Author Archives: Laura Beltz Imaoka

Upcoming Presentation

Association of American Geographers, San Francisco 2016

Panel: Toward a Geographical Software Studies 1: Political economy and infrastructures

Time: Wednesday, 3/30/2016, from 10:00 AM – 11:40 AM

Paper TitlePlatform Capitalism: The Speculative Value of ArcGIS


At a time when industries are struggling to monetize the diversification of information flows in the digital economy, the transition from a software as a service model to a platform takes on crucial importance. Platforms are sold not as technological infrastructures but consumer-driven business models that result in a monopoly over the market. This paper situates the newest iteration of Esri’s software within the Facebook-era of platform development to understand the ways in which “platform thinking” appeals to hyped but illegitimate ethical claims of the “sharing economy;” promises which are ultimately productive to the profit-seeking activities and maintenance of powerful gatekeepers. This includes considering marketed appeals to user value and creating the optimal market for platform adoption through open standardization; for which I consider Esri’s long-term support of the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), an international non-profit organization set to standardize geospatial data. Democratic promises and practices hide the move towards “platform capitalism” where those holding a monopoly structure the use and types of digital information being produced, distributed and consumed.

2015 Association of American Geographers (AAG) Annual Conference in Chicago

Last week, I attended my second AAG, this time participating in a panel on the political economy of geospatial technologies with Elvin Wyly (chair), Craig M. Dalton, Francis Harvey, and James Thatcher. It was the continuation of a conversation started in Friday Harbor, Washington last October. Each panel member had a distinct focus but we are working towards developing a political-economic framework to consider the growing ubiquity of geospatial technologies in various sectors of society. My own research lies with industry leaders who propel the business of GIS and geospatial technologies forward; namely, Esri (the world’s largest GIS software and development company) and Google. I take interest in how their business practices, and in particular strategies of corporate branding, make visible the neoliberal power structures within which that production, distribution, and consumption of geospatial technologies and data take place. It was a great discussion and one that will undoubtedly continue in other forums in the future.
IMG_1340The full description of the panel came be found here.

IMG_1353I also had a great time exploring the city of Chicago! Here’s me in Millennium Park in front of the famous Cloud Gate.



Interview for UCI’s Humanities Commons Graduate Student Spotlight for March

I was recently interviewed by my school for their graduate student spotlight. Answers to questions which asked me to define the inspiration behind my research on geospatial technologies and disasters, the greatest impact on my academic career, big changes in the technology I’m studying, and my decision to attend graduate school can be found here, on UCI’s Humanities Commons website. In formulating my answers, I realized how instrumental living in Japan (back in 2007-2009) was to my experience today!

Upcoming Book: Global Weather and Extreme Media

I’m ecstatic to be part of this upcoming anthology that tackles the construction and reporting of extreme weather events in media contexts around the globe. If any colleagues studying extreme weather, disasters, environmental communication, and/or media reporting are interested, please contact me for a discount flyer.



+ Available for purchase on Amazon, June 3, 2015

GIS for DH Research

Digital Humanities @ The Humanities Commons, UCI

Digital Tools for Research Panel

DH flyer

As part of UC Irvine’s burgeoning Digital Humanities working group, I’ll have the opportunity to present on GIS (Geographic Information Systems) – what they are, what they do, how they are can be used for digital humanities scholarship, and also a little bit about my own experience using campus resources to learn Esri’s ArcGIS Desktop software. I hope to share the benefits of practicing the technology one researchers, even if that research deals primarily with its socio-political implications.

THATCamp DHSoCal 2014


What is DH? More often a buzzword, the term “Digital Humanities” conjures up misconceptions of humanists attempting to insert their misconceived slow discipline into the fast paced world of technology. However, this is far from the case. Is DH about humanities scholars using and creating technologies for research? Yes. For teaching and student work? Yes. For critical reflection, intervention, and outreach? Yes.Humanities disciplines are intersecting with computing but doing so in non-trivial ways. To me, the non-trivial matters and what THATCamp, The Humanities and Technology Camp, helped emphasize. On Saturday, October 26, 2014, I had the opportunity to attend DHSoCal, a two-day long un-conference hosted by San Diego State University. The open, unformatted event brings together experienced DH scholars, novice learners, and curious minds to share tools, techniques, and experiences, to converse on the possibilities and setbacks of DH in research and teaching, and to build connections in the region for future collaboration. I left with a base understanding of Scalar, an exciting open source authoring platform that’s pushing the possibilities of online publishing, and a toolbox (or bookmark folder) of digital teaching tools gleaned from a show and tell session of scholars who have already tried and tested them in the classroom. What I found across the board from the experiences shared was that bringing the digital into the humanities classroom should not be a trivial pursuit to update your syllabus or lecture – as perhaps Powerpoint was forthe overhead projector in the past. It is also not about turning the traditional paper assignment into a digital assignment. Instead, digital technologies offer another mode for students to creatively engage with course material and connect with peers, and by virtue of those activities, it can open up new avenues of interpretation and analysis where even the digital medium itself becomes amenable to critique. For someone whose research area revolves around media, technology, and society, THATCamp helped open my eyes to the tenable possibilities of DH in the classroom and beyond, and I look forward to the next meet up where hopefully I can share an experience of my own.

For more informationTHATCampDHSoCal