Course Description

The way we know and experience the world around us is increasingly mediated by digital technologies – many of them with geographic or locational capabilities. Global positioning systems in cars, smart phones, buses, card readers and countless other devices track the location and movements in countless people as they go about their everyday lives.  Google’s MyMaps and geo-tagged Tweets coordinate pro-democracy and anti-inequality protests around the world. Geo-social ‘check-in’ apps like FourSquare alert us when a friend is nearby. Citizens send geotagged photos of urban problems to government officials in some cities via smart phone apps. Crisis mappers use mobile spatial technologies to compile and map real-time observations of disaster relief needs or human rights violations around the world. This class will help you engage the societal practices (and problems) arising from these digital spatial technologies in two ways:


  1. We explore a 3 ways that digital spatial technologies shape (or ‘mediate’) our lives. Unit 1 asks how digital geographies work as spatial practices? How and why do these digital practices shape what we see, feel, experience, know or do in particular spaces; and to what ends? Unit 2 focuses on how digital geographies work as digital practices. What are the unique properties of digital artifacts and the consequences of coding the world as ‘data’ and using software to act upon it? Unit 3 asks about the kinds of relationships, interactions and forms of power/control that result from digital spatial practices (e.g. privacy and surveillance, inequality, social justice, inclusion, and empowerment). Here we ask how do digital geographies work as ‘relational practices’?


  1. We build hands-on skills for creating your own simple interactive multimedia maps and data collection apps, and important aptitudes you need for creating and innovating with digital spatial technologies. By the end of the course, you will have learned enough html, css, and javascript to build a simple website portfolio of interactive multimedia maps you create during the quarter. More importantly, our tech activities in the class are intended to help you learn to learn new digital practices in an ever-changing world of technology. No department or course can teach you every single app, programming language, or software you might use someday, so the most important skill for your future is an ability to teach yourself new skills by exploring unfamiliar softwares, identifying and completing publicly available tutorials, and collaborating with those around you to learn together. 


Learning Objectives

  • Understand how new spatial technologies produce social and spatial relationships, geographic knowledge, inequality and empowerment, inclusion and exclusion.
  • Understand the hardware, software, data and applications that create digital geographies.
  • Develop hands-on skills for digital mapping and data management; integrating diverse visual, textual and quantitative data; and working across multiple platforms or web services.
  • Expand your aptitudes for learning new technologies (individually and collaboratively) in an environment of rapid technological change.
  • Critically assess the societal implications of new spatial technologies, particularly with respect to social, political, and economic inequality from local to global scales.
Send questions about this workspace to Sarah Elwood.