Profile

Alex Gekker is a PhD candidate and researcher in "Charting the Digital" European Community's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) / ERC Grant  agreement n° 283464.

He is interested in digital mapping, power, Object-oriented ontology and Actor-Network Theory.

He blogs at alexgekker.com

Involved in the following study programme(s)
Scientific expertise
casual politics
science and technology studies
actor-network theory
play
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Curriculum vitae Download PDF
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All publications
  2016 - Scholarly publications
Schaefer, M.T., Zoomers, E.B. & Gekker, A. (01.02.2016). Between two hypes: Will big data help unravel blind spots in understanding the global land rush?. Geoforum, 69 (February 2016), (pp. 147) (159 p.).
Gekker, A. (09.12.2016). Uniquitous Cartography: Casual Power in Digital Maps. (285 p.).
  2012 - Scholarly publications
Gekker, Alex, Heider, Don & Massanari, Adrienne (2012). Legionnaires of Chaos: “Anonymous” and Governmental Oversight of the Internet. Digital ethics - research & practice (22 p.). New York: Peter Lang Verlag, Includes bibliographical references.
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Completed projects

Project:
Charting the Digital: Digital mapping practices as new media cultures. 01.11.2011 to 01.11.2016
General project description

Maps have changed and with that our sense of space and spatial awareness. The key objective of this research programme is to investigate to what extent and how digital maps can be considered as new techno-cultural phenomena that have altered our way of being in and moving through our spatial environments. Digital maps allow a greater degree of interaction between users and mapping interfaces than analogue maps do. Instead of just reading maps, users have far more influence on how maps look. Whether a navigation device that adjusts its route-display according to where the driver chooses to go, or a map in a computer-game that is partly created by players, maps have become more interactive and are now co-produced by their users.


With this ERC starting grant I propose to build up a new research programme to investigate what this shift entails. I will do so by conducting a comparative analysis of a broad spectrum of digital mapping devices: in relation to (a) each other, (b) traditional cartography and (c) to other media forms that are concerned with mapping and navigation.

 
Role PhD Candidate
Individual project description

My research looks into the interrelations of digital maps, power, technology and interfaces, asking how is power (or attempts of it) being exerted through mutable reconfiguration of geographical signs on screens and the databases behind them. I examine this through ethnographic case studies, Actor-Network Theory and software studies.


The previous critical turn in geography has brought in a refined look at those who make and use maps. Utilizing tools from disciplines communication, discourse analysis and semiotics, geographers approached maps as rich texts, accounting for their “silences” (Harley, 1988a), i.e. the intended and unintended gaps in the translation of the territory to the paper, viewing the aforementioned translation as socially constructed and biased (Harley 1988b). Maps were explored as means of enforcing power, ownership and hegemony over those who were mapped (Wood 2010).


Challenging the notion of the map as an objective depiction or as a scientific image has led to a renewed understanding of historic maps and their contemporary counterparts, but it was still bound to the unchanging, unyielding immutable mobiles (Latour 1988) paper maps created to keep the territory stable while being moved about.


That changes with the introduction of the digital map, a mutable mobile (Lammes 2009), consisting of a complex composite of materials, software and practices. The digital map is present in our phones, our navigational equipment, our games and our apps. It mundanely changes our relation to our environment and has an aspect of co-creation between the map maker and user largely absent from previous mapping practices. The map becomes a habitual practice, and there exist an increasingly growing cultural capital of usage and interaction with such maps.


This poses a new set of question, and, coupled with trends in contemporary cartography, allows for a re-examination of digital maps’ roles in the politic and power relations. If we take mapping as a navigational rather than mimetic practice, agreeing that the map does not resemble the territory but serves as a series of referents which assists a user in reaching a certain goal (November, Camacho-Hübner, and Latour 2010) then from an Actor-Network Perspective (Latour 1987; 2005), the digital map can be understood as a translational actor that allows effective combination of people, locations, objects, practices and policies to create change.

Funding
EU grant: ERC Starting Grant
Project members UU
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Additional functions and activities

No additional functions.

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Full name
A. Gekker Contact details

I also quite frequently availible via Facebook and Twitter. Social media and all that.

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Last updated 28.04.2013