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 Title: Platform 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.
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.
The full description of the panel came be found here.
I also had a great time exploring the city of Chicago! Here’s me in Millennium Park in front of the famous Cloud Gate.
Digital Humanities @ The Humanities Commons, UCI
Digital Tools for Research Panel
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.