CFP Communities of Place vs. Communities of Interest? exploring implications of digital media for civic and place-based actions

RGS-IBG Annual Conference, Royal Geographical Society, London

Wednesday 30 August – Friday 1 September 2017

Call for Papers (Deadline Friday 10th February, 2017)


In the context of new media platforms deployed and used to augment civic participation, this session brings together anybody with an interest in understanding the participation dynamics enabled and sustained through mediating technologies. Submissions may considerer how the digital is significant in, for example, the social-geographies of crowdsourcing for civic participation on local matters, new approaches for revisiting, representing, and enlightening the spatial dynamics of government online consultations, or the campaigning of civic groups on a shared matter of concern. This is pertinent in the growing body of work on ‘civic technologies’, online-based applications that seek to enable formation of interest-based publics around common causes. In local matters, materialities of place often formulate the foundation for shared interest and thus for getting involved in place-based actions. The session considers how communities of place form and are sustained, especially in relation to urban/rural contexts and smaller geographic scales, and how information gained from processes is ignored or turned into knowledge for action by, e.g., planners, politicians to justify civic action. We encourage contributions based on different methodological approaches that may include data from live systems or techniques for study of participation dynamics from archival data (such as governmental publications and open data). The session will provide an opportunity to share and discuss how issue publics form and are sustained, especially in relation to urban/rural contexts and smaller geographic scales, and how information gained from processes is ignored or turned into knowledge for action by intermediaries, planners, politicians and others to justify civic action.

Potential contributions could discuss:

  • how the digital is significant in, for example, the social-geographies of crowdsourcing, peer production systems for civic participation on local matters.
  • in turn, how collected (geographic) knowledge is or might be turned into insight by policy makers; or how it might be ignored
  • approaches for revisiting and enlightening the spatial dynamics of participation in government online consultations,
  • Insight on the spatial dynamics and relations among civic groups and their matters of concern.

Session format

We plan for seven presentation slots followed by a round table discussion. Selected presenters will have 20 minutes to present followed by 5 minutes of questions. In advance, we will identify two or three themes that unite selected papers for a lively round table discussion to take place at the end. We hope this will enable participants to form a research agenda and community.

Guidance for contributors

To participate, please respond with your submission by Friday 9th February by sending us a document with:

  • The title of your contribution
  • The type of contribution: i.e. theoretical / empirical / other
  • Three keywords
  • An extended abstract of no more than 300 words (please indicate, e.g., your research objective, indicative findings you can share, and core contributions)

Should you wish to discuss the scope or the topic of your contribution, we invite you to email us directly at We look forward to hearing from you.

About the session organisers

This session is organised by members of the Digital Local Democracy group at Newcastle University which is comprised of several doctoral and postdoctoral researchers alongside Faculty members. The group is part of a wider programme of ‘Digital Civics’[1] work in Open Lab at Newcastle which is primarily funded as an EPSRC Digital Economy Research Centre and through an RCUK funded doctoral training centre. It brings together researchers, both staff and students, interested in civic participation and activism, government transformation agendas, and the respective practices and technologies involved. It involves over 40 partners in industry, civic society and local government and represents the largest research cluster of its kind outside the US.


Dr. Sebastian Weise ( Sebastian is an educator and entrepreneur. At Newcastle University, Sebastian is lecturer for digital civics at the School for Architecture, Planning, and Landscape. He teaches user-centred design methodologies for design of apps and services for civics and local government. As a founder and director at PlaceChangers Ltd, he supports and advises local government and groups interested in planning in running civic engagement campaigns on neighbourhood plans and various other spatial strategies. Present research projects include OpinionExplorer, a spatial exploration tool for public consultation data, as well as several interventions based on collaborative tagging of neighbourhoods.

Moozhan Shakeri ( Moozhan is associate researcher at Newcastle University’s Open Lab research centre. Her research focuses on collaborative decision making and the use of new media, specifically digital games, for participatory planning practices . For the past four years she has also worked as spatial analyst in a number of projects, focusing on interactive mapping of geographic information and designing online platforms for participatory decision making processes.

Prof. Geoff Vigar ( Geoff is Professor of Urban Planning at Newcastle University’s School for Architecture, Planning, and Landscape. He co-leads the local democracy strand of the EPSRC Centre. His research focuses on the design of institutions for more participatory and collaborative forms of urban governance. Historically this has focused on the practices of local government, but increasingly it engages directly with communities. In this he is interested in evaluating how digital methods can be deployed, in isolation and in combination with traditional participation ‘technologies’, to give voice to those often not heard within debates about how places are governed.


Graham, S. (2004). Beyond the ‘dazzling light’: from dreams of transcendence to the “remediation”of urban life. New Media and Society, 16–25.

Handler, R. A., & Ferrer Conill, R. (2016). Open Data, Crowdsourcing and Game Mechanics. A case study on civic participation in the digital age. Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW), 25(2-3), 153–166.

Natarajan, L. (2015). Socio-spatial learning: A case study of community knowledge in participatory spatial planning. Progress in Planning.

Seltzer, E., & Mahmoudi, D. (2013). Citizen Participation, Open Innovation, and Crowdsourcing Challenges and Opportunities for Planning. Journal of Planning Literature, 28(1), 3–18.