So… not been blogging for a little while.
Finally feel like I can return to this now though. I’ll try and build momentum up again. Maybe even write more of my own thoughts rather than just curate things but we’ll have to see.
I have had a lot going on outside of work. I am not keen on the apparently modish ‘confessional’ style of telling the world details of things that are uncomfortable or difficult so I’m not going to. Suffice it to say that since December things have generally been hard for me. I’m not asking for sympathy just explaining why there’s been no blogging. Work stuff for many of us has also been fraught. In some UK universities we’ve been on strike to attempt to protect our pension benefits, which the organisation supposedly representing our employers is attempting to change to our detriment. You can read more on this through the excellent ‘USSBriefs’. The strike deeply affected my teaching. My students were excellent but I have found it an emotionally fraught time.
I have tried to keep on top of things and I do have some stuff to talk about, but I confess it really is hard when my head is not really in it. Having said this, here’s what I’m thinking about…
Automation is still on the agenda for me. I am convening a double session at this years RGS-IBG conference. This will include me basically giving my pitch for a book: “The Automative Imagination” — there’s some text below  to give you sense of what that means. I had grand hopes of beginning a podcast this year to build on the ideas I had swirling around my head/laptop but with all that’s been going on – it seems like it’s all of sudden April and I’m still where I was at Christmas. I’d still like to do this though. If you’re interested in being a ‘guest’ please feel free to get in touch. I am keen!
How we theorise digital mediation in terms of spatial experience is something I will revisit in a talk next month. I will be speaking at the 2018 IRS Spring Academy on “Virtuality and Socio-Materiality”, which is the second of three ‘Spring Academies’ organised by the Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space (IRS) together with different academic partners and supported by the Volkswagen Foundation, with the overall title “Current Theoretical and Methodological Approaches”. I’m really grateful to Oliver Ibert and Karina Böhm at IRS who invited me and have been incredibly supportive. I have copied below my abstract . I’m sort of interested in thinking about this a bit more with a view to maybe writing something about what theorising ‘the digital’ and ‘mediation’ means or can mean for geographyland, which, it seems to me, has a fairly peculiar way of doing that theorising at present.
 The Automative Imagination
Automation is imagined as much as it is planned and enacted. There are various kinds of cultural, economic and social forms of imagination that are drawn upon and generated when discussing how automation works and the kinds of future that may come as a result. The concept of an ‘automative imagination’ is proposed as a means of articulating these different, sometimes competing – sometimes complementary, orientations towards automation. The neologism ‘automative’ is not used here to assert discursive authority but rather as a pragmatic tool – to speak of an ‘automated’ or ‘automatic’ imagination does not describe the characteristics of automation but suggests the imagining is itself automated, which is not the argument I am seeking to make. My aim is not to validate/invalidate particular narratives of automation – but instead to think about how they are produced and what they tell us about how we tell stories about what it means to be ‘human’, who/what has agency and what this may mean for how we think politically and spatially.
 Worrying realities: Spatial theory and digital geographies
As practitioners of a ‘spatial science’ geographers frequently espouse forms of ‘spatial’ theory, yet the ambiguities of mediation through technologies produces enduring disagreements over the nature of that mediation. While prominent geographical theorists have asserted a relational nature of space on the one hand, on the other hand binaries of ‘real’/’virtual’ worlds remain common currency in the study and theorisation of ‘digital geographies’. There is a sense in which geographers concerned with ‘the digital’, or ‘the virtual’, continue to both worry and worry about the nature of ‘reality’. This talk addresses forms of theorising and problematising ‘the digital’ for geographical research. Rather than asserting a ‘correct’ form of theory, the concern here is to attempt to tease out productive ways to theorise whatever it is that we variously address as ‘cyberspace’, ‘the digital’, mediation and ‘the virtual’. The aim is to think about what it means to ‘do theory’ in relation to such concerns. Thus while there is necessarily an abstract side to such discussions, the kinds of theorising addressed will be grounded in examples taken from contemporary research and popular culture.
P.S. Title of the post comes from this…