Challenging opacity, embracing fuzziness: geographical thought and praxis in a post-truth age


Recent years have seen a resurgence of interest in critical approaches to mapping and quantification within geography. Such works have embraced the potential of these methods to advance the cause of social and spatial justice in an increasingly data-driven world. But as more geographers are turning to these approaches, it seems that conventional sources of social data are less and less able to capture emerging forms of social and spatial inequality, or are made unavailable to researchers interested in uncovering and challenging these inequalities. This therefore opens up the question of how geographers interested in mobilizing maps and data for critical purposes can even study or make definitive claims about phenomena or processes for which there are no reliable or available sources of data? Together, these issues point to the fundamental challenge of opacity to the future of geographical thought and praxis, and the necessity for critical geographers to not simply abandon these methods because of such challenges, but rather embrace this fuzziness in new and productive ways.

Dialogues in Human Geography, forthcoming
Taylor Shelton
Assistant Professor of Geography