We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

Graham, S. Software-sorted geographies. Progress in Human Geography. 2005;29:562-580.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper explores the central role of computerized code in shaping the social and
geographical politics of inequality in advanced societies. The central argument is that, while such
processes are necessarily multifaceted, multiscaled, complex and ambivalent, a great variety of
‘software-sorting’ techniques is now being widely applied in efforts to try to separate privileged
and marginalized groups and places across a wide range of sectors and domains. This paper’s
central demonstration is that the overwhelming bulk of software-sorting applications is closely
associated with broader transformations from Keynesian to neoliberal service regimes. To illustrate
such processes of software-sorting, the paper analyses recent research addressing three examples
of software-sorting in practice. These address physical and electronic mobility systems, online
geographical information systems (GIS), and face-recognition closed circuit television (CCTV)
systems covering city streets. The paper finishes by identifying theoretical, research and policy
implications of the diffusion of software-sorted geographies within which computerized code
continually orchestrates inequalities through technological systems embedded within urban


Aday, 2004a: Surveillance at the airport: Surveilling mobility/mobilising surveillance, Environment and Planning A, 26, 1365-1380.
Aday, P. 2004b: Secured and sorted mobilities: Examples from the airport, Surveillance and Society, 1, 500-519.
Agre, P. 2001: Your face is not a bar code: Arguments against automatic face recognition in public places, Whole Earth, 106, 74-77.
Amin, A. and Thrift, N. 2002, Cities: Reimagining the urban, Cambridge :Polity.
Andrejevic, M. 2003: Monitored mobility in the era of mass customization, Space and Culture, 6, 132-150.
Avaya Corporation 2000: Avaya CRM solutions: Individual service management, Washington DC: Avaya Inc.
Bloomfield, B. 2001: In the right place at the right time: Electronic tagging and the problems of social order/disorder, Sociological Review, 49, 174-218.
Bolter, J. and Grusin, R. 2000: Remediation : Understanding new media, Cambridge Ma. : MIT Press.
Bowker, G. and Leigh-Star, S. 1999: Sorting things out, Cambridge, Ma. :
MIT Press.
Brenner, N. 2004: New state spaces: urban governance and the rescaling of statehood, Oxford University Press: Oxford.
Burrows, R. and Gane, N. 2004: Geodemographics, software and class.
Burrows, R. and Ellison, N. 2004: Sorting places out? Towards a social politics of neighbourhood informatization, Information, Communication and Society, 7, 321-326.
Callon, M. 1986: Some elements of a sociology of translation:
domestication of the scallops and the fisherman of St Brieuc Bay". In J.
Law (ed.), Power, action and belief: A new sociology of knowledge, London:
Routledge, 196-232.
Castells, M. 1996: The rise of the networked society, Oxford: Blackwell.
Cisco (2002): Service provider quality of service -- Design guide, Washington DC: Cisco Inc.
Cresswell, T. 2001: The production of mobilities, New Formations, 43, 11-25.
Cuff, D. 2002: Immanent domain: Pervasive computing and the public realm, Journal of Architectural Education, 57, 43-49.
Curry, D. 1998: Digital places: living with geographic information technologies, London : Routledge.
De Cauter, L. 2004: The capsular civilization: On the city in the age of fear, Rotterdam : NAI publishers.
Dodge, M. and Kitchen, R. 2004: Flying through code/space: The real virtuality of air travel, Environment and Planning A, 36, 195-211.
Eischen, K. 2003: Opening the ‘black box’ of software, Information, Communication and Society, 6, 57-81.
Facial Recognition Vendor Test (FRVT), 2002: available at (accessed 15 November 2004).
Garland, D. 2001: The culture of control, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Goss, J. 1995: ‘We know who you are and we know where you live’: The instrumental rationality of geodemographic systems, Economic Geography, 71, 171-198.
Graham, S. and Marvin, S., 2001: Splintering urbanism : networked infrastructures, technological mobilities and the urban condition, London:
Graham, S. 1998: Spaces of surveillant-simulation: New technologies, digital representations, and material geographies, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 16: 483-504.
Graham, S. 2002; CCTV : The stealthy emergence of a Fifth Utility”, Planning Theory and Practice, 3 237-241.
Graham, S. , 2004a: Introduction: From dreams of transcendence to the ‘remediation’ of urban space. In S. Graham (ed.), The cybercities reader, London: Routledge. 1-29.
Graham, S. 2004b: The software-sorted city: Rethinking the ‘digital divide’. In S. Graham (ed.), The cybercities reader, London: Routledge.
Graham, S. 2004c: Beyond the ‘dazzling light’: From dreams of transcendence to the ‘remediation’ of urban life, New Media and Society, 6, 33-42.
Graham, S. and Wood, D. 2003: Digitising surveillance: Categorisation, space and inequality, Critical Social Policy, 23, 227-248.
Gray, M. 2003: Urban surveillance and panopticism: Will we recognize the facial recognition society? Surveillance and Society, 1, 314-33.
Haggerty, K. and Ericson, R. 2000: The surveillant assemblage, British Journal of Sociology, 51, 605-622.
Haythornthwaite, C. and Wellman, B. 2002: Moving the Internet out of cyberspace. In B. Wellman and C. Haythornthwaite, (eds.), The internet and everyday life, Oxford : Blackwell, 3-44.
Holmes, D. 2000, The electronic superhighway: Melbourne’s CityLink project, Urban Policy and Research, 18, 32-45.
Hook, P. 2001: Police systems to automatically detect crime, CCTV Today, March, 19-20.
Hunter, J. 2002: World without secrets: Business, crime and privacy in the age of ubiquitous computing. London: John Wiley & Sons.
Introna L. 2003, The politics of the digital face: facial recognition systems in ‘smart’ CCTV. Mimeo.
Introna, L. and Nissenbaum, H. 2000: Shaping the web: Why the politics of search engines matter, The Information Society, 16, 169-185.
Introna, L. and Wood, D. 2004: Picturing algorithmic surveillance: The politics of facial recognition systems, Surveillance and Society, 2, 177-198.
Jones, R. 2001: Digital rule: Punishment, control and technology", Punishment and Society, 2, 5-22.
Koskela, H. 2003: ‘Cam era’ – The contemporary urban panopticon, Surveillance and Society, 1, 292-313.
Latour, B. and Hermand, E. 1998: Paris ville invisible, Paris; La Decouverte.
Leigh-Star, S. 1999: The ethnography of infrastructure, American Behavioral Scientist, 43, 377-391.
Lessig, L. 1999: Code -- and other laws of cyberspace, New York: Basic Books.
Lianos, M. 2003: Social control after Foucault, Surveillance and Society, 1, 412-430.
Lianos, M. and Douglas, M. 2000: Dangerization and the end of deviance, British Journal of Criminology, 40, 261-278.
Luke, R. 2002: habit@online: Web portals as purchasing ideology, Topia, 8, 112-134.
Lyon, D. 2003a: Surveillance as social sorting: Privacy, risk and digital discrimination, New York: Routledge.
Lyon, D. 2003b: Surveillance as social sorting: Computer codes and mobile bodies. In D. Lyon, (ed.) Surveillance as social sorting: Privacy, risk and digital discrimination, New York: Routledge. 13-30.
Lyon, D. 2004: Technology vs. ‘terrorism’: Circuits of city surveillance since September 11, 2001. In S. Graham (ed.)., Cities, war and terrorism, Oxford: Blackwell. 297-311.
Meek, J. 2002: Robo cop, The Guardian 2, 13th June, 2-4.
Meyer, M. 2001: Delivering the future : E-freight. Available at accessed September 16th 2004.
Norris, C. 2003: From personal to digital: CCTV, the panopticon, and the technological mediation of suspicion and social control. . In D. Lyon,
(ed.) Surveillance as social sorting: Privacy, risk and digital discrimination, New York: Routledge. 249-281.
Norris, C. and Armstrong, G. 1999: The maximum surveillance society : The Rise of CCTV, Oxford: Berg.
Phillips, D. and Curry, M. 2002: Privacy and the phenetic urge:
geodemographics and the changing spatiality of local practice. In D. Lyon,
(ed.) Surveillance as social sorting: Privacy, risk and digital discrimination, New York: Routledge. 137-152.
Pickles, J. 1995: (Ed.), Ground truth: the social implication of geographic information systems, New York: Guildford.
Pinch, S. 1985: Cities and services: the geography of collective consumption. London: Routledge.
Reeve, A. 1996: The private realm of the managed town centre, Urban Design International, 1, 61-80.
Rifkin, N. 2001: The age of access: The new culture of hypercapitalism where all of life is a paid-for experience, New York: Penguin, Rose, N., 2000: The biology of culpability: Pathological identity and crime control in a biological culture, Theoretical Criminology, 4, 5-34.
Sheller, M. 2004: Mobile publics : Beyond the network perspective, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 22, 39-52.
Sheller, M. and Urry, J. 2000: The city and the car, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 24, 737-757.
Thrift, N. 2004a: Remembering the technological unconscious by foregrounding knowledges of position, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 22, 175-190.
Thrift, N., 2004b, Driving in the city, Theory, Culture and Society, 21, 41-59.
Thrift, N. and S. French 2002: The automatic production of space, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 27: 309-335.
Urry, J. 2000, Sociology beyond societies: mobilities for the twenty-first century, London: Routledge.
Van der Ploeg, I. 1999: The illegal body: ‘Eurodac’ and the politics of biometric identification, Ethics and Information Technology, 1, 295-302.
Woolgar, S. 2002, (ed.): Virtual society? Get real ! Oxford : Oxford University Press.
Young, J. 1999, The exclusive society, London : Sage.
Zureik, E. 2004: Governance, security and technology: The case of biometrics, Studies in Political Economy, 73, 113-137.

Department of Geography