Tag Archives: AAG

AAG 2015 Chicago recap and talks I saw


I talked about some of the sights I saw during last week’s AAG conference in Chicago in an earlier post but here I just want to mention some of the fantastic talks I attended. Quality was very high this year, and not without some controversy.

There were plenty of choices–I’ve heard there were 97 concurrent sessions. So 97 people giving papers at any one time! This is clearly ridiculous. The conference is 5 days long, papers start at 8am and go past 7pm every day. There’s also a full day of papers on the last Saturday, which everybody also complains about (it’s the day most people do their sightseeing, so sessions are lightly attended). An obvious solution to that problem is to have the conference M-F instead of T-Sat.

As for the number of sessions this is a result of the AAG policy of accepting every paper. While on the one hand there are justifications for this (geography attendees include people from government and industry who can only get funding to come if their paper is accepted, plus the origins of the AAG as an old boys’ club in the pre-war era when you could only join at the invitation of a current member), quite frankly now the system is breaking down. I would gladly look at 7 or so 250-word abstracts if it meant a less overwhelming conference. (Or, since papers are in organized sessions, do what the IBG/RGS does and give out “tokens” that specialty groups can distribute, up to a certain limit.) There are arguments for both sides of this issue, but 10,000 or so attendees is very challenging.

I began the week at a Symposium organized by Caroline Rendon, Curt Winkle and Rachel Weber of University of Illinois Chicago on urban Big Data called “The Crowd, the Cloud, and Urban Governance.” This was structured as three keynotes by Bronwen Morgan (U New South South Wales, Aus.), Matthew Zook (UKY) and Agnieszka Leszczynski (Birmingham) with responses, including one from Taylor Shelton (Clark). These were all uniformly good with plenty to reflect on.

The AAG proper then got going on Tuesday with a session on Smart Cities, including a good talk by Michael Carter (Queens) who argued that the smart city is basically the surveillant city. Perhaps nothing too new there but he tied it in with neoliberalism for a perspective no doubt not often encountered at smart city promotional events.

Wednesday I had a more mixed experience at the Critical GIS themed sessions. Unfortunately I missed the first session, but Luke Bergman (U Wash.) offered a very challenging talk on formalizing the Goodchild et al., 2007 paper on the geo-atom with some thoughts on what he called a “geo-interpretation.” This was a little over my head but perhaps provides a vocabulary for accounting for individuals as well as representing space. It got me thinking about calculation in GIS again (space is that which is subject to calculability).

That afternoon I was on three panels back-to-back. No doubt the most memorable will be the “Robots” panel organized by Vinny del Casino and Lily House-Peters (Ariz.). All the papers were very good; as well as the ones by Vinny and Lily my colleague Matt Wilson spoke (drawing on Haraway’s cyborg work), and Heidi Nast (DePaul, who gave a version of her work on love dolls and sexbots). If you’ve seen Heidi speak you know it is usually a fascinating tour de force and this was no different, especially some of the material she’d dug up. I was sat right in front of the screen and every time I looked back over my shoulder were pictures of female topless love dolls. I swear in one video clip she showed that the doll was producing sake out of one breast while a man palpated the other!

Another panel was one I’d co-organized with Agnieszka called “Where’s the Value? Emerging Digital Economies of Geolocation” which featured presentations by Elvin Wyly (UBC, who’d also been at the UIC workshop on Monday), Rob Kitchin (Maynooth), Agnieszka, and Julie Cupples (Edinburgh). All of these were excellent, and I’ve placed an audio recording of it online here:

Where’s the Value (link to audio).

The last session was the paper I’ve been working on with Sue Roberts (UKY) on “Drone Economies.” I feel this paper is finally getting into the shape of what we want to say now. Here are the slides:

The other paper I really enjoyed in that session was by Caren Kaplan (UC Davis) who spoke on air power at home–a very good history of air power as policing.

Thursday was a bit of a mix (and a mix-up). Turns out that as well as two sessions on Big Data I’d co-organized with the ever-patient Agnieszka, I was simultaneously booked as a discussant for Joe Bryan and Denis Wood’s new book Weaponizing Maps. I was sorry to miss this and heard that Denis was in fine form, so here is a pic of him from a session Annette Kim’s new book, Sidewalk City.


I was very pleased with our two sessions, despite being at 8am the morning after the night before (aka the Wildcats party). Session I and Session II links are here. We’re hoping to get some written versions of these soon so I’ll post separately on that. Thanks to the participants in these sessions! And thanks too to the conference gods who gave us a room with big bright windows on a sunny day so that we could look out over the city.

Thursday was also the day of the reception at the Newberry Library for the latest volume of the History of Cartography, Volume 6 The Twentieth Century (edited by Mark Monmonier). It was amazing to see Roz Woodward again:


And Mark Monmonier:


And this nice pic of Roz and series editor Jude Leimer:


After this was the Penn State party on the top floor of the Swissôtel (43rd) where I had a good chat with Rob Roth, Lucky Yapa, Cindy Brewer and others.

Somewhere in there was a very full session on David Harvey’s new book, the latest in his Marx Project as he called it, Seventeen Contradictions. A lot of people noted that this was largely done by his good friends and colleagues, but this is to ignore the very trenchant comments by my colleague Sue Roberts, who called him out on his dismissal of Gibson-Graham’s work on feminist critiques of capital, to which he admitted with a surprisingly childish retort (basically “they started it” meaning they didn’t cite his work, which several people have told me is just incorrect…you may follow this link and judge for yourself).

As I understand it Gibson-Graham critiqued the “capital centric” understandings of capitalism as being too exclusionary of other non-capitalist approaches within the global economy, and since Harvey’s book is deliberatively about contradictions of capital per se (rather than capitalism) he had to dismiss them, though not, as Sue pointed out, by name. So that all seemed a bit shabby of Harvey, but I guess he doesn’t have to care at this point.

The last session I attended was on Friday featuring Lauren Berlant on “Sensing the Commons” forthcoming in Society & Space. This was quite a different style of talk–she totally captivated the large audience–and well outside my area of expertise, or even ways of thinking. I think many people are familiar with her work but it was new to me and I’m very glad I went.

So that’s about it in terms of formal sessions, but there were many other chance encounters and chats in bars and hotel lobbies especially with bright grad students. I also got to interview Stuart Elden about our 2007 book Space, Knowledge and Power: Foucault and Geography (Ashgate) which should soon be posted on the publisher’s website. I’ve listened to the 14 minutes or so of the discussion and I think many people will enjoy hearing about the origins of the book and some of Stuart’s more recent work on Foucault. Good to see Stuart again.

Apologies to all those I missed and I wish I could have seen more. AAG has become a larger than life event and by day 4 I usually need some quiet time! It was great to see friends old and new as well as colleagues whose work I’ve been reading but hadn’t met before (the benefits of organizing sessions!). Next year will be another big one–it’s in San Francisco.

AAG 2015


Just back from this year’s annual geography conference in Chicago. It was only my second time to Chicago and I got to see more of the city this time. Although the conference was held right downtown at the Hyatt this was an easy walk to the area around N. Michigan Avenue (Magnificent Mile) and amazing places like Eaterly with its two floors of quality food. I tried the coffee (shown above) and some excellent gelato. Also their olive oil selection:


But I started the week off at the UIC Jane Addams Hull House at a workshop on Big Data, and so saw a slightly different neighborhood. There were also must-do trips to the Art Institute and Millennium Park:


Chagall Windows at the Art Institute.


Nice venue they gave me for my paper but sparsely attended! (Actually the Millennium Park Pritzker Pavilion).

I’ll be posting about the more academic side of the conference in another post, but just to say here that there were some very good presentations and talks. There are so many exciting scholars in geography these days!

CFP: Spatial Big Data & Everyday Life (AAG 2015)

Call for Papers: Spatial Big Data & Everyday Life
American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting
21-25 April 2015

Agnieszka Leszczynski, University of Birmingham
Jeremy Crampton, University of Kentucky
“What really matters about big data is what it does” (Executive Office of the President, 2014: 3).

Many disciplines, including the economic and social sciences and (digital) humanities, have taken up Big Data as an object and/or subject of research (see Kitchin 2014). As a significant proportion of Big Data productions are spatial in nature, they are of immediate interest to geographers (see Graham and Shelton 2013). However, engagements of Big Data in geography have to date been largely speculative and agenda-setting in scope. The recently released White House Big Data report encourages movement past deliberations over how to define the phenomenon towards identifying its material significance as Big Data are enrolled and deployed across myriad contexts – for example, how content analytics may open new possibilities for data-based discrimination. We convene this session to interrogate and unpack how Big Data figure in the spaces and practices of everyday life. In so doing, we are questioning not only what Big Data ‘do,’ but also how it is they realize particular kinds of effects and potentialities, and how the lived reality of Big Data is experienced (Crawford 2014).

We invite papers along methodological, empirical, and theoretical interventions that trace, reconceptualize, or address the everyday spatial materialities of Big Data. Specifically we are interested in how Big Data emerge within particular intersections of the surveillance, military, and industrial complexes; prefigure and produce particular kinds of spaces and subjects/subjectivities; are bound up in the regulation of both space and spatial practices (e.g., urban mobilities); underwrite intensifications of surveillance and engender new surveillance regimes; structure life opportunities as well as access to those opportunities; and/or change the conditions of/for embodiment. We intend for the range of topics and perspectives covered to be open. Other possible topics include:

• spatial Big Data & affective life
• embodied Big Data; wearable tech; quantified self
• algorithmic geographies, algorithmic subjects
• new ontologies & epistemologies of the subject
• spatial Big Data as surveillance
• Big Data and social (in)equality
• “ambient government” & spatial regulation
• spatial Big Data and urbanisms (mobilities; smart cities)
• political/knowledge economies of (spatial) Big Data

We welcome abstracts of no more than 250 words to be submitted to Agnieszka Leszczynski (a.leszczynski@bham.ac.uk) and Jeremy Crampton (jcrampton@uky.edu) by August 29th, 2014.

Crawford K (2014) The Anxieties of Big Data. The New Inquiry. http://thenewinquiry.com/essays/the-anxieties-of-big-data/

Executive Office of the President (2014) Big Data: Seizing Opportunities, Preserving Values. The White House. http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/big_data_privacy_report_may_1_2014.pdf

Graham M and Shelton T (2013) Guest editors, Dialogues in Human Geography 3 (Geography and the future of big data, big data and the future of geography).

Kitchin R (2014) Big Data, new epistemologies and paradigm shifts. Big Data and Society (1): In Press. DOI: 10.1177/2053951714528481. http://bds.sagepub.com/content/1/1/2053951714528481.


cfp: AAG Tampa 2014: “What Space for the Post-Security State?”

AAG 2014 CFP

 “What Space for the Post-Security State?”

 Tampa, Florida, 8-12 April 2014

 Session organizers: Jeremy Crampton, University of Kentucky, Klaus Dodds, Peter Adey (Royal Holloway University of London)

 Session sponsored by the Political Geography Specialty Group

This session takes up recent challenges to the logics of security (Neocleous, Vine, the CASE Collective), and seeks papers that open up new ways of thinking about security through critiques, oppositions, limits, resistances, or different kinds of security altogether (e.g. alter-security).

The goal is to collectively sketch the contours of a possible “post-security” state in which security’s costs as well as its benefits are more critically understood. Where today’s security is usually positioned as “more is better” and “safer rather than sorry”, our goal is not to necessarily reject security, but rather to identify a range of different interventions, critiques (perhaps “affirmative” McCormack, 2012), alternatives, that might think with security in productive ways or, indeed, new ways.

Our agenda is to seek positions that are not always outside or external to security apparatus, or so unaware of their location that the where of security is lost. We seek perspectives that unsettle the relationship between security and the state, such as its (potentially ever greater) privately administered projects and outsourcing. What manners of security are possible that might be creative hybrids of the state-private-communal spectrum?  Can we identify alternative propositions to the pernicious investment of what Paul Amar has called the “human-security state” (Amar 2013), legitimized by appropriating a more progressive religious, gender, class and sexual politics?

Examples of possible paper topics include:

–ways in which the national security state is itself inherently insecure as evidenced through “moles,” spies, whistleblowing and “insider threats” such as Manning and Snowden;

–the environmental costs of security installations;

–the economic costs of security;

–military resource extraction;

–properties of violence (Correia, 2013);

–military landscapes;

–geographies of “baseworld”

–borderland securitization struggles;

–the admixtures of race, gender and rural-urban relations in modern incarceration regimes;

–health impacts of security including an estimated half million Americans with PTSD;

–“big data” and surveillance;

–histories of the security and surveillant state;

–private security and security outsourcing (security beyond the state);

–the sustainability of current practices of security or vulnerability and resilience to security.

— new languages or grammars of security and post-security

We seek papers that will address any of these or other related topics we have not listed. If in doubt, please contact us!

Our session deliberately seeks to continue and deepen interdisciplinary exchanges, and we welcome contributions from geography, political science, economics; sociology, environmental science, international relations, political sociology, psychology, computer science, the creative arts, and history.

If you are interested in participating, please submit an abstract of no more than 250 words to Jeremy Crampton (jcrampton@uky.edu). The conference discounted registration ends on October 23, 2013. For more information please see http://www.aag.org/cs/annualmeeting.

AAG New York City: Tribes or Tensions?

I had a good time at AAG, and found it a solid if not remarkable conference. The word on the street during the conference was that it was the largest ever, at over 9,000 people. That’s pretty big league. We used to gasp at the Esri User Conference being so huge at 13,000, which it is, or the MLA at 10,000. Partly this is location, with its East Coast time zone and accessibility to Europe. Next year is LA so we’ll see.

One of the more interesting discussions came up at the Iron Sheep debriefing session (described here). It was mentioned that VGI/geoweb/web mapping services and “traditional” GIS were two tribes, and that for today’s upcoming graduate students while VGI/geoweb was innovative and interesting, it was the “wrong” tribe (Renee Sieber).

I’m not sure this is the right way to think about it though. It diverts attention to the dichotomy of the right vs. wrong tribes in which to belong. Rather, as I argued in my book, we can think of the situation as the play of tensions across the field of cartography, as illustrated here.

Upcoming graduate students and others are being pulled in two or more directions, and do not wholly belong in one tribe or another. The idea of separate and opposing tribes is too simple. (Parallel cases are C.P. Snow’s Two Cultures, or Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations”).

One is situated at different positions on the field, or different squares of the chessboard if you prefer, at different moments. (If it wasn’t 7am in the morning following a restless night I would say something profound here about the inevitability of power meeting its own resistance.) At some times, you will be using Big GIS like an Esri product. At others you will using MapQuest-OSM tiles with open source map rendering. While the allure of these newer more open tools is attractive, it is also premature I think to speak of the “democratization” of mapping and geography.

As Muki Haklay pointed out in one of the best papers I saw at the conference, most of what these tools provide here are for–and by–the “outliers.” The 1 percent if you like, of users. (His talk was basically an extension of the “long tail” hypothesis.)

This applies not only to the geoweb, but to Big GIS as well. The challenge then as always, is to smooth out the long tail and, to use Muki’s phrase decrease “digital inequality.”