Troubling Platforms: Disruption, mediation and transformation in digital food geographies

Session Convenors:
Jeremy BRICE, London School of Economics, j.brice@lse.ac.uk
Tanja SCHNEIDER, University of St Gallen, tanja.schneider@unisg.ch
Sebastian PROST, Newcastle University, s.prost2@newcastle.ac.uk

Food is increasingly caught up in complex economies and ecologies of digital platforms, from online takeaway delivery services and surplus food redistribution apps to diet trackers, social media networks and traceability tools. Elaborate assemblages of software, interfaces and devices mediate the circulation of both foodstuffs themselves and the knowledges, affects and values which accompany them – creating and coordinating novel socio-technical networks of interaction and exchange which are rapidly (if unevenly) reconfiguring spatialities and temporalities of food provisioning, politics and consumption.

Digital platforms’ potential to trouble, transform and disrupt extant geographies of food provokes hope and concern in equal measure. While the incorporation of food and eating into emerging platform capitalism excites the speculative sensibilities of investors, the connective potential of platforms also engages activists seeking to cultivate more sustainable, ethical or just food networks. However, such developments also provoke anxiety among incumbent food businesses facing disruption and disintermediation, workers subject to insecure platform-enabled labour arrangements, restaurant operators beset by malicious reviews, and consumers concerned about
data protection and privacy.

This session will build links between digital geographies and food geographies by bringing together papers examining how digital platforms become embedded within, trouble, disrupt and transform geographies of food. Through exploring the troubles and possibilities of encounters between food and digital platforms – from monopoly power, surveillance and insecure labour within platform capitalism to digitally mediated food activism, redistribution and relocalization – we aim to interrogate the pervasive but often mundane ways in which digital technologies order contemporary economic, cultural and political processes. We hope both to trace through following food how the design, conventions, constraints and accumulation strategies of digital platforms participate in ordering everyday life and to understand how encounters with the digital are transforming food’s cultures, materialities and geographies.

We welcome theoretical and/or empirical papers exploring themes including but not limited to:

  • Platform-mediated cultures and practices of food consumption (including emerging communities, identities and subcultures)
  • Establishing and contesting the value, quality and ‘goodness’ of food within digital marketplaces (e.g. the role of reviews, ratings and recommendations)
  • Interfaces between financialisation and platformisation (e.g. the role of investors in extending digital disruption to food)
  • Inclusion, exclusion and (in)equality within digital food economies • Interactions between digital food economies, nutrition and food security at household scale • Platforms, politics and digital food activism from civic, democratic, and participatory food networks to buycotts and ethical consumerism
  • Smart cities, digital technologies and changing urban food infrastructures
  • Imagined future food geographies and the promises or fears of platforms
  • The methodological and theoretical troubles of studying food’s entanglements with digital platforms
  • Surveillance, transparency and knowledge (or ignorance) production within digital food economies and cultures

We particularly encourage transdisciplinary engagements with the session topic!

Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words to s.prost2@newcastle.ac.uk, j.brice@lse.ac.uk
and tanja.schneider@unisg.ch by Friday the 8th of February.

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