Tap for change: ubiquitous ICT, food and rurality


Marco Della Galla, The University of Calabria

Rob Berry, The CCRI, The University of Gloucestershire

Matthew Reed, The CRRI, The University of Gloucestershire

James Kirwan, The CCRI, The University of Gloucestershire

Contact: mreed@glos.ac.uk


The focus of this working group is on how the arrival of ubiquitous information technology in the form of smartphones are transforming relationships around food and in turn the rural. These new technologies enable the exchange of information and knowledge among stakeholders in the food supply chain and offer the opportunity to establish more sustainable forms of business based on the synergic collaboration among farmers and consumer. By the means of ubiquitous Information technologies a new variety of local lay knowledge related to agriculture, rural economy, the environment, food production, healthy eating and consumer values, may be exchanged, thus providing a sort of liminal space that subverts the typical experience of food shopping.

The purpose of this working group is to bring together scholars to discuss how this new ubiquity is changing our understanding and experience of intersections of food and the rural.

The data generated by ubiquitous ICT is reformulating the previous spatial distinctions that defined rural and urban, interposing new binaries such as the connected and unconnected.  Many rural actors have moved quickly to re-position themselves, their communities and networks within these flows.  In doing so, they have used a collage of technologies, some straightforwardly based on consumer technologies while others have embraced open source and DIY solutions.  As these innovations begin to embed in rural areas they are re-ordering previous modes of business, leisure and socio-ecological systems that have previously defined or typified the countryside.

Scholarship has yet to catch up fully with the trajectory of these changes.  Areas of focus could include, but not be limited to the following;

  • The role of the smartphone in food and rural businesses,
  • How the experience and relationships around food are being reshaped by smartphones and software.
  • Case studies of initiatives using ICT to change the relationship between consumers/producers, and town/country.
  • Social media as a site or means of promoting or consuming food images as well as linking to the physical product.
  • How social media or ICT technologies are changing the self-identities or horizontal networks of food producers between rural areas.


We invite short papers with an oral presentation of 15 minutes from participants and a 120-second video summary to be posted on-line.

The working group will comprise of a series of sub-panels formed of contributions focused on related topics or methodologies, with each presenter taking part in a roundtable of questions and answers at the end of each sub-panel.  The final sub-panel of the working group will be a discussion led by the working group team who will act as rapporteurs for each of the sub-panels to inform the discussion.

To accompany the panel there will be a commentary posted on Twitter linking to the video summaries, and points made during the debate, to allow a wider group of participants to form around the WG and for legacy materials to be made available after the conference.

The intention of the panel is to collect enough papers of sufficient quality to lead to a publication.