posthuman agency in the digitally mediated city

That’s the title of the paper that I’ve just had accepted by the Annals of the Association of American Geographers and here is its abstract:

Accounts by geographers of the ways in which urban spaces are digitally mediated have proliferated in the last few years.  This significant body of work pays particular attention to the production of urban space by software and digital hardware, and geographers have drawn on various kinds of posthumanist philosophies in order to theorise the agency of the technological nonhuman.  The agency of the human, however, has been left undertheorised in this work, often appearing in the form of excessive resistance to the agency granted to the digital.  This article contributes to understanding the digital mediation of cities by theorising a specifically posthuman agency: that is, a human agency both mediated through technics and diverse.  Drawing on the philosophy of Bernard Stiegler as well as a range of feminist digital scholarship, the article conceptualises posthuman agency as always already co-constituted with technologies.  Posthumans are simultaneously individuated and exteriorised in that co-constitution, and this permits agency understood as reinvention.  The article also insists that such sociotechnical agency is differentiated, particularly in terms of the spatialities and temporalities through which it is organised.  It concludes by arguing that geographers must reconfigure their understanding of digitally mediated cities and acknowledge the inventiveness and diversity of urban posthuman agency.

Annals divides each issue into four sections, and I think this will come out in the ‘Methods, Models, and GIS’ section (GIS stands for ‘Geographical Information System’).  If you’d told me early in my academic career that I’d ever have a paper in any way associated with ‘GIS’, I would never have believed you. I was taught that GIS was the positivist (boo) technological tool of the military-industrial complex (double boo).  Which I think at that point probably wasn’t too inaccurate.

But GIScience has changed a lot since then.  Not only has does it now include many different theoretical approaches, including feminist work of course, it’s now embedded in a much more extensive range of practices, including data visualisations in journalism and geolocated social media analysis.  So it’s expanding in all sorts of ways… and as I’ve argued before, I think at least some of the cultural geographers of the same sort of generation of me should be moving too, rethinking our work in the light of the practices and theorisations of ‘the digital’ that GIScience, among other things, is now generating.  My paper tries hard to draw on that digital expertise, even if my goal remains focussed on what cultural geography was so interested in thirty years ago (oh my god it is thirty years ago): the making and remaking of meanings.

 

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