Towards a critical data studies – with Craig Dalton

Recently, a post written by Craig and I went up over at the Society and Space open site.

It’s our attempt to outline how we are thinking about ‘big data’ (really, data in general) and why that matters for society. It is, at least in part, a response to some excellent pieces by Rob Kitchin and Mark Graham. These conversations grew out of the alt.conference at the AAG that Andy, Joe, and I organized.

You can find the piece here.

If you have thoughts, please do leave a comment over there. The piece is meant for a non-specialist audience, so critiques and comments are very welcome.

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HICSS 48 minitrack – Social Media and Location Information

Britta Ricker and I would like to announce and invite submission to a new minitrack at the HICSS 48 conference to be held this January 5-8, 2015 in Hawaii.

The minitrack, Social Media and Location Informationis a sub-track of the Digital and Social Media track. The Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS) will be held at the Grand Hyatt Kauai (more information on the venue is here). The conference CFP is found here.

In addition to the amazing venue, HICSS is one of the top conferences in paper citation index rating. Papers are peer-reviewed and all accepted papers are published in the IEEE Digital Library and made available for free to all parties. The conference attracts a diverse, transdisciplinary set of researchers and promotes lively, interactive sessions and the cross-pollination of ideas.

Our Call for Papers follows:

This minitrack focuses broadly on the location information generated through the use of digital and social media with a particular emphasis on how that information may be collected and interpreted to better understand how location and environment intersect with social, political, and economic forces. We would like to attract papers that examine social media through an explicitly spatial lens. These would include papers interested in the technical praxis of gathering and visualizing spatial information as well as theoretical papers exploring the generation, capture, use, and exchange of spatial information with respect to social science theory.

We call for papers that address the production, capture, and study of location information in social media through both technical and theoretical perspectives. Papers are encouraged to address “location information” in a broad sense that includes both precise geolocated coordinates and more general expressions of space and place. This includes, but is not limited to, papers that:

  • Offer new technical solutions to the capture, interpretation, or visualization of spatial media;
  • Examine the epistemological and ontological effects of spatial social media upon users;
  • Present empirical work on the creation or consumption of spatial social media;
  • Advance our understanding of how spatial social media relate to social and political processes;
  • Present new work on the role of economic forces in the creation and use of spatial social media, for example, location-specific advertising; or
  • Explore spatial social media as a means of better understanding urban and non-urban environments.

The deadline for submission is June 15thPlease take a look at the author instructions.

If you have any additional questions, don’t hesitate to contact Britta or myself.


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A whole host of exciting things happened!

I’ve been fairly lackadaisical about updating things here – which is a shame as some really cool stuff has been going on lately.

First, I suppose, I had a daughter. I like her. It’s weird being a parent in public, people keep coming up to me and saying “Oh my! What a lovely daughter! She’s beautiful!” This is weird in and of itself, but when I respond “Yeah, she’s ok/alright/various non-committal phrase,” they seem upset and confused. Yesterday, I was told I needed to be heaping praise upon her as a father. The thing is, I do. When she sits up or pulls herself up for the first time, when she rolls over or makes a new sound that she hasn’t made before – those are times when I’ll excitedly heap praise upon her. When she does something. I want my daughter to value herself for the things she accomplishes, not because random strangers find her particular combination of my wife and I’s genes visually appealing.

And that’s my first rant on fatherhood.

In work related news, I had a couple articles finally see print (see the c.v. section for details). I’m particularly happy with the “Living on Fumes” paper, you can grab a forthcoming copy here.

Also, the collaboration between Josh and I continues to bear fruit as Josh has been killing his side of things lately. Head over to to check out nTweetStreamer. We have something really cool in the works right now, it should be out in the coming weeks.

The short blog post I wrote for the Antipode Foundation a few years ago led to a couple of exciting press appearances. I was interviewed in the Atlantic, which is cool, but, even more exciting, I got to live out my child hood fantasy of being on NPR when I was interviewed on On The Media.

Finally, Joe Eckert, Andy Shears, and I are organizing an alt.conference to take place during the AAG. We’re very excited about it. There will be a series of lightning talks, a panel by senior researchers, and demos of new research tools available for the geoweb and big data. If anyone out there is interested (and you should be) the cfp is here.

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CFP for AAG 2013 – Whither Small Data?

Whither Small Data?: The limits of “big data” and the value of “small data” studies

Call for Papers

Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting

9-13 April 2012 Los Angeles, CA
Jim Thatcher, Department of Geography, Clark University

Ryan Burns, Department of Geography, University of Washington

Geographers studying technology have recently turned their gaze upon “big data” – massive datasets produced through the aggregation of crowdsourced, social, and other digitally available data. While the data itself may not be new, the ability to rapidly aggregate and analyze previously unheard of combinations of data has led to an increased focus on its importance to social explanation. Geographers have contributed to big data studies by incorporating the spatial dimension that is increasingly attached to such data and, in turn, exploring the ways big data has come to mediate the urban experience (Batty 2012).

Amidst this enthusiasm, some concern has been raised as to the diminished interest in ‘small data’ studies, the epistemic limits of big data, and the new challenges posed to privacy/confidentiality, access, data ownership, and ethical use, with the editor of Wired magazine infamously declaring that big data signals the ‘end of theory’ (Anderson 2008). Perhaps the most trenchant critique of big data came in the form of six provocations intending to temper unbridled enthusiasm surrounding big data (boyd and Crawford 2012), while others have tried to retain the important focus on small-scale research methodologies such as interviews, participant observation, ethnography, and grounded theory (Burrell 2012).

Rather than the deterministic result of technological development, big data and its accompanying methodologies are embedded within social and institutional values while also imbricating social relations in particular ways. The means and results of these processes offer rich potential for research; in other words, there is an impetus to study big data in its social and institutional contexts. To this end, critical GIS, feminist geography, critical social theory, and science & technology studies all promise to lend productive insights into these processes.

This session aims to explore these questions through both empirical and theoretical discussions, hopefully launching future conversation.

Potential Questions:
-Does “big data” represent a further step in the so-called computational turn, or is it something new?
-What are the epistemological commitments entailed in a “big data” study?
-What decisions entangle big data in existing social relations? How might these decisions shape future relations?
-In what contexts has the big data phenomenon developed, and how have these influenced its attendant concepts, methods, and uses?
-What is the continued role of “small data” vis-a-vis increased attention to big data? Where is big data not appropriate or advantageous?
-In what ways can critical theories of technology contribute to big data studies? From what other theoretical bases can big data draw? How might ‘small data’ studies draw upon these schools of thought when critiquing big data?
-What ethical dilemmas are introduced by big data, and from what ethical frameworks should big data draw?
-How do the implications of big data differ across diverse communities, populations, and demographics? How are race, gender, class, and other forms of difference implicated differently?

To participate please submit your talk title and abstract to Jim Thatcher ( or Ryan Burns ( by October 27th, 2012. This session will be part of #GEO/CODE 2013: Geoweb, Big Data and Society organized by the new mappings collaboratory.

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Hello World!

First post!!

At the long-delayed behest of a committee member, I’ve entered 1997 and created my own web site.

This main page will serve to update you when new content is added, or if there’s something particularly important I want to draw attention to.

For now, you can find links to some of my academic writing and an About Me page. My C.V. and some maps and maybe an application or two that I’ve made will be added soon.

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