Geographic information systems (GIS) represent more than a tool for spatial data handling. Qualitative and mixed-methods approaches with GIS value the suite of spatial methods and technologies, while typically showing a marked sensitivity toward issues of subjectivity, knowledge production, exclusion, reflexivity, and power relations. Although recent research in the use of qualitative GIS demonstrates the ways in which spatial representations and analyses can be used as part of critical geographic inquiry, there remain significant opportunities to demonstrate and synthesize the particular affordances of these approaches. Alongside broader developments in public scholarship and the digital humanities, mixed-methods research with GIS is coming of age, as technological innovations are easing access to data and access to visualization and analytical tools for some. The implications of these developments at the level of knowledge construction within community-based, critical research have been underexplored, however. What are the specific affordances of mixed-methods research with GIS? How are mixed-methods knowledges made and worked through community engagement? Here, we trace how qualitative GIS methods uniquely enable multiple narratives to change the ways in which GIS is practiced. To illustrate this process, we present findings from the use of qualitative GIS to study urban gardening in a postindustrial, Midwestern city. Key Words: critical GIS, qualitative GIS, urban gardening, urban geography.
The pervasiveness of the Internet in society has brought about changes in academia and shifts in the day-to-day practices of many academics. Here, the Web practices of academic geographers are specifically examined through an Internet-based survey, to better understand how these geographers both present themselves through the Internet and perceive the importance of such practices around Web presence. Situated within this increasing importance of the Internet as part of professional practice and the neoliberalization of the university, the changes in the teaching and research of academics are overviewed. We then discuss our findings, which indicate a relationship between generation and Web practices, and further reinforce the need for a more central discussion of the importance of Web presence within the context of a knowledge economy.
The general convergence of location with digital information communication technologies (ICTs) has brought about profound shifts in the content, forms, and practices that surround spatial media. In geogra- phy, these phenomena have been variously and alternately referred to as ‘volunteered geographic information’ (VGI) (Elwood et al. 2011; Goodchild 2007), ‘neogeography’ (Graham 2010; Turner 2006; Warf and Sui 2010; Wilson and Graham 2013a, 2013b), ‘(new) spatial media’ (Crampton 2009; Elwood and Leszczynski 2012), and ‘the geoweb,’ (Elwood and Leszczynski 2011; Haklay et al. 2008; Scharl and Tochtermann 2007). Here, we prefigure ‘the geoweb’ as we consider it to account for both new materialities and new practices.
The earth's inhabited areas are uneven in knowledge about peoples, landscapes and activities. The unevenness is attributed to the collection and dissemination of place-based knowledge by colonial powers, countries with long traditions of print knowledge, including the production of maps, and also the production of electronic information. This paper explores the concepts of terrae incognitae and the geographies and cartographies of silence about Khayelitsha, a township outside Cape Town that has more than a million residents. It examines geographical knowledge using Google hyperlinks and Scholar, placemarks (DigiPlaces) and Street View as well as information from travel sources. Reasons for the lacunae are discussed as well as working strategies to increase our awareness about the township's human and environmental conditions.
This article presents an overview and initial results of a geoweb analysis designed to provide the foundation for a continued discussion of the potential impacts of ‘big data’ for the practice of critical human geography. While Haklay’s (2012) observation that social media content is generated by a small number of ‘outliers’ is correct, we explore alternative methods and conceptual frameworks that might allow for one to overcome the limitations of previous analyses of user-generated geographic information. Though more illustrative than explanatory, the results of our analysis suggest a cautious approach toward the use of the geoweb and big data that are as mindful of their shortcomings as their potential.
More specifically, we propose five extensions to the typical practice of mapping georeferenced data that we call going ‘beyond the geotag’: (1) going beyond social media that is explicitly geographic; (2) going beyond spatialities of the ‘here and now’; (3) going beyond the proximate; (4) going beyond the human to data produced by bots and automated systems, and (5) going beyond the geoweb itself, by leveraging these sources against ancillary data, such as news reports and census data. We see these extensions of existing methodologies as providing the potential for overcoming existing limitations on the analysis of the geoweb.
The principal case study focuses on the widely reported riots following the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team’s victory in the 2012 NCAA championship and its manifestation within the geoweb. Drawing upon a database of archived Twitter activity – including all geotagged tweets since December 2011–we analyze the geography of tweets that used a specific hashtag (#LexingtonPoliceScanner) in order to demonstrate the potential application of our methodological and conceptual program. By tracking the social, spatial, and temporal diffusion of this hashtag, we show how large databases of such spatially referenced internet content can be used in a more systematic way for critical social and spatial analysis.
Enormous amounts of online and networked data are becoming part of the layers, experiences, and landscapes of place. Geographers and other social scientists have only relatively recently begun to understand this rapid expansion of user-centered, locational media. Movements in the academy in response to these phenomena have offered a series of organising labels, with different levels of specificity and layers of connotation: the geoweb, spatial/social media, user-generated content, ‘big data’, as well as volunteered geographic information (VGI) and neogeography. ...
Wilson/Graham: There are a few terms circulating describing the current proliferation of locational data and practices, including geoweb, maps 2.0, volunteered geographic information (VGI), and neogeography. How are we to understand the relationship between these terms, specifically volunteered geographic information and neogeography?
Goodchild: Neogeography implies a reinventing of geography, in which the traditional roles of expert producer of geographic information and amateur user have broken down, with the amateur becoming both a producer and user—or what some have termed a prosumer.
The production and consumption of geographic information is becoming a more mobile practice, with more corporate actors challenging the traditional stronghold of Esri- and government-based geospatial developments. What can be considered a geographic information system has expanded to include web-based technologies like Google Earth/Maps, as well as more recent developments of Microsoft’s Bing Maps and the mobile version of ArcGIS available for the iPhone. In addition to these developments, a discursive shift toward ‘location’ is occurring across the Internet industry. Location has become the new buzzword for social-spatial strategies to target consumers. As reported in 2010, venture capitalists have, since 2009, invested $115 million into ‘location start-ups’ – software companies that provide location-based services to mobile computing consumers (Miller and Wortham, 2010). Applications like Foursquare, Loopt, Gowalla, and most recently, Facebook Places allow users to ‘check-in’ at restaurants, bars, gyms, retail outlets, and offices, thereby sharing their location within their social network. These developments enable consumers to (re)discover their proximities to products, while feeding a desire for making known one’s everyday movements. Here, I discuss the development of location-based services as the proliferation of a peculiar form of geographic information: conspicuous mobility. Through discussion of a recent gathering of location-aware software professionals and through analysis of discourses that emerge over a battle between ‘check in’ companies, I sketch an area of study that explores the implications of these emerging geographic information ‘systems’, and new everyday cartographers.
Data are central to geographical technologies and provide the pathways in which geographic investigations are forwarded. The mattering of data is therefore important to those engaging in participatory use of these technologies. This paper understands ‘mattering’ both in the material sense, that data are products resulting from specific practices, and in the affective sense, that data are imaginative, generative, and evocative. I examine these senses of mattering, of both presence and significance, in a discussion of a community survey project held in Seattle, USA. During this four-year project, residents in ten neighborhoods were asked to collect data about their community streets using handheld computers. Residents tracked ‘assets’ and ‘deficits’ by locating objects such as damaged sidewalks and graffiti on telephone booths. These data records were then uploaded to a central server administered by a local nonprofit organization. The nonprofit worked with community residents to help link these data about their changing neighborhoods to agencies in the municipal government. Here, I argue that the legitimacy of these data practices is constructed through processes of standardization and objectification and that these processes transduct urban space. I ask, as participatory mapping practices target governing agencies with their data products, what are the implications for the kinds of knowledge produced and for its legitimacy? In other words, how does data come to matter?
From 2004 to 2007, a nonprofit organization in Seattle conducted over twenty-five street surveys in ten neighborhoods. Participants in these surveys collected geographic data about community ‘deficits’ and ‘assets’ using handheld devices, while walking around their local neighborhoods. These residents marked graffiti, litter, vacant buildings, and abandoned automobiles, as well as, ‘friendly’ business districts, appropriate building facades, and peopled sidewalks—all among their categories of interest, initially borrowed from a New York City foundation responsible for developing the handheld devices. Here, I analyze the geocoding protocol, ‘Training the Eye’, that was created by the New York City foundation and was adapted by the Seattle nonprofit. This technology of citizen engagement in governmental practice enacts an embodied cartographic vision that is productive of liminal subjectivities. These practices of geocoding, of assessing place in space, are intensely bodily, both in their messy enactment of digitally-extended vision and in their data-based imaginings of bodies at the margins. I draw upon theories of the cartographic gaze to discuss how technologies of vision constitute particular urban imaginations and discuss how subjects are formed through the discourses and practices of geocoding.
As a mode of critique, the cyborg is often separated from its role as a figuration. This article reviews Donna Haraway's cyborg theory to restate the importance of the cyborg as a figuration in critical methodology. Figuration is about opening knowledge-making practices to interrogation. I argue that the cyborg enables this inquiry through epistemological hybridization. To do so, cyborg figurations not only adopt a language of being or becoming, but narrate this language in the production of knowledges, to know hybridly. The epistemological hybridization of the cyborg includes four strategies: witnessing, situating, diffracting and acquiring. These are modes of knowing in cyborg geographies. To underline the importance of this use of cyborg theory, I review selected geographic literatures in naturecultures and technosciences, to demonstrate how geographers cite the cyborg. My analysis suggests these literatures emphasize an ontological hybridity that leaves underconsidered the epistemological hybridization at work in cyborg figuration. To take up the cyborg in this way is to place at risk our narrations, to re-make these geographies as hybrid, political work.
By situating qualitative GIS research among the various research trajectories in the ‘GIS and society’ tradition, I argue that qualitative GIS enacts a specific researcher positionality. In reading this positionality against the original call for a ‘critical GIS’, I argue that qualitative GIS must continue to problematize its relationship with bits of code and practices of coding. This is a call for a situated qualitative GIS, a genealogical tracing of the multiple rootings of this research and development endeavor. Situating qualitative GIS as a critical GIS, I consider how our relationships with technologies create concerns around the positionality of critique. This is a ques- tion of ‘insiderness’, answered through the call for a kind of insider gaze, which is privy to and constitutive of the terms and terminologies of the technology. To further elaborate how the positionality of qualitative GIS research differs from other work in GIS and society, I discuss three subfields: STS studies, ethno(carto)graphies, and socio-behavioral studies of GIS. Qualitative GIS is distinct in its perspective, what I argue is a techno-positionality. I further discuss how this techno-positionality enacts knowledge production differently, to begin to situate qualitative GIS research, to allow it to speak back to the earlier disciplinary debates about GIS, and to begin to think genealogically about qualitative GIS.
Extending a special session held at the 2008 annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers in Boston, this commentary collection highlights elements of the critical GIS research agenda that are particularly pressing. Responding to a Progress report on critical GIS written by David O'Sullivan in 2006, these six commentaries discuss how different interpretations of ‘critical’ are traced through critical GIS research. Participants in the panel session discussed the need for a continued discussion of a code of ethics in GIS use in the context of ongoing efforts to alter or remake the software and its associated practices, of neo-geographies and volunteered geographies. There were continued calls for hope and practical ways to actualize this hope, and a recognition that critical GIS needs to remain relevant to the technology. This ‘relevance’ can be variously defined, and in doing so, researchers should consider their positioning vis-à-vis the technology. Throughout the commentaries collected here, a question remains as to what kind of work disciplinary sub-fields such as critical GIS and GIScience perform. This is a question about language, specifically the distance that language can create among practitioners and theoreticians, both in the case of critical GIS and more broadly throughout GIScience.
Reading groups can be spaces of resistance, both from the competitive performances of some classroom seminars and from the calculative fields of neoliberalizing departments and universities. As graduate students, we offer this intervention as a consideration of the bodily politics of academic reproductions. In discussing the embodiment of textual practices in seminar and in reading groups, we point to monologue, ‘trashing’ criticism, and obscurity as practices habituated in the classroom seminar. We discuss how reading groups contest ‘proper’ knowledges, while enabling a multiplicity of textual, bodily practices. Finally, we consider how certain reading practices potentially de-stabilise neo-liberal subject formation in the academy. We discuss why we do not want reading groups to count, as a strategy for resisting accounting and accountable regimes in our departments and universities.