How do geographers address technology? Some thoughts…

A while ago I was asked to provide an overview of how geographers look at technology, it came along at the same time that I was beginning to sketch out ideas for a new final year option module (imaginatively titled “Geographies of Technology”) that I’ll be delivering in the Spring term for our stage three students, so I bashed something out. This is a revised version of what I came up with and I’ve stuck a sort of ‘indicative reading’ list on the end that is by no means complete.

I just wanted to share this cos it interests me and it may be of some small help to someone else… I’m interested in what other people think and welcome feedback. Like I say, this is a bunch of notes not a detailed overview, so please do feel free to offer comments.


Geography, specifically, has addressed technology in a few different ways, but it may be useful to broadly think about geographies of technology as falling into these approaches:

1) Political economies of technology / economic geographies of innovation & technology:

You can go back to Marx of course here but in geography it can be suggested to range from Doreen Massey’s work in the on science parks and ‘high tech’, through the work of people like Michael Storper and Annalee Saxenian on regional/global economies of innovation, Matthew Zook’s work on the internet itself as an economic object (i.e. things like the DNS) and Mark Graham’s more recent work on IT and development. My colleagues David Harvey and Nicola Thomas have both worked on the geographies of regional creative industries and ‘creative clusters’, such as craft guilds. Ian Cook et al. has/have studied the commodity and logistics networks around the things we buy.  Likewise, there’s work by Andrew Leyshon on technology in the music industry, Nigel Thrift’s ‘knowing capitalism’ driven by ICTs, and Andrew Barry’s excellent book on the Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan oil pipeline (this relates to theme 4 on infrastructures too). From a more cultural geography angle, Ben Anderson and I have both written about nanotechnology and ubiquitous computing, respectively, in relation to the kinds of futures their development processes try to invoke and spatial imaginaries they produce.

2) The technologies of government/ government as technology

One might broadly argue that much of the work, inspired by Foucault, in geography around biopolitics and governmentality concerns the technologies of government and, indeed, the ways that government is a technology. Notable here is work on calculation by Stuart Elden, Andrew Barry’s book Political Machines, work on financialisation and insurance and risk by Michael Pryke and Shaun French, work on emergencies by Ben Anderson, and work on the use of biometrics and surveillance technologies in the policing of borders, of events and of everyday life by Louise Amoore, Francisco Klauser, Ruben Rose-Redwood and many others. There’s a lot of work on governmentality in particular that might be considered ‘technological’ in some way.

3) Technology as a mediation/producer of spatial experience:

Mostly cultural geography but also political, ranging from Stephen Graham’s excellent work on software and urban infrastructures, Rob Kitchin and Martin Dodge’s prolific writing partnership on Code/space, as well as Kitchin’s more recent work through the ‘programmable city‘ project, Paul Adams’ and Ken Hillis’ respective work on the visuality of digital media, Mike Batty’s proposition of ‘virtual geography’, through the work of Robyn Longhurst on mothering with Skype, and on to the critical GIS work by the likes of Matthew Wilson on location based services and Muki Haklay’s work on geographical technologies of citizen science. There’s work on the technologies of play by James Ash and Tara Woodyer. There’s work on architecture and buildings by number of people, including, of course, Loretta Lees as well as Jane Jacobs Donald McNeill and others. Gillian Rose has offered a fantastic overview of how to address the technologies of image capture and presentation as well as the technologies of visualisation and she has recently been thinking about the challenge of ‘digital objects’ to (‘new’) cultural geography.

4) Technology (as) infrastructures

Again, we can look at a range of urban and political geographies of infrastructures and, indeed, plenty of work that doesn’t call itself geography that nevertheless offers geographical readings of technology infrastructures/ infrastructures of technology. So, one can, of course look to a huge range of work in Transport Geographies here. Stephen Graham’s work on urban and communications, again, is important here. can also be seen as a project inherently about infrastructures. The recently published Infrastructural Lives, edited by Graham and Colin McFarlane is an excellent resource. It’s worth noting the influential piece by Susan Lee Star and Karen Ruhleder has been widely cited in geography. There’s an awful lot!

5) Technology as prosthesis / technology as a form of relation:

Theoretical work in cultural geography predominates here. So, James Ash’s, heavily philosophical, work; John Murdoch’s work using ANT and some of the STS inflected work in geography like Nick Bingham, Gail Davies, and Steve Hinchliffe; and others. There’s quite a bit of work around post-humanism in geography that is relevant here too. One can look to a theme issue on post-humanism and work on post-phenomenology to explore more of this.

6) The technologies of geography

There has been quite a bit of work on the technologies of geography – how geographical knowledge(s) get produced, how we derive data, and what kinds of things it becomes possible to say about what geography is, have all been addressed, mostly through the lens of geographical information systems. Here the AAG centenary volume on Geography and Technology offers an overview of such work. Likewise, there’s plenty of critical discussion of GIS by the likes of Crampton, Elwood and Leszczynski amongst others out there too. There is some work that also addresses similar questions from different angles, such as how transcription plays a part in geographical ‘data’, as well as the use of video ethnography methods.

Very rough list of some reading

Adams, Paul C., 1997, “Cyberspace and virtual places” Geographical Review 87 (2), pp. 155-171.
Adams, Paul C., 2005 The Boundless Self: Communication in Physical and Virtual Spaces. Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, NY.
Adams, Paul C., 2011, “A taxonomy for communication geography” Progress in Human Geography 35 (1), pp. 37-57.
Anderson, Ben, 2007, “Hope for nanotechnology: anticipatory knowledge and the governance of affect” Area 39 (2), pp. 156-165.
Ash, James, 2009, “Emerging spatialities of the screen: video games and the reconfiguration of spatial awareness” Environment and Planning A 41 (9), pp. 2105-2124.
Ash, James, 2010, “Teleplastic technologies: charting practices of orientation and navigation in videogaming” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 35 (3), pp. 414-430.
Ash, James, 2012, “Attention, videogames and the retentional economies of affective amplification” Theory, Culture & Society 29 (6), pp. 3-26.
Ash, James, 2013, “Technologies of captivation: videogames and the attunement of affect” Body and Society 19 pp. 27-51.
Ash, James, 2013, “Rethinking Affective Atmospheres: technology, perturbation and space times of the non-human” Geoforum 49 pp. 20-28.
Ash, James, Gallacher, Lesley Annw, 2011, “Cultural Geography and Videogames” Geography Compass 5 (6), pp. 351-368.
Barry, Andrew, 2001 Political Machines: Governing a technological society. Athlone, London.
Barry, Andrew, 2006, “Technological Zones” European Journal of Social Theory 9 (2), pp. 239-253.
Batty, Michael, 1997, “Virtual geography” Futures 29 (4/5), pp. 337-352.
Bingham, Nick, 1996, “Object-ions: From technological determinism towards geographies of relations” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 14 (6), pp. 635-657.
Bingham, Nick, 1999, “The governance of cyberspace: politics, technology and global restructuring by Brian D Loeder (ed)” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 24 (2), pp. 249-251.
Bingham, Nick, 2001, “Digital places: living with geographic information technologies” Ecumene 8 (2), pp. 227-229.
Bingham, Nick, 2008, “Slowing things down: Lessons from the GM controversy” Geoforum 39 (1), pp. 111-122.
Bingham, Nick, Valentine, Gill, Holloway, Sarah, 1999, “Where do you want to tomorrow? Connecting children and the Internet” Environment and Planning D: Society & Space 17 (6), pp. 655-672.
Bingham, Nick, Valentine, Gill, Holloway, Sarah, 2001, “Life around the screen: reframing young people’s use of the internet”. In: Watson, N., Cunningham-Burley, S. (Eds.) Reframing Bodies. Palgrave Macmillan, London, pp. 228-243.
Brunn, Stanley D., Cutter, Susan L., Harrington Jr., Susan L. (Eds.), 2004 Geography and Technology. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht.
Crang, Michael, Crosbie, Tracie, Graham, Stephen, 2007, “Technology, time-space, and the remediation of neighbourhood life” Environment and Planning A 39 pp. 2405-2422.
Crang, Michael, Graham, Stephen, 2007, “Sentient Cities: Ambient intelligence and the politics of urban space” Information, Communication and Society 10 (6), pp. 789-817.
Davies, Gail, 2003, “A geography of monsters?” Geoforum 34 (4), pp. 409-412.
DeLyser, Dydia, Sheehan, Rebecca, Curtis, Andrew, 2004, “eBay and research in historical geography” Journal of Historical Geography 30 (4), pp. 764-782.
Dodge, Martin, 2001, “Cybergeography” environment and Planning B: Planning and Design 28 (1), pp. 1-2.
Dodge, Martin, Kitchin, Rob, 2005, “Code and the transduction of space” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 95 pp. 162-180.
Dodge, Martin, Kitchin, Rob, 2013, “Crowdsourced cartography” Environment and Planning A 45 (1), pp. 19-36.
Dodge, Martin, Kitchin, Rob, Zook, Matthew, 2009, “How does software make space? Exploring some geographical dimensions of pervasive computing and software studies” Environment and Planning A 41 (6), pp. 1283-1293.
Elwood, Sarah, Leszczynski, Agnieszka, 2013, “New spatial media, new knowledge politics” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 38 pp. 544-559.
Gabrys, Jennifer, 2011 Digital Rubbish: A natural history of electronics. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, MI.
Graham, Mark, 2008, “Warped Geographies of Development: The Internet and Theories of Economic Development” Geography Compass 2 (3), pp. 771-789.
Graham, Stephen, 1998, “The end of geography or the explosion of place? Conceptualising space, place and information technology” Progress in Human Geography 22 (2), pp. 165-185.
Graham, Stephen, 2005, “Software-sorted geographies” Progress in Human Geography 29 (5), pp. 562-580.
Graham, Stephen, Marvin, Simon, 2001 Splintering Urbanism: Networked Infrastructures, Technological Mobilities
and the Urban Condition. Routledge, London.
Graham, Stephen, Thrift, Nigel, 2007, “Out of order – Understanding repair and maintenance” Theory Culture & Society 24 (3), pp. 1-25.
Hinchliffe, Steve, 1996, “Technology, power and space – the means and ends of geographies of technology” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 14 (6), pp. 659-682.
Hinchliffe, Steve, Bingham, Nick, 2008, “Securing life: the emerging practices of biosecurity” Environment and Planning A 40 (7), pp. 1537-1551.
Kinsley, Samuel, 2010, “Representing ‘things to come’: feeling the visions of future technologies” Environment and Planning A 42 (11), pp. 2771-2790.
Kinsley, Samuel, 2014, “The matter of ‘virtual’ geographies” Progress in Human Geography 38 (3), pp. 364-384.
Kitchin, Rob, 2011, “The programmable city” environment and Planning B: Planning and Design 38 (6), pp. 945-951.
Kitchin, Rob, 2014, “The real-time city? Big data and smart urbanism” GeoJournal 79 pp. 1-14.
Kitchin, Rob, Dodge, Martin, 2011 Code/Space: Software and Everyday Life. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
Kneale, James, 1999, “The virtual realities of technology and fiction: Reading William Gibson’s cyberspace”. In: Crang, M., Crang, P., May, J. (Eds.) Virtual Geographies: Bodies, spaces, relations. Routledge, London, pp. 205-221.
Laurier, Eric, 1999, “Geographies of talk: ‘Max left a message for you'” Area 31 (1), pp. 36-45.
Longhurst, Robyn, 2009, “YouTube: a new space of birth” Feminist Review 93 pp. 46-63.
Longhurst, Robyn, 2013, “Using Skype to mother: bodies, emotions, visuality, and screens” Environment and Planning D: Society & Space 31 (4), pp. 664-679.
Madge, Clare, O’Connor, Henrietta, 2002, “On-line with e-mums: exploring the Internet as a medium for research” Area 34 (1), pp. 92-102.
Madge, Clare, O’Connor, Henrietta, 2004, “Online Methods in Geography Educational Research” Journal of Geography in Higher Education 28 (1), pp. 143-152.
Massey, Doreen, 1992 High-Tech Fantasies: Science Parks in Society, Science and Space. Routledge, London.
Mitchell, William J., 2003 Me++ The cyborg self and the networked city. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
Murakami Wood, David, 2008, “Towards Spatial Protocol: The topologies of the pervasive surveillance society”. In: Aurigi, A., De Cindio, F. (Eds.) Augmented Urban Spaces: Articulating the physical and electronic city. Ashgate, Aldershot, UK and Burlington, VT, pp. 93-106.
Murdoch, Jonathan, 1997, “Towards a geography of heterogenous associations” Progress in Human Geography 21 (3), pp. 321-337.
Murdoch, Jonathan, 1998, “The Spaces of Actor-Network Theory” Geoforum 29 (4), pp. 357-374.
Pickerill, Jennifer, 2007, “‘Autonomy online’: Indymedia and practices of alter-globalization” Environment and Planning A 39 pp. 2668-2684.
Rose, Gillian, 2015, “Rethinking the geographies of cultural ‘objects’ through digital technologies: Interface, network and friction” Progress in Human Geography In Press.
Rose-Redwood, Reuben, 2006, “Governmentality, geography, and the geo-coded world” Progress in Human Geography 30 (4), pp. 469-486.
Rose-Redwood, Reuben, 2012, “With numbers in place: security, territory and the production of calculable space” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 102 (2), pp. 295-319.
Saxenian, AnnaLee, 1994 Regional advantage: culture and competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.
Saxenian, AnnaLee, 2002, “Brain Circulation: How high-skill immigration makes everyone better off” The Brookings Review 20 (1), pp. 28-31.
Shields, Rob, 2003 The Virtual. Routledge, London.
Star, Susan Leigh, Ruhleder, Karen, 1996, “Steps towards an ecology of infrastructure: Design and access for large information spaces” Information Systems Research 7 (1), pp. 111-134.
Storper, Michael, Walker, Richard, 1989 The capitalist imperative: Territory, technology, and industrial growth. Wiley, London.
Thrift, Nigel, 2003, “Closer to the machine? Intelligent environments, new forms of possession and the rise of the supertoy” Cultural Geographies 10 (4), pp. 389-407.
Thrift, Nigel, 2004, “Remembering the technological unconscious by foregrounding knowledges of position” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 22 (1), pp. 175-190.
Thrift, Nigel, 2004, “Electric animals – New models of everyday life?” Cultural Studies 18 (2-3), pp. 461-482.
Thrift, Nigel, 2005, “From born to made: technology, biology and space” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 30 (4), pp. 463-476.
Thrift, Nigel, 2006, “Re-inventing invention: new tendencies in capitalist commodification” Economy and Society 35 (2), pp. 279-306.
Valentine, Gill, Holloway, Sarah, 2002, “Cyberkids? Exploring children’s identities and social networks in on-line and off-line worlds” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 92 (2), pp. 302-319.
Wilson, Matthew, 2011, “Data matter(s): legitimacy, coding, and qualifications-of-life” Environment and Planning D: Society & Space 29 (5), pp. 857-872.
Wilson, Matthew, 2012, “Location-based services, conspicuous mobility and the location-aware future” Geoforum 43 (6), pp. 1266-1275.
Zook, Matthew, 2008 The geography of the internet industry: Venture capital, dot-coms, and local knowledge. John Wiley & Sons, New York.
Zook, Matthew, Dodge, Martin, Aoyama, Yuko, Townsend, Anthony, 2004, “New Digital Geographies: Information, Communication, and Place”. In: Brunn, S. D., Cutter, S. L., Harrington Jr., S. L. (Eds.) Geography and Technology. Kluwer, Dordrecht, NL, pp. 155-178.

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2 Replies to “How do geographers address technology? Some thoughts…”

  1. Nice post Sam, I was wondering if – within this or in addition to this – there’s work by geographers addressing technology through making / shaping it. Ta, Ian

  2. Not outside of internet/code related things, to my knowledge, Ian – have you come across anything more broadly? Rob Kitchin’s Programmable City project has created a ‘dashboard’ for Dublin, and I’m sure at least one geographer must’ve created an ‘app’. Maybe you could look at the craft work as a sort of way of doing what you’re asking..?

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