02.151HT Digital Worlds, Space and Spatialities: Geographical Perspectives on Digitalisation

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Contemporary life is increasingly being digitalized. The global information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure forms the network of Information flows that underpin the knowledge economy. Our experiences in the real world are complemented (or even supersed) by those in the virtual world. We not only search for information online (Google is your best friend!), but also make use of myriad online platforms (WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter etc.) to project our virtual selves and communicate with others in cyberspace. The explosion of social media tools has shaped relational geography by changing how trust and authority are constructed in online spaces. Big Data analytics often include locational data that are used by both companies (e.g. retailers) and governments (e.g. in monitoring crime), raising issues of surveillance and privacy.

How has this explosion of the “virtual” changed the ways we perceive spaces and places? This course addresses this key question through the emerging field of digital geographies. Digital geographies offer a powerful prism through which to understand the processes and impact of digitalisation by focusing on the dimensions of space and spatialities. The first three weeks are devoted to a historical overview of the development of the field and theories of code/space. They focus on the technological advances like GIScience that foster greater participation by users in collaborating to “create” digital space (e.g. OpenStreetMaps). Yet the digital has led to new forms of exclusion and control, such as the digital divides in information production, access and consumption. The remaining weeks will survey a broad range of popular digital topics, including Big Data, smart cities, privacy and surveillance, digital
epidemiology, political activism, among others. These topics are chosen to highlight the variety of phenomena in which the “digital” is manifested, and to draw students into a critical discussion of the issues that have emerged.

Learning Objectives

1. Understand the spatial implications of various digital phenomena.
2. Apply theories of code/space and locational Big Data to the production and control of space and places.
3. Formulate and appraise solutions to challenges arising from the growing entanglement between the physical and digital world.
4. Critique methods that are currently used to study the geographies of digital phenomena.

Course Requirement

Assessment Percentage
WEC – Class participation 15
WEC – Fortnightly individual response paper (2 papers, max 1,000 words each) 30
WEC – Case studies/in-class work (3 cases) 30
WEC – Mini group project (Theme: Constructing the Digital Self) 25

Course Map

Week 1: Introduction

Week 2: Theorizing and Mapping Cyberspace

Week 3: Code/Space

Week 4: Software-sorted Geographies in Action

Week 5: Volunteered Geographical Information

Week 6: Big Data 1: New Knowledge and Methodologies

Week 8: Big Data 2: Spatial Big Data & Everyday Life

Week 9: Cities

Week 10: Surveillance and Privacy

Week 11: Labor and Work

Week 12: Love and Intimacy

Week 13: Digital Activism and Spaces of Resistance

Week 14: Group Project Presentations

Gordon Tan