Tag Archives: materiality

Converging Body and Technology: The Case of Google Glass

by Jen Turner

By Antonio Zugaldia (http://www.flickr.com/photos/azugaldia/7457645618) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

“It’s either the most exciting technology product of recent years, or the 21st Century equivalent of the Sinclair C5” (Cellan-Jones, 2013, n.p.).  Google Glass (styled as “Google GLΛSS”) is a wearable computer with a head-mounted display (HMD) that is being developed by Google with the mission of producing a mass-market ubiquitous computer.  Google Glass displays information in a smartphone-like hands-free format, that can interact with the Internet via voice commands.  While the frames do not currently have lenses fitted to them, Google is considering partnering with sunglass retailers such as Ray-Ban, and may also open retail stores to allow customers to try on the device.

When BBC News Technology journalist Rory Cellan-Jones took Glass for a stroll on the beach overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, the elderly dog walkers there were more amused about a strange Brit talking to himself than anxious about their privacy, although the majority felt the whole idea was rather more creepy than cool.

According to the report, where Google’s big idea impresses most is as a camera.  The video footage is reportedly also much steadier than what you would gain from a shaky camera phone.  Its strength lies in its ability to capture exactly what you see.  The results are the kind of pictures you often miss with a camera you have to ready for action. And it is this head-mounted technology, combined with the voice commands that raise interesting points for geographers studying the inter-relationship between humans and technology.

It is widely accepted that new technology “increasingly affects/infects the minutiae of everyday life and corporeal existence” (Grosz 1994, 48), and that operating as assemblages, or with co-agents, bodily abilities are altered (Michael 2009).  In his 2012 Area paper, Paul Barrett comments on the use of technology in a very different scenario: climbing.  This paper adds to debates on bodies and materiality concerning how we experience places not only as bodies but as complex assemblages. It engages with the relations between climbers, their kit and the places in which they climb to explore how during the situated practice of climbing, climbers and material artefacts co-evolve resulting in a diverse array of synergies that co-enable the climb. In particular, Barrett focuses upon the use of ‘Cams’.  Cams are spring loaded devices that are placed into parallel cracks in rock faces used to secure the climber’s ascent.  Differing roles and functions emerge and are negotiated between climber, crag and kit. These roles and functions go beyond those detailed by manufacturer-ascribed use-values that define their ‘proposed’ or ‘proper’ role/s and limits within the climber’s safety assemblage. Drawing upon semi-structured interviews with climbers, Barrett uses Actor Network Theory to explore the enabling, situated, contingent and co-emergent relations between climbers and their kit and show how more-than-representational dimensions of their environmental engagements are dependent upon entering into symbolic and synergistic relationships with material others.

In a similar way, Google Glass uses technology to extend both the corporal being of the body and its capabilities of purpose.  It promises to reshape our relationship with the online world – or turn us all into Donna Haraway’s infamous cyborgs.  What is more, the ability to record others discretely in any given space leads us to questions surrounding how these human/technology relationships further invading each other’s privacy with careless abandon.  But that’s another blog post….

books_icon

Paul Barrett (2012) ‘My magic cam’: a more-than-representational account of the climbing assemblageArea 44(1) pp. 46-53.

60-world2Rory Cellan-Jones, Google Glass – cool or creepy? BBC News Technology, 15 May 2013.

books_iconElizabeth Grosz (1994) Volatile bodies: toward a corporeal feminism, Allen and Unwin, London.

books_iconMike Michael (2009) The cellphone-in-the-countryside: on some of the ironic spatialities of technonatures. In White, D. and Wilbert, C. eds. Technonatures: environments, technologies, spaces, and places in the twenty-first century, Wilfrid Laurier University Press, Waterloo, pp. 85–104.

Content Alert: Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Volume 37, Issue 4 (October 2012) is Available Online Now

Cover image for Vol. 37 Issue 4

Volume 37, Issue 4 Pages 477– 657, October 2012

The latest issue of Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers is available on Wiley Online Library.

Click past the break for a full list of articles in this issue.

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Urban Exploration

by Fiona Ferbrache

Urban Exploring in verlassenen Bunkeranlagen

A fortnight ago, Geography Directions reported on exploration and adventure in Geography.  While exploration is often associated with ventures into the wilderness and unchartered territories, it is also very much about less physical scientific discovery and search for deeper understanding.  This week, I introduce an alternative group of inquisitives: urban explorers who scale the heights and depths of abandoned or derelict buildings, landmarks and transport infrastructure as a means of rediscovering build environments.

The London Consolidation Crew is a group of urban explorers that physically explores closed or (usually) inaccessible urban spaces.  The Guardian linked these often illicit and high-risk excursions to a celebration of capitalist space, while geographer David Clarke suggested that they were embodied reactions to increased control and surveillance over urban spaces.  Analysis of these activities (the basis of a recent geographical PhD by urban explorer Brad Garrett), informs existing geographical research on contemporary urban exploration (Garrett, 2010) and advances theories that concern how places are experienced through the body: concepts such as affect, performance and embodiment.

Bodily experiences of climbing are described, analysed and theorised by Barratt (2012) in Area.  While Barratt’s empirical research was undertaken among outdoor climbers more familiar with ascending rocks, his arguments also apply to urban explorers.  Barratt argues for an understanding of climbing as a complex assemblage of body-material-environment relations i.e. that the experience can be understood through interactions between body, clothing and kit, and the place or surface where climbing is practised.  Barratt’s paper offers a more-than-representational approach to this leisure activity, and thus provides a framework to reconsider urban explorers’ engagement with their environment.  From this perspective, not only do urban explorers inspire new ways of discovering spaces, but they also provide a context where emerging theoretical ideas can be refined.

  The Guardian: Shard explorers seek out new targets after scaling London landmark

  Place Hacking: Explore Everything

  Barratt, P. (2012) ‘My magic cam’: a more-than-representational account of the climbing assemblage. Area. 44.1, pp.46-53

  Garrett, B.L. (2010) Urban Explorers: Quests for Myth, Mystery and Meaning. Geography Compass. 4.10, pp.1448-1461

From Beginnings and Endings to Boundaries and Edges

by Josh Lepawsky and Charles Mather

The authors: Josh Lepawsky is  Associate Professor and Charles Mather is Head of Department both at the Department of Geography, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada.

Lepawsky J and Mather C 2011 From beginnings and endings to boundaries and edges: rethinking circulation and exchange through electronic waste Area 43 242–249

[N.B.: This is the first open access paper published in the journal Area, which means anyone can read it for free rather than having to pay a subscription to access it]

Area Content Alert: Volume 44, Issue 1 (March 2012)

The latest issue of Area is available on Wiley Online Library.

Click past the break to view the full table of contents.

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Content Alert: New Articles (13th January 2012)

These Early View articles are now available on Wiley Online Library.

Original Articles

Anthropogenic controls on large wood input, removal and mobility: examples from rivers in the Czech Republic
Lukáš Krejčí and Zdeněk Máčka
Article first published online: 23 DEC 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01071.x

Special Section: Exploring the Great Outdoors

‘My magic cam’: a more-than-representational account of the climbing assemblage
Paul Barratt
Article first published online: 13 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01069.

Special Section: Emerging Subjects, Registers and Spatialities of Migration Methodologies in Asia

Methodological dilemmas in migration research in Asia: research design, omissions and strategic erasures
Rebecca Elmhirst
Article first published online: 13 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01070.x

Commentary

The aviation sagas: geographies of volcanic risk
Amy R Donovan and Clive Oppenheimer
Article first published online: 3 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2011.00458.x

Original Articles

Diverging pathways: young female employment and entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa
Thilde Langevang and Katherine V Gough
Article first published online: 13 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2011.00457.x

Original Articles

Rethinking urban public space: accounts from a junction in West London
Regan Koch and Alan Latham
Article first published online: 19 DEC 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00489.x

The social and economic consequences of housing in multiple occupation (HMO) in UK coastal towns: geographies of segregation
Darren P Smith
Article first published online: 23 DEC 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00487.x

The reputational ghetto: territorial stigmatisation in St Paul’s, Bristol
Tom Slater and Ntsiki Anderson
Article first published online: 30 DEC 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00490.x

Fear of a foreign railroad: transnationalism, trainspace, and (im)mobility in the Chicago suburbs
Julie Cidell
Article first published online: 30 DEC 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00491.x

Participation in evolution and sustainability
Thomas L Clark and Eric Clark
Article first published online: 3 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00492.x

Boundary Crossings

Progressive localism and the construction of political alternatives
David Featherstone, Anthony Ince, Danny Mackinnon, Kendra Strauss and Andrew Cumbers
Article first published online: 3 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00493.x

The disciplining effects of impact evaluation practices: negotiating the pressures of impact within an ESRC–DFID project
Glyn Williams
Article first published online: 9 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00494.x

Hide&Seek: Geographies of Play, Gaming and Exploring the City

Sarah Mills

This weekend (9th-11th July) an annual games festival will be taking place in the urban landscapes of London, based at the National Theatre.  The ‘Hide&Seek Weekender’ invites participants to re-think what constitutes as gaming, play, the city and ‘reality’ through location-based gaming.  This involves real-life tasks combined with geo-location technologies.  Activities include ‘visible cities’, a hide and seek game around the South Bank, and ‘silent relay’ – involving a choreographed mp3 soundtrack linked up to players in Berlin.  This event brings together local knowledge and geographical investigations with fun, play and imagination, with the organisers describing themselves as “a studio of game designers and event organisers who want people to play more games in new ways”.

In the latest issue of Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, James Ash examines the links between materiality, technology and spatiality through the concept of ‘teleplastic technologies’, specifically through the example of video-gaming.  In an analysis of the video-game ‘Lego Star Wars’, Ash highlights the role of involuntary memory, consciousness and ‘ethological markers’ in the game’s puzzle-solving tasks.  Ash also explores users’ notions of sensory stimulus, action, and pseudo-digital bodily movements in the video-game ‘Burnout 3’.  Although focusing on video-gaming technologies, Ash discusses the broader sensory and corporeal dimensions of play and gaming and what these mean for the “potential and possibilities for spatial sense”.  These connections and technological engagements are clearly demonstrated in the aims of the ‘Hide&Seek’ festival taking place this weekend.

Read James Ash (2010) ‘Teleplastic technologies: charting practices of orientation and navigation in video-gaming’ Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 35 (3): 414-430

Visit The Hide&Seek Festival: http://www.hideandseek.net/

Read ‘Come and Play Hide&Seek in London’ in The Guardian