Making a case for Interdisciplinarity

or, perhaps less ‘buzz word’-y: making a case for speaking the same language.

I’m in the process reviewing my chapter on Google and I continue to find myself hitting a wall with two radically different ideological realities between the geographer’s cry of neoliberalism and the libertarian cry of open source. It feels patently clear to me that these two ideas and their respective successes have a symbiotic relationship, but what is also clear is that neither discipline has been able to get a ‘little air from the outside’, to recall a perfectly articulated sentiment from AO.

I recently ran across one article from two Poli Sci PhD students at Berkeley that conducted a study on the use of neoliberalism. While their findings were interesting (generally negative connotation or equally neutral connotation, there were very few ‘positive’ uses of the term), what I found more interesting was their disciplinary scope of the project, making claims that in general, there were no ‘definitions’ given by people using it in relation to empirical studies. What was missing was any nod to the plethora of geographers that have engaged neoliberalism- ( I would argue, almost ad nauseaum… sorry)- in the past 15 years, many of which have become quite established as key thinkers in a variety of specialty areas.

I think that sufficiently substantiates my suspicion about the lack of acknowledgement of the compatibility between open-source and neoliberalism. I cannot find a link, primarily because those writing about open-source are generally positive (blanket statement, I know; there are some defectors) and neoliberal literature is not part of their ‘scholarship’ they draw from. In fact, there is little mention of the economic/business environment, other than it stands as a positive alternative to ‘business as usual’.  Geography seems to have a certain positive relationship to ‘web 2.0’ technologies and participant potential, which likely keeps the ‘neoliberal’ analytic off the table and instead, opts for a more feminist or foucauldian framework. Within the more critical work, surveillance of the subject becomes the focus. Neoliberalism is one of Geography’s specters of evil, and seems to provide a ‘satisfactory’ explanation of the contemporary milieu, regardless of the ‘crisis’ examined, but I haven’t found any economic geographers that look specifically at open source.

Maybe it just isn’t spatial enough?

Regardless, I see some real missed opportunities to place these two concepts into conversation. As part of my convoluted dissertation, I have begun to do just that. Post degree, however, it feels like a pretty fruitful to continue to build on this symbiotic condition with a critique or interrogation that, following Manovich in Software Takes Command, seems to be missing from our use of software and the role it plays in our daily lives.


Back from the AAG

After a much needed trip to the land of sunshine, I’m back in soggy Seattle. Our panels of Geophilosophy and the Planes of Urban Experience went really well- and we are really excited by the quality of the presentations. My paper, Plane of Immanence of a Fascist Regime: Google and its Mapping Empire, is located here. It’s currently without citations, but there is plenty of time for that as I work it into the dissertation. And besides, isn’t that what evernote is for?

Citizen Cartographers

I’ve been doing a little research on user practices of Google Street View, and through an oblique angle, I keep finding myself returning to Google’s call for ‘Citizen Cartographers Unite!’ to contribute to their mapping project. It’s not directly tied to Google Street View, so I feel like I need to be careful with how far I wade into this, but it seems to lend itself nicely to my overall inquiry of locating agency with what increasingly points toward the fascist regime of Google.

I’m thinking about fascism in relation to ATP, and the lines of flight that the fascist regime encourages, only to re-axiomatize them into the larger existing plane of organization. This feels pretty appropriate for Google: they encourage innovative and inventive practices and strategies, often partner with projects that serve to highlight their projects: I’m thinking of the Arcade Fire video “Wilderness Downtown”, but also thinking about a couple studies they helped fund that seek to establish the feasibility or efficacy of using Street View to augment research, or their complicity in projects like “Street With a View”. In sum, Google is very interested in all the creative minds that take their efficient regime and problematize, utilize, augment, alter, etc., the visual archive. I think in part, this is very much a part of their roots of a renegade bent, their early mantra of ‘don’t be evil’, and the social good that is coming out of some of their efforts. I’m under no illusion that it’s pure good. Nor do I think they are purely evil and out to control the world. But. I think there is something to be said for the democratization of the mapping process and what happens when you enable citizens to alter the map.

Of course, there are enormous issues that come out of that sentence, some of which are a direct tie to my topic, some are only tangential; regardless, I think it’s impossible to read their efforts in only a negative light. I guess in the coming weeks I’ll fully flesh this out, just in time for the AAG! My co-conspirator and I have organized two panels for the AAG: Geophilosophy and the Planes of Urban Experience. Stay tuned.

2013 AAG Call for Papers: Geophilosophy and the planes of urban experience

In contemporary urban studies and geography there is an increasing desire to conceptualize the built environment as both a result of forces that produce, extend, and reconfigure it in countless ways, and as a social and spatial framework that hosts and affects these same forces. Working within the Spinozistic ontology that takes “relations of movement and rest” as the only constant, Deleuze and Guattari offer an explication of these intensities and lines of force that construct any given milieu, enter into complex and often ephemeral assemblages that operate according to their own logic, and produce what they call a ‘plane of immanence’ and a ‘plane of organization’. In A Thousand Plateaus, these planes form the conceptual poles between which both thought and the physical and social constructions that constitute our everyday urban reality are actualized. For example, a private developer undertaking a large-scale urban redevelopment project could assemble a particular set of discourses around sustainability, luxury living, and the creative economy that occur in everyday discussions (on the plane of immanence). In doing so, a new plane of organization is formed, and as the development proceeds, new urban forms and subjectivities that use these forms are produced.

The movement that exists between these planes follows from Spinoza’s parallelism, which claims that both thought and extension comprise bodies; for Deleuze and Guattari, the plane of immanence includes elements that have the characteristics of thought – constantly changing singularities that link up and form new, ephemeral assemblages – while the plane of organization is much less nimble and dynamic. The overlapping planes work in concert; however, the mapping of thought and extension do not necessarily sync up. From an urban studies perspective, thought is defined by the discourses that initiate movement between the planes, while extension becomes concrete world that results from the thought that accompanies it. Various intensities enter into urban assemblages, populate thought as ‘concepts’, and are manifested in the physical world as geographies that are managed and ordered to varying degrees. This session explores how these conceptual poles might provide powerful tools for understanding the urban in late capitalism if we want to understand “how it works” rather than “what it means.”

We hope to investigate the potential of the resonances that exist between the two planes, as a means to understand the ways in which the built environment is perpetually changing, and how we as researchers and practitioners might alter its trajectory. We welcome submissions that explore the physical construction of these planes, the ‘image of thought’ of the 21st century, the disconnects that take place between these parallel planes, as well as the various acts immanent to the plane itself, such as:

deterritorialization/reterritorialization – radical rethinking of existing strategies for urban development or resistance to it

abstract machines – the ways in which language used to describe cities urban topics is normalized, co-opted, or redefined

lines of intensity – various social movements across the planes that have the potential to open up or foreclose possibilities for new assemblages and alternative futures

micro-fascisms – instances of everyday social and spatial practices that reinforce particular planes of organization and inhibit movements toward an increasingly open, equal, and democratic society

subjectification – exploring the shifting ways in which people identify with particular areas of the city, either consciously or unconsciously

changing affective states – investigating how we are materially changed by our interactions in and with urban environments

the continuous movement between smooth and striated space – studies of the tension between cultivating spaces of difference and the top down management of space

Please send abstracts of up to 250 words by October 15th to Please follow the abstract guidelines for the AAG, and include PIN if already registered. Notifications will be sent by October 20th. Registration for the AAG must be completed by October 24th, 2012.

Organized by
Cheryl Gilge and Keith Harris
Ph. D. Program of the Built Environment
College of Built Environments
University of Washington