Monday, July 31, 2006

Just had a new paper with Rob Kitchin accepted for publications in Progress in Human Geography. The paper is on cartography theory and is titled, Rethinking Maps. Comments welcome.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

I am co-organising a session around 'touch' for the 2007 AAG meeting with colleagues Sara MacKian and Chris Perkins. (A pdf version of the CFP is available.)

Call for papers – 2007 Association of American Geographers Annual Conference.
17-21 April 2007, San Francisco, California, USA.

Touching Places / Placing Touch: Space, Culture and Tactility

Session organisers:

Sara MacKian, Chris Perkins and Martin Dodge
Space, Culture and Society Research Group,
School of Environment and Development, The University of Manchester


Touch comes before sight, before speech. It is the first language and the last, and it always tells the truth. (Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin)

Touch is integral to every aspect of social action and its symbols and meanings deeply infuse all cultures. It is the most intimate spatial relationship between people, and between people and their environment and a vital and subtle communicative practice. The places where people want to touch, are allowed to touch, are obliged to touch, refuse to touch or are forbidden to touch, form a complex and delicately patterned landscape, but one that is negotiated largely subconsciously. Children learn their place and where to touch and not touch. Touching is also integral to mobility and access - the unthinking turn of a handle, unlocking doors, opening latches, pressing levers, pushing buttons and so on. And people understand and organise the world through touch in differing ways. As Classen (2005: 1) notes “Touch is not just a private act. It is a fundamental medium for the expression, experience and contestation of social values and hierarchies.”

Given the deep importance of touch in all aspects of human spatiality, the tactile senses are poorly researched by human geography. Geographers have quite simply been out of touch. There are many reasons why touch is an overlooked spatial practice. The nature of touch is obvious and yet it is also hard to encode these intimate sensations, and their subtle meanings, into representational forms. In many respects touch is an under-theorised sense more generally: “Like the air we breath. It has been taken for granted as a fundamental fact of life, a medium for the production of meaningful acts, rather than meaningful in itself” (Classen 2005: 2).

Encouragingly, the neglect of touch is beginning to change as part of wider conceptual developments in geography around affective aspects of everyday spaces and performance, focusing on the sensual and the emotional. Much of this work moves beyond representational (visual and textual) readings of landscape, to an interpretative emphasis on embodied practices. The affective turn has so far however underplayed the socio-cultural complexity that regulates touch in different places – the conventions of when, where and with whom one can touch. And we do not really understand how these conventions are policed, or the degree to which places of touch are gendered, or how age, culture or ability are associated with touch.

Our goal in organising this AAG session is to further advance understanding of touch in geographical scholarship by a focus on the differential cultural meanings of touching places. We aim to move beyond a physical mapping of uneven tactility, to focus on developing a rich understanding of touch in terms of individual social life, personal experiences and tasks, and spatial contexts.

Suggested themes around experiences of touching places:
We invite theoretically informed analysis on the following broad themes and are open to suggestions of other papers that consider the differential meanings of the places of touch:

· Dirty Places and Contagious Contacts
· Erotic Spaces and Seductive Feelings
· Touching Domestic Spaces and Caring Practice
· Placing Tactile Play
· Violent Places and the Feelings of Pain
· Tactile Art and Artefacts
· Crossing Tangible Cultures
· The Healing Touch: Places and Wellbeing
· The Tangibility of Knowledge Spaces
· Working through Touch
· Touch and Technology
· Getting Back in Touch: Epistemological Futures for Tactile Research

Proposed papers in the form of a title and short abstract (250 words) should be submitted to by 1st October 2006. Further details on the paper requirements and registration for the AAG meeting are at

Sunday, July 23, 2006

I co-organised a 2-day workshop on the 12-13th June in Manchester:

Geographic Visualization Across the Social Sciences: State of the Art Review

Many of the speaker powerpoint slides are now online as a partial record of the event.

We are also planning an edited book building on themes of the workshop.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

I am organising several different sessions at the next AAG meeting in 2007 in San Francisco.

The first one, co-organised with Chris Perkins, is a critical take on satellite imagery and questioning Google Earth. (Download the call for papers as pdf.)


Call for papers – 2007 Association of American Geographers Annual Conference.
17-21 April 2007, San Francisco, California, USA.

Google Earth as the ‘view from nowhere’: the spatial politics of high-resolution satellite imagery

Session organisers:

Chris Perkins and Martin Dodge
Geography, School of Environment and Development, University of Manchester

Google Earth, and various internet portals, offer ubiquitous high-resolution satellite imagery at unprecedented detail to a global audience through simple interfaces. The capabilities and technical beauty of Google Earth, in particular, has garnered wide spread praise and a rapidly growing fan-base. Given this impact, now is an apposite time for considered reflection on exactly what can been seen with satellite imagery and thinking through the spatial politics of newly accessible images of the world.

Pictures taken from satellites orbiting high above the Earth offer people a seductively objective view of the world below, termed by Thomas Nagel the ‘view from nowhere’. This mirror-like viewpoint over territory, has until recently, been for the most part the preserve of military forces and states have jealously guarded their visual power in the interest of national security. But recent technological and social change has led to increasing spatial and temporal data resolution becoming much more widely available, in large part because the ‘mirror’ is being commercialised, and significantly access through the internet portals seems to be offering a means of challenging the power of the formerly elite discourse.

We invite theoretically informed analysis that questions the ontological surety of satellite imagery.

Suggested themes:

# Explore the tensions between transparency and secrecy that percolate debates about access to high-resolution satellite imagery.

# Reflect on the potential for progressive use of imagery by non-state actors to challenge established power relations.

# Examine the politics of socio-technical infrastructures and corporate practices that underpin image dissemination, censorship and manipulation.

# Critique the naturalizing power of the interfaces to systems like Google Earth, particularly in relation to the military origins of these systems.

# Question the uneven spatial provision of imagery and the commercial logics of points of interest databases.

# Analyse growing mass media use of high-resolution satellite imagery.

# Evaluate alternative visualities from artists who employ the ‘view from nowhere’ to problematize relations between subject and object.

#Interrogate notions of satellite ethics, particularly relating to individual privacy and community rights.

# Situate the potential of progressive pedagogy employing high-resolution satellite imagery.

# Assess the cultural meanings attached the imagery and the nature of the new community of practices emerging (such as ‘black helicopter’ spotters).


Proposed papers in the form of a title and short abstract (250 words maximum) should be submitted to Martin Dodge ( by 15th September 2006.

Further details on the paper requirements and registration for the AAG meeting are at

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Posting a draft paper, co-written with Chris Perkins. Currently under review with Security Dialogue journal.

Visuality, Secrecy and Cartography: Reversing the Panopticon Through Counter-Mapping



We invoke a neo-Foucauldian model of the panoptic gaze to understand the practices of military visuality and of newly emerging efforts to resist and subvert deep-seated and long-held governmental secrecy over military/intelligence activities and their sites of operation. The case studies set out in the second half of the paper are attempts question excessive secrecy underlying the military panoptical power by conscious re-purposing of topographic mapping and remotely sensed imagery as an active site of resistance. They show the importance of a contextual reading of panoptic visuality in the post 9/11 era.


Panopticism, Secrecy, Visuality, Counter-Mapping, Power