#geowebchat transcript, 19 February 2013

[Note: for this chat Muki Haklay posted the full text of his article “Neogeography and the delusion of democratisation” as a Google Document. Unfortunately, Muki was only able to publicly share the article for teaching purposes associated with the #geowebchat. Now that the chat is over, the article is no longer available at the link mentioned below. If you are associated with an institution that subscribes to the journal Environment & Planning A, you can access the full text of the article here: http://www.envplan.com/abstract.cgi?id=a45184. In January 2014, the article will be available publicly at the UCL open access repository.]


@mappingmashups Feb 18, 11:23am “Neogeography & delusion of democratization” #geowebchat Tue Feb 19, special time: 1pm PT. Read PDF for discussion: docs.google.com/file/d/0B0V4m9…

@re_sieber 9:15am #geowebchat TODAY at 4pm. It’s a bookclub today: docs.google.com/file/d/0B0V4m9…. But if u don’t have time 2read, come by to chat ab tech democracy.

@re_sieber 12:20pm Feel free to jot down your thoughts on Neogeography and the delusion of democratisation b4 #geowebchat today @ 4pmET geoweb.andrewshears.com/index.php?titl…

@mhaklay 1:00pm Please notice pages 11-12 with the hierarchy of hacking which aims to explore the potential of democratisation of the geoweb #geowebchat

@mhaklay 1:00pm There is further discussion of Feenberg’s ‘Deep democratisation’ and what it means to technological development practices #geowebchat

@mhaklay 1:00pm Welcome to #geowebchat and to a discussion about democratisation and the geoweb. To start, notice that it’s not only about a critique

@re_sieber 1:02pm As mentioned on wiki, I’m uncomfortable criticizing #neogeoweb bc a. they’re my friends and b. will anyone care? #geowebchat

@erictheise 1:03pm hello, one instrumentalist checking in #geowebchat

@mhaklay 1:04pm @re_sieber but isn’t the job of academics from the critical theory side to be friendly crits, showing that it can be different #geowebchat

@re_sieber 1:04pm If a #neogeoweb critique “falls in the forest” &no one’s around to hear it, does it matter? #geowebchat How do we ensure our relevance?

@re_sieber 1:05pm @mhaklay yes, a gentle critique of #neogeoweb that’s isn’t deconstructing or destructive. #geowebchat. An engagement of allies.

@erictheise 1:07pm i’m disappointed to see this topic already being cut off at the knees #geowebchat

@re_sieber 1:07pm I liked @mhaklay pt: deep engagement w democracy requires deep engagement w tech/code. No critiquing from non-techie sidelines #geowebchat

@erictheise 1:08pm here in san francisco, we’re gearing up for hacking weekend. #geowebchat

@erictheise 1:08pm nerdsfornature is launching thurs nite, and ecohack is happening on fri/sat #geowebchat

@mhaklay 1:09pm @re_sieber I would argue that in the opening and in p9 I’m far less forgiving of academics who are overhyping – see the cites #geowebchat

@re_sieber 1:09pm To engagement more tweeters: can we say #neogeoweb is democratic if it increases access? Perhaps a minimum threshold? #geowebchat

@erictheise 1:09pm i grant that san francisco is an affluent place, and expect that there will be more men than women participants, races uneven #geowebchat

@mappingmashups 1:10pm @erictheise Hackathons are an interesting case, because sometimes they have explicit politics (like the two you mentioned) #geowebchat

@re_sieber 1:11pm @mhaklay I am far less forgiving of academics who overhype the critique as opposed to your nuanced critique. #geowebchat

@mhaklay 1:11pm @erictheise the problem with hackfests is that they are done from instrumentalist perspective, and ‘conform with the oposition’ #geowebchat

@mappingmashups 1:11pm @erictheise Do you think the code that emerges from a political hackathon is somehow different than code from an a-political one #geowebchat

@erictheise 1:12pm @mappingmashups, i do. especially since the timeframe is short, the biases will be writ large in whatever is created #geowebchat

@re_sieber 1:13pm @erictheise Prob is unacknowledged privilege of #neogeoweb ers from SF. Everything apppears more accessible frm Silicon Valley #geowebchat

@mhaklay 1:14pm Maybe in a hackathon you need to be sure that representatives of stakeholders are included – that’s my reading of Feenberg #geowebchat

@erictheise 1:14pm @re_sieber i acknowledged it in my fourth post. #geowebchat

@erictheise 1:15pm i think in these cases, developers are expecting that the organizers are rounding up the correct stakeholders #geowebchat

@mpmckenna8 1:16pm Another prob w/ hackfests is they often develop solutions for the elite, using elite tools. #geowebchat

@erictheise 1:16pm i wonder if @robinkraft is online and able to join us #geowebchat

@re_sieber 1:16pm @mappingmashups @erictheise Maybe we could explicate @ beg of each hackathon its political assumptions #geowebchat

@mpmckenna8 1:17pm Go Map!! itunes.apple.com/us/app/go-map!… a great example of a tool that can make anyone a PGIS user, yet you need an iOS device. #geowebchat

@erictheise 1:17pm ecohacksf.org and nerdsfornature-launch.eventbrite.com are my two examples #geowebchat

@re_sieber 1:18pm @mpmckenna8 I wonder if there are ever un elite tools? #geowebchat

@mappingmashups 1:18pm @re_sieber do you mean that “tool” and “elite” always go hand in hand? Will there always be people who can’t use a given tool? #geowebchat

@erictheise 1:19pm also wonder what you make of ushahidi.com and its ilk #geowebchat

@robinkraft 1:20pm @erictheise Argh why is my meeting going overtime?!? Sorry I’m missing this. #geowebchat

@mhaklay 1:20pm While liking hackers culture v. much, I do have a problem with the techno-libertarianism (p11) elements that are common in it #geowebchat

@re_sieber 1:21pm @mappingmashups Tools are always originally developed for an elite and it’s tough to escape their elite (exclusionary) status #geowebchat

@mpmckenna8 1:21pm @re_sieber Good point, most tools are somewhat elite. I would go with being able to utilize from a public library as un elite. #geowebchat

@robinkraft 1:21pm @erictheise No illusions about @ecohacksf as a panacea – just trying to help science and conservation with a bit of tech #geowebchat

@re_sieber 1:23pm @mappingmashups although @mhaklay & Donna Haraway argue that tech can escape elites. Just hard to see how it’s sustainable #geowebchat

@erictheise 1:23pm @mhaklay, i’m with you on the techno-libertarianism issues #geowebchat

@mappingmashups 1:24pm @mhaklay Yes, it seems like your hierarchy of hacking in the paper implicitly disclaims its origin within hacker culture #geowebchat

@mpmckenna8 1:24pm @erictheise And many stakeholders may be intimidated by an event called hackathon thinking they don’t have the requisite skills. #geowebchat

@tmcw 1:24pm @robinkraft @erictheise Tools that require computers are always going to hit a minority of the population. #geowebchat

@erictheise 1:25pm @mpmckenna8, well, i put that responsibility on the organizers and their outreach #geowebchat

@re_sieber 1:26pm @mappingmashups @mhaklay Wonder if connecting top of hacking pyramid to bottom might be where deep democ sees greatest potential #geowebchat

@mhaklay 1:26pm @re_sieber @mappingmashups – I see it as part of our role to offer alternative visions for technology development #geowebchat

@erictheise 1:26pm i do think the notion of hackathon is oozing into popular culture (i know i’m in the distortion field that is the bay area) #geowebchat

@mappingmashups 1:26pm @tmcw Is it necessarily “always” if we take a longer view? Partly the problem is temporal diffs in adoption #geowebchat

@erictheise 1:27pm and, as a developer, i find the competitive overtones of ‘hackathon’ off-putting #geowebchat

@mhaklay 1:27pm @re_sieber I agree that this is where a lot of potential exist. We try to do this with the tools developed at @UCL_ExCiteS #geowebchat

@tmcw 1:28pm @mappingmashups Not always but for a long time. Computers usually come after running water as far as development. #geowebchat

@tmcw 1:29pm @erictheise hackathons are typically publicity rather than effect for their organizers, and that’s how they’re run & presented #geowebchat

@erictheise 1:30pm @tmcw, damn, my idealism slipped through again #geowebchat

@re_sieber 1:30pm @tmcw @mappingmashups Unfortunately democracy also comes after running water, not necessarily before #geowebchat

@mhaklay 1:31pm @re_sieber actually, if you can bring in running water with democracy and equity of access, it’s better #geowebchat

@tmcw 1:31pm @mappingmashups If anything, this article just assumes too much about the claims of neogeography. #geowebchat

@mhaklay 1:33pm There is a precident with the use of access to env info in the 90s & 00s to promote democracy in NIS. It work to some degree #geowebchat

@tmcw 1:33pm @mappingmashups Plus it’s bizarre to write about neogeography but most of your citations are pre-google-maps #geowebchat

@mappingmashups 1:34pm Is question of whether technology diffuses to non-elites (or not) the same as whether it’s value-laden or not? #geowebchat

@erictheise 1:34pm @tmcw, the article does a good job of reviewing the techno-optimism that goes back at least as far as bbses, fidonet, the well #geowebchat

@re_sieber 1:34pm @mhaklay I think we need to imagine more tools/hackathons that aren’t already agents of capital accumulation #geowebchat

@mappingmashups 1:35pm Would Instrumentalists assume eventually everyone will have access to tech, while Crit Theory assumes elites hold onto it? #geowebchat

@mhaklay 1:36pm @tmcw I don’t assume too much – quite a lot of references are there to show that these are not my claims about the potential #geowebchat

@mhaklay 1:37pm @tmcw why it is bizarre? A common problem in technology circles is to think that something fundamental changed, when it didn’t #geowebchat

@tmcw 1:38pm @mhaklay Projects that claim to shift power (Map Kibera) have done so, projects that are just crowdsourcing (GMM) do not #geowebchat

@re_sieber 1:38pm @mappingmashups Crit Theory assume that there’s ineluctable component of tech that’s inaccessible (eg access to power) #geowebchat

@mappingmashups 1:38pm @tmcw In a way the article shows that GIS may have been held to a different standard than neogeography, at least by geographers #geowebchat

@erictheise 1:40pm @mappingmashups i think that’s right, thus instrumentalist interest in cheaper/easier devices, kiosks, mobile phones #geowebchat

@mappingmashups 1:40pm @re_sieber Do you mean access to Foucault-power or AC/DC power? #geowebchat

@mhaklay 1:40pm @tmcw Map Kibera is exactly the exception – it’s the commitment of Mikel & Erica that made it, so well in the ‘deep technical’ #geowebchat

@mhaklay 1:41pm @tmcw the rest of OSM activities, and even the level of commitment to H.O.T and similar activities are not universal #geowebchat

@tmcw 1:41pm @mhaklay What exactly did PGIS write about before OpenStreetMap? (honest question, I don’t know) #geowebchat

@re_sieber 1:42pm @mappingmashups GIS may have been held to a diff std than neogeo bc former is inflated to science while latter is just tool? #geowebchat

@mhaklay 1:43pm @tmcw the irony is that the first paper in 1995 was dealing with land rights in South Africa, somewhat similar to Kibera #geowebchat

@re_sieber 1:43pm @mappingmashups “Foucault-power or AC/DC power”? Now I’ve got an AC/DC song running through my head #geowebchat

@mappingmashups 1:43pm RT @mhaklay: @mapkibera is the exception – it’s the commitment of @mikel & @ricaji that made it, so well in the ‘deep technical’ #geowebchat

@mhaklay 1:43pm @tmcw in other words, there is plenty of discussion on deeper engagement and empowerment #geowebchat

@re_sieber 1:44pm @tmcw @mhaklay @PPGS has many examples of GIS being taken into communities as empowerment tool #geowebchat

@mappingmashups 1:44pm @re_sieber Or simply because GIS emerged from inside the discipline (too close to home) & neogeography emerged from strangers? #geowebchat

@mhaklay 1:44pm @mappingmashups the instrumentalist veiw lots of time leave it to ‘the markets’ to do their work in diffusion #geowebchat

@mhaklay 1:48pm @mappingmashups @re_sieber I think that it’s more to do with the emergence of PPGIS from crit geog, and neogeo from engineering #geowebchat

@tmcw 1:48pm @mappingmashups Not sure about the idea of designing for inclusion: the most important tech for slums was not designed for slums #geowebchat

@CraigMDalton 1:48pm @mappingmashups @re_sieber #geowebchat well- my impression is that GIS was also state programs (John Cloud’s work), CORONA, CGIS, etc…

@re_sieber 1:49pm @tmcw – PGIS examples smaller scale, less immediate, tougher GUI but same issues as current mashups #geowebchat

@tmcw 1:49pm @mappingmashups For instance, sms found use in humanitarian work only because it saturated markets starting with the ‘elite’ #geowebchat

@mappingmashups 1:50pm I’m still wondering whether deep democratization requires everyone be able to code, or just to have input on how code is made #geowebchat

@CraigMDalton 1:50pm @mappingmashups @re_sieber #geowebchat neogeography seems to have been free-market centered at an earlier stage

@re_sieber 1:51pm @CraigMDalton @mappingmashups And we criticized heck out of GIS before #neogeoweb too. And found some solutions in #PPGIS #geowebchat

@mappingmashups 1:51pm For ex, at hackathons stakeholders can be there, giving input while “the sausage is being made”. #geowebchat

@mhaklay 1:51pm @mappingmashups it doesn’t require everyone to code, but for integration of all stakeholders needs in an inclusive way #geowebchat

@mappingmashups 1:52pm …although it requires coders to have the time, ability, and inclination to explain clearly what they are doing and the implic. #geowebchat

@re_sieber 1:52pm @tmcw @mappingmashups GIS found purchase in humanitarian work before saturation pt, I think, but it was in late adoption stage #geowebchat

@mappingmashups 1:52pm Or the non-technical equivalent in government: not everyone could write legal lang of laws, even if they were allowed to help… #geowebchat

@erictheise 1:53pm @mappingmashups unreasonable to expect everyone to code or be a political scientist or critical theorist. about building a team #geowebchat

@mappingmashups 1:53pm …but there have been interesting experiments in lawmaking like citizens assemblies. Could hackathons be an analogue? #geowebchat

@erictheise 1:54pm @mappingmashups i don’t we can equate specialism with the type of elitism we’re talking about here #geowebchat

@re_sieber 1:54pm @CraigMDalton @mappingmashups Well, #neogeoweb was nongeog companies but #ESRI pretty free-mkt centered at earliest stage too #geowebchat

@mhaklay 1:56pm @erictheise @mappingmashups expertise can serve different ends and it’s up to the person that hold them to decide how to deploy #geowebchat

@mappingmashups 1:56pm @erictheise That’s a good point… when is “elite” the same or not the same thing as “specialist/expert” in this context? #geowebchat

@erictheise 1:56pm it is interesting exercise to own your own elitism #geowebchat

@re_sieber 1:57pm @mappingmashups We have agency. Why don’t we turn hackathons into citizen assemblies “w device”? Connect coders to technophobes #geowebchat

@erictheise 1:58pm cutting edge arts organization was trying to involve its geo-community. community not at all interested in participating #geowebchat

@mhaklay 1:59pm Society includes elites and the solution is not to go egaliterian, but to have obligations and commitments to the wider pop #geowebchat

@re_sieber 1:59pm @erictheise @mappingmashups Good pt: Don’t equate specialization w elitism. Some #neogeoweb ers are far removed frm polit power #geowebchat

@tmcw 1:59pm @re_sieber @mappingmashups Are there really hackathons that are making a real impact? Code is written alone. #geowebchat

@erictheise 1:59pm some board members were brave to say: this art is “elite”, our audience is that elite #geowebchat

@mhaklay 2:01pm @re_sieber @erictheise @mappingmashups careful, as engineers, software devs etc. say that they don’t have power when they do #geowebchat

@brian_mount 2:01pm @tmcw @re_sieber @mappingmashups I don’t get mapping of hackathon participants to ‘elites’. Elites go to expensive golf courses #geowebchat

@brian_mount 2:02pm @tmcw @re_sieber @mappingmashups hackathons are socially marginal, good-intention, low impact, learn a few hacks kinds of events #geowebchat

@mhaklay 2:02pm We’re getting to the end of #geowebchat, and there is time to contribute to geoweb.andrewshears.com/index.php?titl… #geowebchat

@mappingmashups 2:03pm “Hackathons: what are they good for?” sounds like an excellent future #geowebchat topic.

@re_sieber 2:03pm @brian_mount @tmcw @mappingmashups Guess we’re trying to say is “recognize your inner elitism” #geowebchat

@erictheise 2:03pm @mappingmashups: cue edwin starr! #geowebchat

@mhaklay 2:04pm I need to remove the paper from gdocs because of the copyright requirements of E&P A, it will be on UCL open access in Jan 2014 #geowebchat

@erictheise 2:05pm @mhaklay thanks very much for the temporary access! #geowebchat

@mappingmashups 2:05pm Thanks to everyone for joining this #geowebchat, & thanks to @mhaklay for facilitating it with his article. Will post transcript shortly.

@mappingmashups 2:05pm And yes, everybody take some time to add to the #geowebwiki: geoweb.andrewshears.com/index.php?titl… (or any other page there). #geowebchat

@mhaklay 2:06pm @erictheise at least they allow to put it for ‘teaching’ purposes, so that’s what we’ve just had! #geowebchat

@mappingmashups 2:07pm Next #geowebchat is in two weeks: March 5 at noon PT. @erictheise, you still up for hosting that?

@erictheise 2:08pm @mappingmashups absolutely. may request we start at 1pm for that one, too. nuts and bolts topic: -sheds and -prints #geowebchat

@mappingmashups 2:12pm Okay, correction: next #geowebchat on March 5 at 1pm PT. Discussing the cartography and computation of -sheds and -prints with @erictheise!

@Trevesy 2:14pm #geowebchat wud like to contribute but no working brain cells left after long day to get my head around the doc

@Trevesy 2:15pm #geowebchat which is a shame as deep democratisation sounds interesting

@jeremy_morley 2:26pm “@mappingmashups: “Hackathons: what are they good for?” sounds like an excellent future #geowebchat topic.” @markiliffe one for you?

@mhaklay 3:04pm Final point #geowebchat – Ch3 of my PhD Thesis (2002), you’ll find parts of the paper. PhD Theses are far more useful than expected!

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