AAG 2021 CfP: “Critical GeoAI”

A substantial literature has emerged to critique artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) (e.g. Fairness, Accountability, Transparency in ML {FAccT/ML}–Middlestadt et al. 2016; Pasquale 2015; Eubanks 2018). With few exceptions (Kwan 2016), geographers’ voices have been largely absent in this critique of AI/ML (especially deep learning of neural networks). This absence exists despite the prevalent use of geographic examples to illustrate the societal impacts of AI (e.g., insurance costs based on commuting path–Pasquale 2015) and critiques from within computer science of popular deep learning methods used in geography (Hinton 2014). This gap is ever more significant since geographers have long researched AI/ML (cf., Couclelis 1986; Openshaw and Openshaw 1997; Estes et al. 1986) and has recently re-emerged as GeoAI (e.g., Janowicz et al. 2020). Instead, critiques have been led by computer scientists (Dwork 2017 on debiasing; Buolamwini and Gebru 2018 on race and gender bias) and lawyers (Edwards and Veale 2018 on explainability of AI outcomes and data rights). We propose an area of study called Critical GeoAI that analyzes AI through an explicit spatial lens. For this session(s), we are looking for abstracts that consider (but not limited to) the following:

  • Geo-political economy of AI (e.g., urban-rural/north-south divides, concentrations of AI resources that effectively create AI citystates, location of IP and patents, trade agreements)
  • Feature detection of space and the classification of place. Applications of location (e.g., zip codes, space-time trajectories) and placenames in AI/ML to discriminate against people and places
  • AI and structural racism (Benjamin 2019; Noble 2018)
  • Critiques of innovation and disruption and alternatives of slow infrastructures (Barlow & Drew 2020), slow computing (Kitchin and Fraser 2020) and slow AI (Crampton 2020)
  • Role of civil society to participate in automated decision making (including the ability to counter AI)
  • Intersection between Critical Data Studies and Critical GeoAI, for example the role of data in AI, its collection and curation; geographical source of the training data
  • Role of optimization and performance metrics; the geography of standards setting and ethics and trust frameworks
  • “Local AI” and, drawing on Castells (2010), the spatial logic of AI “flows”. How AI “travels” between sources of origin and places of application
  • Algorithmic colonization, extractivism and Western complicity (Birhane 2020)
  • Scalar nature of AI (e.g., digital infrastructures like data centers)
  • The physicality of AI via its environmental impacts, including calls for a sustainable AI
  • Carceral and decarceral AI

Ultimately, we seek to address what is special about spatial in the critique of AI. How does a geographic lens differ from a legal, computational, communications or political science lens?

THIS IS A VIRTUAL SESSION. Please send your abstracts of 250 words or less to renee.sieber@mcgill.ca and jeremy.crampton@ncl.ac.uk by October 20.


M Barlow and G Drew. 2020. Slow infrastructures in times of crisis: unworking speed and convenience. Journal of Postcolonial Studies.

R Benjamin 2019. Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code. Wiley. 

A Birhane. “Algorithmic Colonization of Africa.” SCRIPTed 17 (2020): 389.

J Buolamwini and T Gebru. 2018. Gender shades: Intersectional accuracy disparities in commercial gender classification. In Conference on fairness, accountability and transparency, 77-91.

M Castells. 2010. The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture Vol.s I-III. Malden, MA; Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

H Couclelis. 1986. Artificial intelligence in geography: Conjectures on the shape of things to come. The Professional Geographer.

J Crampton. 2020 Think. Resist. Act Local: Is a Slow AI possible? Ada Lovelace Institute 3 March 2020. https://www.adalovelaceinstitute.org/think-resist-act-local-is-a-slow-ai-possible/

C Dwork. 2017. What’s Fair? Proceedings of the 23rd Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining International Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining, August 13-17, 2017, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

L Edwards and M Veale. 2017-2018. Slave to the Algorithm: Why a Right to an Explanation Is Probably Not the Remedy You Are Looking for. 16 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 18 (2017-2018).

JE Estes, C Sailer, LR Tinney. 1986. Applications of artificial intelligence techniques to remote sensing. The Professional Geographer.

V Eubanks. 2017. Automating Inequality. St. Martin’s Press: New York, NY.

G Hinton. 2014. What is wrong with standard neural nets? Brain & Cognitive Sciences – Fall Colloquium Series. Cambridge, USA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology. December 4, 2014

K Janowicz, S Gao, G McKenzie, Y Hu, and B Bhaduri. 2020. GeoAI: spatially explicit artificial intelligence techniques for geographic knowledge discovery and beyond. International Journal of GIScience.

R Kitchin and A Fraser. 2020. Slow Computing: Why We Need Balanced Digital Lives. Bristol University Press.

M Kwan. 2016. Algorithmic Geographies: Big Data, Algorithmic Uncertainty, and the Production of Geographic Knowledge. Annals of the American Association of Geographers 106(2), 274-282.

BD Mittelstadt, P Allo, M. Taddeo, S Wachter, & L Floridi. 2016. The ethics of algorithms: Mapping the debate. Big Data & Society 3, 2.

S Noble. 2018. Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism. New York: New York University Press.

S Openshaw and C Openshaw. 1997. Artificial intelligence in geography. John Wiley & Sons.

F Pasquale. 2015. The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms That Control Money and Information. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA.

New: OSS maps online at Stanford


Stanford University is nearing completion of a great new resource: putting their collection of OSS maps online. Julie Sweetkind-Singer (Assistant Director of Geospatial and Cartographic Services, Branner Earth Sciences Library) notes that Stanford has about 700 maps. It’s not definitively known how many maps were made by the OSS Map Division (headed by Arthur Robinson), but she cites an estimate of at least 5,752.

During a recent AMA, I asked Marcy Bidney, Curator at the American Geographical Map Library, how many maps were in their collection:

It would be great if AGSL were to link through to the Stanford project on their own digital collection site. I suspect the latter has the largest collection of OSS maps outside NARA . NARA states that it has about 7,500 OSS maps (p.24 of this document), but an item-level listing has not yet been made public, although I understand the number Julie quotes above (5,752) is based on such a list by a map librarian colleague.

The OSS also produced about 200 written reports which often contain maps. These are early examples of intelligence briefings and were written by members of the Research and Analysis (R&A) branch of the OSS. A searchable listing is available here.

The Stanford maps are available here.

Animated map of the European Front WWII by the OSS

An interesting if rather crude animated map sequence I’ve made of the position of the European Front during world War II, from August 7 1944, to May 15 1945. This was made from 41 separate maps in the archives of the American Geographical Society Library (AGSL).

Formerly classified RESTRICTED, these maps were made by the Research and Analysis Branch of the OSS, elements of which were later transferred to the Department of State and became the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), although many members returned to their academic posts following the war.



Bill Bunge’s Nuclear War Atlas (poster) UPDATED

Update: Aug 9, 2018. The American Geographical Society Library (AGSL) in Milwaukee have now scanned the map in high-resolution (both front and back). Many thanks to AGSL and Susan Peschel for making it happen! Link is here.


Bill Bunge, 2008 AAG (Boston). Source.

Bill Bunge’s Nuclear War Atlas was published in two formats, a book from Basil Blackwell published in 1988, and a poster published in June 1982, with 28 maps on one side, and extensive text on the other,

just one week too late for the great United Nations demonstration in New York City. The first edition of the atlas was designed for field use among the unemployed of Detroit’s black slum ghetto (who hold my loyalty but who were vulnerable to the false slogan ‘war means work’ when today it clearly means death), but my work proved far too technical. So I surrendered to the fact that the market for the atlas, the potential readership, would be intellectuals, and put in the earlier and continuing abstract work mentioned, especially in chapter 2.

The original edition was in the tradition of Lobeck’s Physiographic Diagram of North America, with 20,000 words of text on one side and 28 maps on the other, suitable for poster display upon completion of reading it. The 20 in. X 34 in. poster folded into a 5 in. X 8 in. size designed for peace demonstrations, where it was abundantly sold. Selling the atlas was an excuse to talk peace during the summers of 1982 and 1983, talking to thousands of people door-to-door, often at great length, especially in Toronto, retaught me Detroit’s lesson that people needed, as as a dire warning, hope and a more articulated plan for saving the children. This vastly changed the tone of the atlas, especially the ending and, with the abstract work, doubled its size.

Bunge, Nuclear War Atlas (Blackwell) 1988, pp. xxi–xxii.

The poster atlas is now very hard to obtain. I got my copy I got in the 1990s in grad school, and unfortunately it does not appear in full form online, to the best of my knowledge. Ideally it would be scanned and uploaded, but in the meantime here is my best attempt to capture it in a photograph (4032 X 3024, cropped slightly). Hopefully, it will encourage a proper high-resolution scan. Click for full-res version.





PS: this account of radical geography’s early days, with details about Bunge and others, by Clark Akatiff, is important reading (and provided the source of the 2008 photo of Bunge, above). I can say that as an attendee of the 2008 Boston meeting I remember rumors that Bunge was present, and copies of this flyer were posted around the conference:

Bunge AAG meeting_Page_1

RGS-IBG Pre-conference workshop “Navigating Data Landscapes”


From the Digital Geographies Working Group:


Manifold technological developments – from AI to cloud computing – are rapidly changing the landscape of the digital. Complementing the RGS-IBG’s conference theme (Geographical landscapes/changing landscapes of geography), these workshops invite participants to investigate the effects of machine vision on a variety of phenomena: the form of urban life, the experience of driving, the dynamics of war, and the nature of gaming. The workshops aim to provisionally address a number of questions regarding machine vision, and its effect on the ability to ‘navigate’ (literally, metaphorically, conceptually, methodologically) new data landscapes. To what extent does machine vision alter our perception of the world? How might its proliferation affect everyday interactions? And, finally, what new concepts, methods or vocabularies might be needed to comprehend such vision?

The event will start with three parallel sessions which you will be able to sign up for on the day followed by a panel discussion. The sessions are:

Session 1: A screening and discussion of Liam Young’s film Renderlands (2017), which follows a group of local animators through the office environments where they work, the digital landscapes they produce, and the cities in which they live.

Session 2: An interactive exploration of the digital landscapes of virtual reality, video games, and driving simulations.

Session 3: A dive into the sometime murky waters of YouTube to explore, analyze, create and refine ‘terrain typologies’ present in autonomous vehicle videos

If you have any questions or requests please email t.c.osborne@pgr.bham.ac.uk

For further information please visit our webiste at http://www.digitalrgs.org


Tue 28 August 2018
14:00 – 17:30 BST


Glamorgan Building
CF10 3WT
United Kingdom

Further details and to register here.

Workshop: Interrogating Form: Creative and Cultural Participatory Practice

News of an interesting workshop this summer if you’re in the Newcastle area: Continue reading

Dr. Kate Derickson: The Brick Wall You Cannot See


Dr. Kate Derickson (University of Minnesota) will be visiting us here at University of Kentucky for the GGSU Distinguished Speaker lecture.

Facebook event is here.

Digital Geographies Symposium

The Digital Geographies Working Group (DGWG) Symposium will be themed  “Justice and the Digital” and will take place on Friday, July 6 at the University of Sheffield. There will be panels, digital shorts, debates, and time to network.

More information will be provided shortly! See the webpage for more details, and last year’s Symposium.

New TT faculty position, Digital Geographies & Critical Mapping, UKY Geography


We’re hiring!

The Department of Geography at the University of Kentucky is hiring a new faculty member (Assistant Professor) in “Digital Geographies and Critical Mapping.” Review of applications will begin on February 2, 2018 and will continue until the position is filled. The deadline date for all reference materials is February 9, 2018.

For more information contact Search Committee Chair Dr. Matt Zook (zook@uky.edu). Our website: http://geography.as.uky.edu.

Apply here.

The Department of Geography at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky is searching for a tenure-track Assistant Professor of Geography in the area of digital geographies and critical mapping to begin in August 2018. Our goal is to build upon and strategically expand the Department’s existing strengths in critical studies in mapping, human geography, and environmental studies. Areas of interest might include (but are not limited to): critical GIS and mapping, digital economies, gender and difference, big data practices, privacy and surveillance, smart urbanism, algorithmic governance and citizenship, and digital applications for health and the environment.

The successful candidate is expected to teach introductory and advanced courses in mapping, GIS, and/or spatial computational approaches. Ideal candidates will incorporate programming for web cartography, as part of the department’s (1) regular course offerings; (2) online graduate certificate in digital mapping (see http://newmapsplus.uky.edu/); and (3) a proposed undergrad major in digital studies. A PhD in geography or related discipline is required at time of appointment.

Applicants must submit the following: (1) a cover letter and an up to date CV [upload as one document under CV]; (2) a statement describing research interests and future research plans [upload under Specific Request 1], (3) a teaching statement [upload under Specific Request 2], and (4) up to four article reprints or other materials such as maps, portfolios or GitHub repositories [upload as one document under Specific Request 3, please provide a working URL for any online materials]. Also provide the names and contact information for three references when prompted in the academic profile. This information will be utilized to solicit recommendation letters from your references within the employment system.

Review of applications will begin on February 2, 2018 and will continue until the position is filled. The deadline date for all reference materials is February 9, 2018.

For more information contact Search Committee Chair Dr. Matt Zook (zook@uky.edu). Our website: http://geography.as.uky.edu

Apply here.

Call for Sessions: Digital Geographies at RGS/IBG, Cardiff 2018

The RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2018 will take place from 28-31 August at Cardiff University. It will be chaired by Prof Paul Milbourne and will have as its theme “Geographical landscapes / changing landscapes of geography”. The call for sessions at the conference has recently opened.

If you would like to propose a session related to the digital (including e.g. digital technologies, data, online spaces, social media) and would like DGWG sponsorship, we would like to hear from you. We would welcome joint sessions with other research groups. Proposals should relate to debates, literatures or approaches around the digital, and some may link this in some way to the 2018 conference theme, although this is not absolutely necessary.

Sessions may take the form of presented papers, panels, practitioner forums, discussions or workshops. Innovative sessions and formats are encouraged.

Proposals for, or questions about, DGWG sponsored sessions should be sent to Dorothea Kleine (d.j.kleine@sheffield.ac.uk) AND Oliver Zanetti (oliver.zanetti@ouce.ox.ac.uk).

Proposals should be submitted on the RGS Session Proposal form – available here.

by 8th January 2018

The filled out form should include information on:
(i) Title of session;
(ii) Name of Co-sponsoring groups, if applicable
(iii) Name and Contact Details for Session Convenors
(iv) Abstract, outlining scope of session – 200 words max.
(v) Number of session timeslots that are sought – this year session may not normally occupy more than 2 time slots.
(vi) Indication, if known, of preferred organization of session, e.g. 4 x 20min presentation, plus 20min discussion or 5 x 15min presentation, with 5min question for each, we would encourage you to be creative in your use of the format. Sessions last 1 hour 40 mins (see here for some great ideas on session formats)
(vii) Indication, if known for any non-standard arrangements.

The DGWG can sponsor a total of 12 individual conference sessions. Please also note that individuals may not make more than two substantive contributions to the conference (where a substantive contribution is: organiser of a session of any number of timeslots; paper/poster presentation of any length; panel member). Acting as chair/facilitator or discussant, or being a non-presenting co-author is excluded from this limit, though multiple roles in these categories this can have a significant impact on scheduling.

As per previous years, the RGS-IBG is able to provide a limited number of passes for those who would be otherwise unable to attend due to the costs involved. As such we encourage you to think about the inclusion of international contributors and non-academic delegates in your session.

We will confirm whether we can sponsor your session by the end of January 2018
If your session is accepted for sponsorship you must secure participants and complete the required paperwork by 16th February 2018 at the latest (preferably earlier).

We look forward to your proposals,

Dorothea, Gillian, Phil, Oliver and the DGWG committee