Digital Urban Revolutions I: Activating Theories & Imaginaries

Type: Paper
Theme: Geographies of Human Rights: The Right to Benefit from Scientific Progress
Sponsor Groups: Digital Geographies Specialty Group, Political Geography Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM (Eastern Standard Time)
Room: Executive Room, Omni, West
Organizers: Jason Luger, Martin Zebracki
Chairs: Martin Zebracki


Jason Luger, UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design, USA
Martin Zebracki, University of Leeds, UK

DISCUSSANT: Gillian Rose, Oxford University School of Geography and Environment, UK
Sponsored by: Digital Geographies Specialty Group and Political Geography Specialty Group

This paper session welcomes state-of-the-art explorations of the nexus of urban space, digital networks and politics. We particularly welcome contributions on digital representations of urban space and digital urban imaginaries as well as papers drawn from creative and innovative digital methodologies – from new forms of digital field research to novel ways of conceptualizing ‘old’ methods given digital realities. There are also practical and ethical methodological challenges posed for researchers exploring the digital city. These complications and limitations, too, are necessary for exploration.

Malcolm Gladwell (2010) was convinced that the ‘revolution will not be tweeted’. However, recent key events prove otherwise: tweets and streets are intertwined and relationally connected (Gerbaudo 2012). Movements across the political left and right have become symbolized by explicit hashtags, ‘likes’ and emoticons as well as more ambiguous creative imaginaries within globally digitally networked territories (Zebracki & Luger 2018). Digital representations of urban space and digital urban imaginaries may reproduce, or even reinforce, uneven power geometries across the global South and North (e.g. limited digital access and mobility, class and cultural divides, self-imposed and involuntary censorship). Here, social media have played a vital instigator of political encounters with some very real material impacts.

Digital urban space is also pulsing with global events and imaginaries revolving around issues of power, identity and place: from the post-2008 global Occupy movement, to the Arab Spring of 2010-2011, and to the more recent rise of both right-wing and left-wing populist movements around the world (ibid.). Digital urban encounters can be a simultaneous emancipatory experience: they may relay new meaning and potential to urban space and urban life through pushing forward the ‘right to the city’ (e.g. feminist, LGBT and environmental grassroots/netroots activism).

Meanwhile, debates continue about what exactly constitutes ‘real’ urban space, how it is perceived, and how the digital can be examined as valid epistemological extension of the ‘planetary urban’ (Merrifield 2013). The political (re)turn in geography has (re)focused the political as a central anchor in urban debates (Swyngedouw 2018). At the same time, the emerging digital turn calls attention to the way that urban space is digitally mediated. Rose (2017) hence urges geographers to reconfigure understandings of digitally-mediated cities and the complex ways that the digital urban is produced by and through social, political and technological processes.

Thus, this session demands a rethinking of the socio-spatial nature of human/posthuman agency within the digital urban, where the latter should not be automatically taken to operate as panacea. Are we talking about digital urban evolutions, revolutions, and/or devolutions?


Gerbaudo, P. (2012) Tweets and the Streets: Social Media and Contemporary Activism. London: Pluto Press.

Gladwell, M. (2010) Small change: Why the revolution will not be Tweeted. The New Yorker, 4 Oct 2010.

Merrifield, A., (2013) The Politics of the Encounter: Urban Theory and Protest Under Planetary Urbanization (Vol. 19). Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press.

Rose, G. (2017) Posthuman agency in the digitally mediated city: Exteriorization, individuation, reinvention. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 107(4): 779-793.

Swyngedouw, E., (2018) Promises of the Political: Insurgent Cities in a Post-political Environment. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Zebracki, M., & Luger, J. (2018) Digital geographies of public art: New global politics. Progress in Human Geography. Online advanced access. doi:10.1177/0309132518791734.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Jacob Forrest*, University of British Columbia, Tracing and placing the 'smart' urban r/evolution: three spatial genealogies 20 3:05 PM
Presenter Julie Cupples*, University of Edinburgh, Kevin Glynn*, Northumbria University, Patria libre para vivir: Discursive articulations and disarticulations in the 2018 Nicaraguan uprising 20 3:25 PM
Presenter Alexander Tarr*, Worcester State University, Slow Food at the Speed of Light: The Digital Mediation of Urban Food Activism 20 3:45 PM
Presenter Donald Anderson*, Southwest University of Visual Arts, Soft Cities, Old and New 20 4:05 PM
Discussant Gillian Rose University of Oxford 20 4:25 PM

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