CFP – Future Directions in Geoweb Research: an alt.conference of Big Data, Theory and Geography’s Role

We’d like to call attention to the unique format we are able to facilitate. We’re encouraging submissions for short lightning talk panels that do not interfere with your ability to present more substantial papers at the AAG.

The lightning talks are organized by theme and will then be discussed by panelists including Rob Kitchin, Nadine Schuurman, Matt Wilson, Matt Zook, Jeremy Crampton, Monica Stephens, Mark Graham, David O’Sullivan, Agnieszka Leszczynski, Renee Sieber, and others.

The purpose of the alt.conference is to give an opportunity for younger scholars to receive immediate feedback and begin discussions with more senior researchers. Contributions will then be solicited for potential inclusion in an edited volume.

Consider submitting a short talk and encouraging others to do so as well.

Call for Participants

Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting
8-12 April 2014 Tampa, FL USA

Organizers (alphabetical by last name)
Josef Eckert, University of Washington
Andrew Shears, Mansfield University
Jim Thatcher, Clark University

Specialty Group Sponsors
Geographic Information Systems and Science
Communication Geography
Urban Geography

Over the last two decades, widespread internet access integrated into daily life as a platform for information exchange, social networking, and commercial transactions. The expansive, rapidly changing data sets produced through these and other digital processes have come to be termed “Big Data.” With an estimated 80% of these aggregated data sets containing spatial referent information, Geography as a discipline offers a “home field advantage” in the study of “Big Data” (Pozdnoukhov and Farmer 2012). The addition of “where” to information that records who is doing what, when, and with whom opens new avenues for knowledge and capital production (probably want a citation here). In the eyes of its boosters, the rapid aggregation and analysis of data destroys the need for social explanation as the numbers are able to “speak for themselves” (Anderson 2008).

While Big Data and the Geoweb are oft heralded as a veritable gold mine for private industry and a tantalizing new source of data for social research, the rapid development of these technologies in the face of the often personal nature of the derived data is of concern. Studies of the geoweb call our attention to the ways in which user-generated data come into the world and are complicit in its unfolding. Scholars have voiced caution regarding the use of spatial big data, citing issues of accuracy (Liu et. al 2013), heterogenous data and sources, (Goodchild 2012), surveillance (Crampton 2013), shifting privacies (Elwood & Leczynszki 2011), capital investment (Wilson 2012), and urban experience (Thatcher 2013). In spite of this, urban planners (Torrens 2010), politicians (Morozov 2011), marketers (LeValle et al., 2011), and even national funding agencies (NSF 2012) are embracing the modeling of this data as a primary tool by which to understand society.

This alt.conference will explore many of the broad implications of Big Data and the Geoweb and its study, including:


  • Big Data, the Geoweb, and the Critical GIS tradition
  • New methodologies for gathering and analyzing data
  • The epistemologies and ontologies of Big Data and the Geoweb
  • Big Data and the Geoweb as tools for education
  • Big Data and Geoweb for policy and spatial decision-making
  • Big Data and urban experience
  • Big Data and Geoweb as a tool for community planning
  • Amateur practitioners of Big Data analytics
  • Activist appropriation of Big Data platforms
  • Geographies of Big Data beyond GIS
  • Gendered Big Data
  • Big Data as Digital Humanities
  • Data mining vs. data exploration

As well as other related topics.


The alt.conference will feature a series of sessions of five-minute “lightning talks,” each followed by panel and workshop sessions that link the themes discussed to theory and praxis. These sessions will run consecutively on the first day of the AAG conference, and will be capped by an evening networking gathering.

Unlike the AAG‟s traditional 15-minute papers, a lightning talk is an engaging five-minute presentation that quickly examines intensive subject matter by heavy use of simple but arresting graphics and visuals. The goal is to provide the audience with an entertaining way to absorb information on a number of topics. Traditionally, the presenter spends roughly a minute on each slide. Because these talks do not fit into the AAG’s traditional format, lightning talks do not preclude the presentation of a manuscript or poster elsewhere in the conference. In other words, a lightning talk does not preclude you from given a traditional talk elsewhere at the conference.

Scholars interested in giving a lightning talk as part of the alt.conference are asked to submit an abstract or position paper of no longer than 500 words, plus any preliminary graphics, to by October 15 November 15, 2013. Submissions are particularly encouraged from scholars early in their career, from disadvantaged populations and from the developing world.

PDF of this Call for Papers

Author: Andrew Shears

Andrew Shears is an Assistant Professor of Geography at Mansfield University in Mansfield, Pennsylvania. His research interests lie at an intersection of the human-environmental nexus, and includes branches of mapping, technological, memorialization and urban geographies. He lives in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania with his wife Amy, a professional photographer.