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Nick Lally


Ph.D. Geography, University of Wisconsin–Madison
M.F.A. Digital Arts and New Media, University of California, Santa Cruz
B.S. Sociology and Fine Arts, University of Oregon


My two major areas of research focus on (1) studying policing practices, mostly in the United States, as they intersect with and are revealed through digital technologies and (2) developing speculative cartographies by building and theorizing tools that can expand the conceptual and aesthetic possibilities for geographic information systems (GIS). I use mixed methods to develop empirical, theoretical, and methodological contributions to understanding geographies of policing and situating mapping technologies within critical, humanistic, and social theoretical forms of inquiry. These two research trajectories emerge from discourses in critical GIS, digital geographies, spatial theory, visual studies, critical police geographies, and studies of state power.

My cartographic work builds on the following question: "What if GIS were built upon the epistemological and ontological commitments that tend to motivate contemporary human geography in particular—or even on the interpretative social sciences and theoretical arts and humanities more generally?" (Bergmann and Lally, 2020). More specifically, I ask (1) What would it mean for cartography and GIS to take seriously space as it has been theorized in human geography? and (2) How can cartography and GIS act as “primary modes of knowledge production” that exceed representation (Drucker 2020)? This research takes the form of software prototypes, artistic interventions, and theorizing the practices of cartography and GIS.

In my policing work, I ask: How can we disarticulate official, academic, and common-sense narratives that ascribe relationships between policing, criminality, race, class, and other processes of social differentiation (following Gilmore 2002)? I do this work largely through examining the narratives, technologies, and data of policing itself to develop critiques internal to policing's own logics.

I am accepting MA and PhD students who are interested in critical, social theoretical, humanistic, and/or experimental approaches to:

  • Researching mapping techniques and technologies in use
  • Building experimental cartographic and other visualization software
  • Understanding state power, especially as expressed through policing (broadly defined)
  • Studying digital technologies and their social and political effects
  • Engaging with visual methods in geographic research
  • Researching movements for social change, especially as they intersect with digital technologies


Selected Publications:


Forthcoming: Kelly, Meghan, Nick Lally, and Philip Nicholson. “On art and experimentation as geographical practice.” GeoHumanities.

Lally, Nick. 2022. “Mapping police power and the limits of reform.Geoforum 136 (2022): 122–31. DOWNLOAD (pdf)

Lally, Nick. 2022. “What can GIS do?ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies. 21 (4): 337–445. (Open access)

Lally, Nick. 2022. “Sculpting, Cutting, Expanding, and Contracting the Map.” Cartographica: The International Journal for Geographic Information and Geovisualization 57 (1): 1–10. [email me for a copy]

Lally, Nick, Kelly Kay, and Jim Thatcher. 2022. “Computational parasites and hydropower: A political ecology of Bitcoin mining on the Columbia River.” Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space 5 (1):18–38. DOWNLOAD (pdf)

Lally, Nick. 2022. “‘It makes almost no difference which algorithm you use”: on the modularity of predictive policingUrban Geography 43 (9): 1437–55. DOWNLOAD (pdf)

Lally, Nick and Luke Bergmann. 2021. “enfolding: An Experimental geographical imagination system (gis).” In A Place More Void, edited by Paul Kingsbury and Anna Secor. University of Nebraska Press. DOWNLOAD (pdf)

Bergmann, Luke and Nick Lally. 2021. “For geographical imagination systems.” Annals of the American Association of Geographers. DOWNLOAD (pdf)

Vincent, Kristen, Robert E Roth, Sarah A Moore, Qunying Huang, Nick Lally, Carl M Sack, Eric Nost, and Heather Rosenfeld. 2019. “Improving Spatial Decision Making Using Interactive Maps: An Empirical Study on Interface Complexity and Decision Complexity in the North American Hazardous Waste Trade.” Environment and Planning B, 18. (Open access)

Lally, Nick. 2017. “Crowdsourced Surveillance and Networked Data.” Security Dialogue 48 (1): 63–77. DOWNLOAD (pdf)

Thatcher, Jim, Luke Bergmann, Britta Ricker, Reuben Rose-Redwood, David O’Sullivan, Trevor J Barnes, Luke R Barnesmoore, Laura Beltz Imaoka, Ryan Burns, Jonathan Cinnamon, Craig Dalton, Clinton Davis, Stuart Dunn, Francis Harvey, Jin-Kyu Jung, Ellen Kersten, LaDona Knigge, Nick Lally, Wen Lin, Dillon Mahmoudi, Michael Martin, Will Payne, Amir Sheikh, Taylor Shelton, Eric Sheppard, Chris W Strother, Alexander Tarr, Matthew W Wilson, and Jason C Young. 2016. “Revisiting Critical GIS.” Environment and Planning A 48 (5): 815–824. DOWNLOAD (pdf)



Lally, Nick. 2023. “Introduction to Book review forum—Data Power: Radical Geographies of Control and Resistance by Jim E. Thatcher and Craig M. Dalton.” Antipode Online.

Lally, Nick, Elsa Noterman, and Keith Woodward. 2020. “Madison’s Race to Inequity.” Abolition Geographies Collective.

Lally, Nick. “A Snapshot of Corporate Profiling.” Report for Privacy International: London, UK.…

Lally, Nick and Ryan Burns. 2017. “Toward a Geographical Software Studies.” Special Section Introduction, Computational Culture: a journal of software studies.…

Lally, Nick. 2017. Review of Understanding Spatial Media by Rob Kitchin, Tracey P. Lauriault, and Matthew W. Wilson, eds. Environment and Planning: Urban Analytics and City Science.

Lally, Nick. 2017. “Cloud Vision.” Places Journal. Featured Reading List.