIS) is fundamental for analyzing space and is arguably one of Geography's most powerful tools. Geography itself is inherently interdisciplinary and as such lends its tools and methodologies for use by other disciplines. Bearing this in mind, decreasing costs of hardware/software and improvements to user interfaces have helped to increase uptake of GIS, opening up new opportunities for applications. However, in order to adeptly use it, there is a learning process that one must go through to understand certain core concepts; without knowledge of these, the potential outputs from GIS may be misleading or inaccurate. Therefore, it is important to know who the learners are and what they hope to achieve - but how do educators adapt and adjust to meet these needs?

Those involved in interdisciplinary research, adult and professional education and Citizen Science initiatives are acutely aware that uptake of GIS can be challenging for many reasons, including but not limited to difficulties learning GIS, managing expectations and prioritizing outputs and the overall applicability of GIS within their work. This panel discussion will bring together knowledgeable educators who have delicately crafted GIS learning materials and activities to improve GIS applications for a diverse and growing audience. Through sharing their combined experiences with GIS, it is hoped that attendees can better understand how GIS may be applied in innovative ways and be inspired to use it to enrich their future work.