AAG 2021 CFP: Spatializing ‘Intelligence’ (virtual session)

Abstract digital shapes

Organizers: Casey R. Lynch (University of Nevada, Reno) and Katherine G. Sammler (Helmholtz Institute for Functional Marine Biodiversity)

Given the emergent discussions around smart cities, AI, and robotics in society, scholars are increasingly invoking notions of intelligence, sentience, thinking, and cognition in their analysis of evolving socio-technical assemblages. Notions of ‘intelligence’ are also invoked in animal geographies, outer space geographies, geo-ontology, posthumanism, social movement studies, and other fields. Too often, these terms are invoked with little to no discussion as to what they mean. Yet, Enlightenment theories of intelligence rely on mind/body and human/nature dualisms that have long been used to justify deeply racist, gendered, colonial, ableist, and speciesist projects, including geography’s own legacy of environmental determinism.  Meanwhile, across philosophy, cognitive science, psychology, and AI, there is little to no consensus as to the meaning of intelligence, even as some attempt to engineer it. While many have attempted to locate intelligence in the brain, others have long argued for embodied understandings of intelligence as emergent from interactions in dynamic environments. Others still aim to decenter the ‘human’ from theorizations of intelligence altogether.

Within geography we see groups critically engaging questions around knowledge production, meaning-making, more-than-human agency, difference, and cognition. Yet, geographers have yet to bring these insights to bear on debates about intelligence, with a few expectations. For instance, Thrift (2004) writes of affect: “[a]ffect is a different kind of intelligence about the world, but it is intelligence none-the-less” (p. 60, emphasis added). Bear (2011) discusses the question of intelligence in relation to animal geographies. Reflecting on the rise of ‘smart spaces’, Lynch and Del Casino (2020, p. 383) argue “that expanded understandings of intelligence as multidimensional, variegated, and exceeding the human open up new ways to imagine so-called smart futures.” This session aims to bring together scholars from across the discipline to critically examine the multiple and shifting meanings of intelligence in geographic research and to question assumptions about what intelligence is (or might be), where it is located, how it operates in relation to power, and how it is evolving in the contemporary conjuncture.

Topics may include but are not limited to:

  • Theoretical or empirical work on intelligence in animal geographies
  • Theorizations of intelligence and the rise of ‘smart’ spaces and places (cities, borders, mines, homes, etc.)
  • Critical engagements with Artificial Intelligence (AI), robots, cyborgs 
  • Outer space geographies and the search for ‘intelligent life’
  • Engagements with neuroscience, psychology, psychoanalysis
  • Affect, embodiment, and intelligence 
  • Collective intelligence, swarm intelligence, etc.
  • Geographies of neurodiversity 
  • Intelligence and stupidity
  • Relationship between intelligence, knowledge, consciousness, information, agency, meaning
  • human/nonhuman/transhuman intelligences
  • Theories of intelligence in histories of colonialism and scientific racism
  • Theories of life, nonlife, animacy, and intelligence
  • Relational bodies/landscape intelligences
  • Political economy of intelligence, capital, and labor

If you are interested in participating in this session, please submit a title and abstract (250 words max) to Casey Lynch (caseylynch@unr.edu) and Katherine Sammler (ksammler@hifmb.de) by Nov. 13th.

Bear, C. (2011). Being Angelica? Exploring individual animal geographies. Area , 43(3): 297-304. 
Lynch, C.R. & Del Casino, V. J. (2020). Smart Spaces, Information Processing, and the Question of Intelligence. Annals of the American Association of Geographers , 110(2): 382-290. 
Thrift, N. (2004). Intensities of Feeling: Towards a Spatial Politics of Affect. Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography , 86(1): 57-78. 

Image found at Forensic Architecture – Model Zoo . “This project originally premiered at the exhibition, Uncanny Valley: Being human in the age of AI at the de Young Museum in San Francisco.”