Matthew Zook

zook's picture
  • Director of Graduate Studies
  • University Research Professor
  • Geography
  • New Maps Plus
  • New Mappings Collaboratory
875 Patterson Office Tower
(859) 218-0955
  • Other Affiliations:
Research Interests:

Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley. (Berkeley, CA) 2001.
M.R.P. Cornell University (Ithaca, NY) 1995.
B.A. Earlham College (Richmond, IN) 1989.


I have studied the intersection of digital technologies, cities and the spatial economy for more than twenty-five years. I framed my earliest work in terms of the “mapping the internet” and analyzed the clustering of firms and venture capital to argue against the prevalent tropes of the “death of distance” and “end of cities”. Today, there are three main threads within my work: (1) How are digital technologies changing cities and the spatial economy? (2) How do big data and digital technologies provide new ways to study cities? (3) What do big data and digital technologies mean for urban governance and policy?

How are digital technologies changing cities and the spatial economy?

Part of my research in this area takes the form of my NSF funded project on blockchain geographies (BCS 1853718). The long-term goal of this research program is to further geographic scholarship on financialization and the ways financial institutions and logics are gaining power in economic and everyday systems. My central objective is understanding how blockchain cryptocurrencies reshape the spaces and practices of valuation and financing particularly within tech-based startup firms (Zook and Blankenship, 2018Zook and Grote, 2020). I also focus on how digital technologies are impacting cities is the phenomenon of what I call “hacking space and cities” (Zook and Graham, 2017). As software (code) increasingly governs financial transactions, human mobility, dating, job search, and much of the rest of everyday life, it is important to recognize the potential vulnerability of even the most encompassing algorithms. Code often works on people, en masse, expecting them to act in normal and foreseeable ways. But in a world of unpredictable people, able to engage with, transgress against and switch between networks, the hegemony of code/space can be contested and manipulated (“hacking”).  In an age of smart cities, big data, and encompassing surveillance systems, there seems little doubt that hacking efforts will expand to other areas of digitally mediated daily life. The trickery of hackers, however, is not devoid of its own power and ability to negatively impact (often unknowingly) those to which it is relationally connected. Hackers can certainly transgress against corporate systems, but the reaction to these challenges reverberate through the global networks of capitalism. This ultimately points to the need for an ethics of care that recognizes the relational economic positionalities that we share with one another.

How do big data and digital technologies provide new ways to study cities?

One of the most exciting aspects of big data is the opportunity it affords us to rethink broader questions about theory and methodological approaches in city planning and urban geography. These new data sources are particularly useful insofar as they allow for more a spatially and temporally granular approach to analyzing urban social and spatial processes than is possible with more conventional datasets. For me this takes the form of twitter data from our DOLLY project an ongoing repository of every geo-tagged tweet since 2013 (Poorthuis and Zook, 2017). My most recent joint paper on gentrification suggests one such avenue for using big data to study cites, namely the persistent problem of defining and measuring gentrification. Rather than simply using these data as points on the map we instead look at the history of a user’s Twitter activity as an indicator of social activity and connections; and use these as proxies for the evolving social and spatial contours of urban neighborhoods. This allows us to focus on the dynamic, relational connections between people and places, rather than more static Census metrics and areal units (Zook, et al, 2019). This focus on relational connections provides a useful, additional avenue to analyze the complex and multifaceted process of gentrification.

What do big data and digital technologies mean for urban governance and policy?

The third thread of my research focuses on the implications of big data and digital technologies for governance and policy building. The key task in my mind is ensuring that it is not simply an exercise in data and algorithm building but instead gives equal weight to considering the motivations, ideologies and politics associated with urban technology. For example, are ideas and implementations just coming from certain actors, i.e., technology firms, start-up entrepreneurs, or are they representative of the larger citizenry and community? How is social justice defined, and does it have a place at the table when data definitions are decided upon and algorithms discussed? These are key questions and must be at the heart of urban technology lest it lose its connection to societal betterment and making cities better (Zook, 2017). Urban technologies can provide useful solutions, insight and policy direction. But one must be ever mindful that metrics don’t simply measure; in the process of deciding what is important and possible to measure, these data are simultaneously defining what cities are. My work in this area focuses on how to best ensure responsible big data research.

Big Data and Society

I am the managing editor for, Big Data & Society: Critical Interdisciplinary Inquiries, an open access peer-reviewed scholarly journal that publishes interdisciplinary work principally in the social sciences, humanities and computing and their intersections with the arts and natural sciences about the implications of Big Data for societies. The Journal's key purpose is to provide a space for connecting debates about the emerging field of Big Data practices and how they are reconfiguring academic, social, industry, business and government relations, expertise, methods, concepts and knowledge.

Selected Publications: 

Most citations are linked to the article. (my full Google Scholar Profile)

Zook, M. and M. Graham. (2017). Hacking Code/Space: Confounding the Code of Global Capitalism. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. Forthcoming.
Zook, M., Barocas, S., boyd, d., Crawford, K., Keller, E., Gangadharan, S.P., Goodman, A., Hollander, R., Koenig, B., Metcalf, J., Narayanan, A., Nelson, A., and Pasquale, F. (2017). Ten Simple Rules for Responsible Big Data Research. PLOS Computational Biology. March 31. 
Cockayne, D. Leszczynski, A. & M. Zook. (2017). #HotForBots: Sex, the non-human, and digitally-mediated spaces of intimate encounter. Environment and Planning D: Society & Space. 0263775817709018.
Ojanperä, S., Graham, M., Straumann, R. K., De Sabbata, S., & Zook, M. (2017). Engagement in the knowledge economy: Regional patterns of content creation with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa. Information Technologies & International Development. 13, 33–52.
Zook, M., and M. Grote. (2016). The Microgeographies of Global Finance: High Frequency Trading and the Construction of Information Inequality. Environment and Planning A. DOI: 10.1177/0308518X16667298
Zook, M. (2016). Information Flows, Global Finance and New Digital Spaces. Chapter for the New Oxford Handbook of Economic Geography. 
Zook, M., Poorthuis, A, Donohue, R. (2016). Mapping Spaces: Cartographic Representations of Online Data. Chapter for the Handbook of Online Research Methods second edition
Poorthuis, A., M. Zook, T. Shelton, M. Graham and M. Stephens. (2016). Using Geotagged Digital Social Data in Geographic Research. Book chapter Key Methods in Geography (3rd edition)
Zook M, T Shelton, A Poorthuis, R Donohue, M Wilson, M Graham, M Stephens. What would a floating sheep map? Lexington, KY: Oves Natantes Press, 2015.
Zook, M., Kraak. MJ. Ahas, R. 2015. Geographies of Mobility: Applications of Location Based Data. International Journal of Geographical Information Science. Vol.29 (11).
Graham, M, Sabbata, S and M. Zook. (2015). Towards a Study of Information Geographies: Immutable Augmentations and a Mapping of the Geographies of Information. Geo: Geography and Environment. DOI:10.1002/geo2.8/epdf
Ahas, R., Yuan, Y., Smoreda, Z., Aasa, A., Raubal, M., Liu, Y., Ziemlicki, C., and Zook, M. (2015). Smart Timing for Smart Cities - Developing indicators for measuring social time from mobile phone datasets, a Case study of China, Estonia and France. International Journal of Geographical Information Science. DOI:10.1080/13658816.2015.1063151
Shelton, T., A. Poorthuis. Zook, M. (2015). Social media and the city: Rethinking urban socio-spatial inequality using user-generated geographic information. Landscape and Urban Planning. pp. 198–211 doi:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2015.02.020
Poorthuis, P. and M. Zook. (2015). Small Stories in Big Data: gaining insights from large spatial point pattern data sets. Special Issue of Cityscape. 151-160. 
Shelton, Taylor Matthew Zook and Alan Wiig. (2014). The ‘actually existing smart city’ Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society. doi:10.1093/cjres/rsu026
Poorthuis, Ate and M. Zook.(2014). Artists and Bankers and Hipsters, Oh My! Mapping Tweets in the New York Metropolitan Region. Cityscape. Volume 16(2). 169-173. 


Zook, M., Graham, M, and A. Boulton. 2014. Crowd-Sourced Augmented Realities: Social Media and the Power of Digital Representation. Chapter in S. Mains, J. Cupples, and C. Lukinbeal. Mediated Geographies/Geographies of Media. Springer Science International Handbooks in Human Geography.

Graham, M. and Zook, M. 2014. Augmentierte Geographien: Zur digitalen Erfahrung des städtischen AlltagsGeographische Rundschau. 65(6) 18-25.

Zook, M. and T. Shelton. 2014. The Internet and Global Capitalism. Encyclopedia Entry for Wiley-AAG International Encyclopedia of Geography.

Zook, M. and A. Poorthuis. 2014. Offline Brews and Online Views: Exploring the Geography of Beer Tweets (maps available here). Chapter in M. Patterson and N.Hoalst-Pullen Geographies of Beer. Springer. 

Shelton, Taylor, Ate Poorthuis, Mark Graham, and Matthew Zook. 2014. "Mapping the Data Shadows of Hurricane Sandy: Uncovering the Sociospatial Dimensions of ‘Big Data’". Geoforum 52: 167-179. 

Graham, M, Zook, M. and A. Boulton. (2013). Augmented Reality in the Urban Environment: Distorted Mirrors and Imagined Reflections. Transactions in British Geography.

Jeremy W. Crampton, Mark Graham, Ate Poorthuis, Taylor Shelton, Monica Stephens, Matthew W. Wilson and Matthew Zook. (2013). Beyond the Geotag? Deconstructing “Big Data” and Leveraging the Potential of the Geoweb.  Cartography and Geographic Information Science (CaGIS) 40 (2), 130-139. 

Poorthuis, A and M. Zook.(2013). Spaces of Volunteered Geographic Information. Ashgate Research Companion on Geographies of Media (P. Adams, J. Craine & J. Dittmer eds.)

Zook, M. (2013). Making Currency Personal: The Salutary Tale of the Downfall of the Domdrachma.  Chapter in The Immersive Internet (Robin Teigland and Dominic Power Eds.) Palgrave. 238-246.

Boulton, A and M. Zook. 2013. Coding cultural geographies: landscape, locative media and the map.  Chapter in Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Cultural Geography. N. Johnson, R. Schein and J. Winders (eds.) 437-451.

Graham, M. and M. Zook. (2012). Augmented realities and uneven geographies:  Exploring the geolinguistic contours of the Web. Environment and Planning A. 45 (1), 77-99. - Awarded the Ashby Prize by Environment and Planning A for the most innovative paper of 2013

Shelton, T, Zook, M. and M. Graham. (2012). The Technology of Religion: Mapping Religious Cyberscapes. The Professional Geographer. 64(4) 602-617..

Roberts, S., Secor, A., and M. Zook. (2012). Critical Infrastructure: Mapping the Leaky Plumbing of US Hegemony. Antipode. Vol 44. 1. pp. 5-9.

Zook. M. (2012). The Virtual Economy. Chapter for The New Companion to Economic Geography (Eds. J. Peck, T. Barnes and E. Sheppard).

Zook, M and T. Shelton. (2012). The Integration of Virtual Flows into Material Movements within the Global Economy.  Chapter in Cities and Flows (P. Hall and M. Hesse Eds.) pp. 42-57.

Graham, M and M. Zook. (2011). Visualizing the Global Cyberscape: Mapping User Generated Placemarks. Journal of Urban Technology. 18(1). 115-132.

Zook, M., Graham, M., Shelton, T. and S. Gorman. (2010). Volunteered Geographic Information and Crowdsourcing Disaster relief: A Case Study of the Haitian Earthquake. World Health and Medical Policy. Vol 2(2).

Crutcher, M. and M. Zook. (2009). Placemarks and Waterlines: Racialized Cyberscapes in Post Katrina Google Earth. GeoForum. 40(4). 523-534

Dodge, M., Kitchin, R. and M. Zook (2009). How does software make space? Exploring some geographical dimensions of pervasive computing and software studies (Guest Editorial). Environmental and Planning A. 41(6). 1283–1293.

Zook M. (2009). Internet, Economic Geography. In Kitchin R, Thrift N (eds) International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, Volume 5, pp. 555-561. Oxford: Elsevier.

Zook M, Dodge M. (2009). Mapping, Cyberspace. In Kitchin R, Thrift N (eds) International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, Volume 6, pp. 356-367. Oxford: Elsevier.

Dodge, M. and M. Zook (2009). Internet Measurement. In Kitchin R, Thrift N (eds) International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, pp. 569-579. Oxford: Elsevier.

Zook, M. and M. Graham. (2007). The Creative Reconstruction of the Internet: Google and the Privatization of Cyberspace and DigiPlace. GeoForum. Vol. 38(6). 1322-1343.

Zook, M. and M. Graham. (2007). Mapping DigiPlace: Geo-coded Internet Data and the Perception of Place. Environment and Planning B. 466-482.

Grubesic, T. and M. Zook. (2007). A Ticket to Ride:  Evolving Landscapes of Air Travel Accessibility in United States Journal of Transportation Geography. Vol. 15 (6). 417-430.

Zook, M. (2006). The Geographies of the Internet. In Annual Review of Information Science and Technology (ARIST) ed. B. Cronin. Volume 40. 53-78.

Zook, M and S. Brunn. (2006). From Podes to Antipodes: New Dimensions in Mapping Global Airline Geographies. Annals of the Association of America Geographers. September. 471-490.

Zook, M.A. (2005). The Geography of the Internet Industry: Venture Capital, Dot-coms and Local Knowledge. Blackwell Publishers.

Zook, M.A.  (2004). The Knowledge Brokers: Venture Capitalists, Tacit Knowledge and Regional Development. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. (September): 621-41.

Zook, M.A., Dodge, M., Aoyama, Y., and A. Townsend. (2004). New Digital Geographies: Information, Communication, and Place. In Geography and Technology. Brunn, Cutter and Harrington (eds.). Kluwer Academic Publishers. 155-176.

Zook, M.A. (2003). Underground globalization:  Mapping the space of flows of the internet adult industry. Environment and Planning A. Vol 35(7). 1261-1286.

Zook, M.A. (2002). Hubs, nodes, and bypassed places: A typology of e-commerce regions in the United States. Tijdschrift voor economische en sociale geografie. Vol 93. No.5. pp. 509-521.

Zook, M.A. (2002). Grounded capital: Venture financing and the geography of the internet industry, 1994-2000. Journal of Economic Geography. Vol 2. No 2.  151-177.

Zook, M.A. (2001). Old hierarchies or new networks of centrality? The global geography of the internet content market. American Behavioral Scientist. (June). Vol 44. No. 10. 1679-1696.

Zook, M.A. (2000). The web of production: The economic geography of commercial internet content production in the United States. Environment and Planning A. Vol. 32. 411-426.  



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