Justice and the Digital: our second annual symposium

This year’s DGWG Annual Symposium was themed “Justice and the Digital” and held at Sheffield University on 6th July. A wide range of participants – 43 from 19 universities and 3 NGOs from the UK and beyond came together to listen to some key speakers and engage in the participatory “digital shorts” sessions. Topics under discussion included digital (in-)visibilities, voice/voicelessness online, data ethics and data justice, digital divides in access and affordability, uneven digital literacies, justice and inclusion in digitally mediated/smart cities, using digital forms of protest to address social and environmental (in-)justice, and many more. The event brought together those working in all sub-disciplines of geography, interested in digital geographies, academics from other disciplines interested in the digital, and practitioners working in this field.

The DGWG Organising team were Dr Hannah Awcock (UCLAN), Dr Oliver Zanetti (Oxford), Dr Sammia Poveda and Prof Dorothea Kleine (both Sheffield). The day was structured around plenary panels and thematic strands occurring in parallel. Our opening panel reflected on issues of justice which arise in relation to the digital, with speakers from both academia and practice. Our speakers were Jeremy Crampton, University of Kentucky; Emily Tomkys Valteri, OXFAM; James Richardson, Good Things Foundation; and Dorothea Kleine, The University of Sheffield.

Our three parallel strands also had invited speakers, and were complemented by Digital Shorts presentations. The “Citizenship, Protest and the Digital” strand, convened by Dr Hannah Awcock, invited Dr Sam Hind, University of Siegen and Prof Karen Mossberger, Arizona State University. The “Data, Justice and the Smart City”, convened by Dr Oliver Zanetti, invited Dr Desiree Fields, The University of Sheffield and Dr Ayona Datta, King’s College London. The “Justice and Global Digital Inequalities”, convened by Dr Sammia Poveda and Prof Dorothea Kleine, invited Prof Muki Haklay, UCL, Emily Tomkys Valteri, OXFAM, and James Richardson, Good Things Foundation.












Our closing panel, moderated by Dr Oliver Zanetti, reflected on Geography as a discipline and its relation to the theme of the day: “Justice and the Digital”. Speakers Dr Ayona Datta, King’s College London; Prof Muki Haklay, UCL; Dr Sam Hind, University of Siegen; and; Dr Desiree Fields, The University of Sheffield, were invited to reflect upon the following questions:

  • How and where can geographers contribute, theoretically, methodologically, empirically, practically?
  • What might a justice-engaged human geography look like in the era of the digital, and what might be required to get us there?
  • Do geographers have the necessary skills and capacities to engage with the digital? What gaps are there and how might we go about filling them?

Discussions were lively on the day, in the rooms and on Twitter. If you wish to learn more about the discussions held, you can read our Wakelet story, which compiles all tweets shared on that day here.

In total we had 7 invited speakers and 28 digital shorts presented. We would also like to thank our sponsors who made it possible to offer bursaries to help cover the costs of some attendees. The RGS-IBG sponsored 9 postgraduate students, and the Digital Society Network sponsored 4 students from the University of Sheffield. Jennie Day, PhD Student, Newcastle University, a bursary recipient, shared the following reflection:

“The DGWG event was an incredibly enjoyable and constructive event. The opportunity to be in a room with a group of like-minded people – of not only geographers, but geographers united by a similar set of digitally oriented research questions – was a rare gift. The event was intellectually stimulating, supportive and very inclusive, with participants ranging from Masters students to Professors whose work has shaped the direction of Geography as a discipline. A highlight was the inclusion of Emily Tomkys Valteri from Oxfam, and James Richardson from Good Things Foundation, as plenary speakers. Their presentations and the discussions of their work lead to valuable group conversations – particularly regarding opportunities for learning and sharing between academic and not-for-profit sectors. I left the event feeling inspired, and proud to be part of such a diverse and intellectually curious academic community.”










Finally, participants continued their conversations in a local pub after the event and a smaller group enjoyed a Walk-and-Talk in the Peak District National Park on Saturday 7th.