Will Payne at the American Association of Geographers 2018 Meeting

02 May, 2018

Will Payne at the American Association of Geographers 2018 Meeting

Photo: Elon Musk, mid-1990s

Will Payne, a PhD candidate in Geography with a Designated Emphasis in New Media , attended the American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Lousiana. The conference took place from April 10-14.

The Spring 2018 BCNM Conference Grant helped cover Payne's costs of attending a premier conference in his field.

In his own words:
This past month, I used travel grant funding from the Berkeley Center for New Media to support my participation in the American Association of Geographers (AAG) annual meeting, held in New Orleans. The paper I presented, "Indexing the Urban: Location-Based Services as Smart City Platforms,” examined the precursors to contemporary location-based services founded in the late 1990s Internet boom, specifically Elon Musk's first company, Zip2, which combined inexpensive digitized Yellow Pages listings with map data licensed for free from navigation startup Navteq (based on public domain U.S. Census TIGER spatial data) into branded city directory portals for newspapers eager to ride the Web boom. Musk sold the company for $300 million to Compaq shortly before the dotcom bust, using his proceeds from the deal to help fund PayPal and the wave of Web 2.0 companies that rose in its wake. My paper examined how contingencies of venture capital funding, public and quasi-public investments in satellite navigation and telephone directories, and free labor (Terranova 2000) undergird urban information platforms that create and exploit the consumption potentials of spatially uneven “cit[ies] of bits” (Mitchell 1995)."

My paper was part of a session entitled "After the Smart City? The State of Critical Scholarship Ten Years On”, along with papers on "digital capital" on the urban frontier, entrepreneurial citizenship discourse in China, assemblage urbanism in Barcelona hacker collectives, and the ambiguities of smart city policies across different countries. I also used my time at the conference to participate in a group mapping workshop in collaboration with local non-profit Gulf Restoration Network, to serve as a panelist in a different smart cities session "My City is Smarter Than Yours: Deconstructing the Buzzwords," and as a discussant in a session on "Platform Urbanism" looking at a variety of "sharing economy" services in their social and political economic contexts. BCNM support was invaluable in helping me present my research to the largest annual gathering of academic geographers, and to build relationships with future collaborators and peers at other institutions.