Small moments in Spatial Big Data: Calculability, authority and interoperability in everyday mobile mapping

Clancy Wilmott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article considers how Spatial Big Data is situated and produced through embodied spatial experiences as data
processes appear and act in small moments on mobile phone applications and other digital spatial technologies. Locating
Spatial Big Data in the historical and geographical contexts of Sydney and Hong Kong, it traces how situated knowledges
mediate and moderate the rising potency of discourses of cartographic reason and data logics as colonial cartographic
imaginations expressed in land divisions and urban planning continue on, in a world that increasingly values models of
calculability, interoperability and authority. It draws on ethnographic material gathered through walking interviews in
both cities, and in doing so, it argues that by using ethnographic ‘moments’, it is possible to decentre the focus on data
processes to consider the critical potential of a politics of everyday experiences that produce and reflect the structures
of data logics. Through these ethnographic moments, this article examines how mobile technologies are complicit in the
production of Spatial Big Data, and the impact this has on the increasing regimentation and surveillance of modes of being
and expression via mobile media. At the same time, it will argue that while spatial calculability has expanded from
cartographic reason into data logics, the epistemological universality of Spatial Big Data is constantly being resisted – in
moments of experimentation, failure, intuition, memory and desire, the ghosts of the incalculable epistemes, experiences
and people, forgotten by the emphasis on calculation, continue to speak.
Original languageUndefined
JournalBig Data & Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 19 Sept 2016

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