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The digital transition and use of mountain spaces

Call for papers for. Deadlines: January 15, 2023 (abstract), March 31, 2023 (articles). Special issue editors: Marc Langenbach (Assistant Professor, Université Grenoble Alpes), Pascal Mao, (Assistant Professor, Université Grenoble Alpes), Steve Taylor, (Director, University of the Highlands and Islands), Reto Rupf, (Professor, ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences)


This call for papers invites contributions from the field of research into the impact of the digital transition on the use and management of mountain territories. The dawning of the digital age has had both direct and indirect effects on many different aspects of our daily lives (Sciadas, 2006), which are now constantly accompanied by digital devices, but also by the data they produce and which we voluntarily share (more or less explicitly, when this is part of the terms of use of a product or service). These changes are reflected in our modes of production and consumption, our travel habits, our social interactions, the media and cultural spheres, and in our sport and leisure activities. Preliminary research from the information and communication sciences on these developing effects, impacts and reconfigurations (Ibekwe-San-Juan, 2012) has contributed to characterising the profound effects of the increasing power of digital technology over our lives (Lipkin, 2006; Bonnell, 2010; Doueihi, 2011; Marcuse, 2007). Geographers have taken up these emerging objects as part of debates about the heuristic value of these data (Mericskay, 2021), but also in relation to their role in observing urban mobility (Le Breton et al., 2022), the mining of digital geographic data by algorithms (Noucher, 2020), and the role of digital footprints in studying the spatial behaviours of tourists in urban areas (Mondo et al., 2020). And yet, with the exception of methodological research using digital technology to monitor disturbance of wildlife by ski tourers (Rupf & Stauble, 2018), there have been very few studies based on digital footprints with a specific focus on the spatial category represented by developed or undeveloped mountain spaces. Mountain use has been strongly impacted by the effects of climate change, as well as by a shift in users from surrounding spaces more affected by such changes, and is thus currently in major flux (as reflected in seasonal changes, steep rises in visitor numbers in certain regions and interest from new audiences). This is partly described by the idea of a ‘recreational transition’ (Corneloup, 2022). These ecologically fragile spaces are known for their outdoor sports, and digital footprints provide a way to evaluate such activities objectively, both in terms of quantification and spatial and temporal distribution (Davoine & Garat, 2022).

Digital technologies have thus transformed the use of mountains, particularly for recreational purposes (Mao & Obin, 2018), by enabling people to track existing digital footprints, access real-time information on weather conditions, live share and comment on their experiences, and monitor performance. These activities produce vast amounts of data, the majority of it geolocalised, and have generated new requirements in relation to equipment, connectivity and regulation. Regardless of the methods of interpretation and analysis used, all of the social phenomena situated in mountain areas are affected, including sporting activities. The use of digital devices, most of the time connected, thus produces geographic information on a voluntary or involuntary basis (Santoni, 2022) that is playing an increasingly important role in the decision-making processes of the territorial authorities and the managers of these spaces.

This call for papers centres on a broad question – what is the heuristic contribution of the digital transition to observation of the use of mountain spaces? – that can be broken down into three complementary areas of focus – thematic, methodological and ethical – for potential contributions:

1. The digital transition in the use and management of mountains and the issues associated with them:

The role of digital technology in developing new ways of using mountains and engaging new audiences; its integration into the diversification of mountain tourism; its impact on the territories and/or natural environments in which recreational activities take place, which calls for further exploration; new uses, or the adaptation and digitisation of older uses of mountains, for both recreational and non-recreational purposes (such as environmental mediation and heritage promotion); and the integration of digital footprints into the decision-making tools and risk management procedures used by territorial actors to control the management of natural mountain spaces (for example in handling conflicts over use, overcrowding and regulating access, preserving the quality of the environment and attracting more tourists or investment).

2. The methodological implications of technical issues and debates

While the use of big data is promising in terms of the quantity and value of the information it offers, it is still at an experimental stage, and both methodological and heuristic guidelines need to be developed. In terms of data strategy, the data are often pre-processed by algorithms, platform-specific ‘black boxes’, before they are published or shared. This raises initial questions about trust in the data and the degree to which they represent the social phenomenon they are taken to indicate. From a technical perspective, the development and adaptation of emerging tools to the specific features of the different platforms during the collection stage would also be a suitable topic for contributions. These methods have not yet been consolidated, and papers might discuss the use or interpretation of these data after collection. The data sets produced (from GPS footprints and point data to textual, quantitative and qualitative, and temporal data) are still unprecedented in their size, complexity and heterogeneity, and represent subjects for further exploration. One of the challenges is how to integrate this complexity into an as-yet undefined coherent interpretative model.

3. The methodological implications of ethical and legal issues

In the era of GDPR, the use of digital geographic data poses ethical and regulatory questions. The websites that collect and disseminate these data in various forms help to make this information public, but their terms of use prevent others from storing this information or making use of it for their own purposes and using their own methods. This is contrary to the right of access, the right to modify personal data and the right to be forgotten enshrined in the GDPR. These data are not, however, disseminated beyond the bounds of statistical anonymity that are well-established among researchers, and when using these large data sets it is common to retain only the anonymised or ‘pseudonymised’ information. What are the consequences of these constraints for scientific practice? What are the limitations of interpretation in the absence of sociodemographic variables? How can practices be described, and recurrent practices linked together, in the absence of individualised characterisation?

The editors of this issue particularly welcome submissions from authors from different disciplines, especially those working at the intersection of social sciences with ecology and the study of information systems.


The proposed articles must comply with the journal’s scientific objectives, publishing policies and presentation guidelines. The instructions for authors can be found on the journal website at

In accordance with the journal’s standard procedures, all articles will undergo double-blind peer review by two experts.

Proposals for articles of up to 7000 characters (including spaces) should be sent in French (for French-speaking authors) or English (for speakers of other languages) by 15 January 2023. These abstracts must include the following: around ten bibliographical references, title, author affiliation(s), brief overview of the background to the article and its aims, the theoretical landscape, study area, specific methodology used to produce the data corpus, and main findings for original research, or the theoretical landscape and argument for theoretical contributions. Authors will be informed on 31 January 2023 if their articles have been selected.

Abstracts should be sent to Marc Langenbach (, and to Dominique Baud and Olivier Vallade ( on behalf of the journal.

The deadline for full manuscripts will be 31 March 2023. Articles must be submitted in one of the languages in which the journal is published: French, Italian, German, Spanish or English. The author must arrange for translation into a second language after peer review. One of the two versions must be in English. If the original article is in English, the translation must be into French. The issue is scheduled for publication in December 2023.

Indicative bibliography

Bonnell B., 2010, Viva la Robolution! Une nouvelle étape pour l’humanité. Éditions Jean-Claude Lattès.

Corneloup J., 2022, L’utopie transmoderne, Presses Universitaires de Rouen, Rouen, 230 pages.

Davoine P.-A., Garat Ph., 2022, Analyser les pratiques de la randonnée à ski par les données géographiques issues des médias sociaux: l’exemple du forum Skitour à l’échelle du massif des Écrins. Paper presented at the ‘Informations Géographiques Volontaires: entre traces et documentation des usages dans le tourisme sportif de montagne’ seminar, PACTE/EDYTEM – Bourget du Lac, 16 May 2022.

Doueihi M., 2011, Pour un humanisme numérique. Le Seuil.

Ibekwe-Sanjuan F., 2012 La Science de l’information: origines, théories et paradigmes. Lavoisier.

Le Breton A., Bailleul H., Le Corf J.G., Mericskay B., 2022, La gouvernance des données urbaines entre territoire de projets et projet de territoire. L’exemple de Rennes Métropole, Flux, n°127, pp 65-84.

Lipkin, J. (2005). Photography reborn: Image making in the digital era (Abrams Studio). Harry N. Abrams, Inc..

Mao P., Obin O., 2018, La transition numérique des sports de nature, vers des sportsnature 3.1, Revue Nature et Récréation, n°6, pp. 13-25.

Marcuse H., 2007, Le problème du changement social dans la société technologique. Ed. Homnisphères.

Mericskay B., 2021, La géovisualisation de données massives sur le Web: entre avancées technologiques et évolutions cartographiques, Mappemonde, 131.

Noucher M., 2020, The place names of French Guiana in the face of the geoweb: between data sovereignty, indigenous knowledge, and cartographic deregulation. Cartographica. The International Journal for Geographic Information and Geovisualization, University of Toronto Press, vol. 55/1, 2020, pp. 15-28.

Mondo M., Noucher M., Le Campion G., Vacher L., Vye D.D., Critical approach of digital footprints to study spatial practices of urban tourist areas: a case study of Instagram data in Biarritz (France). G. Passerini; S. Ricci. The Sustainable City XIV, 249, WIT Press, pp.319-333, 2020, WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment, 978-1-78466-413-8.

Rupf R., Staüble A, 2018, Monitoring methods of winter backcountry recreation in a wildlife sanctuary, 9th International Conference on Monitoring and Management of Visitors in Recreational and Protected Areas, Bordeaux, France, 29-31 August 2019.

Santoni V., 2022, Territoire 2.0 et information géographique involontaire: gestion des crises et réseaux sociaux numériques. Annales de géographie, 743, 72-94.

Sciadas G., 2006, La vie à l’ère numérique, Division des sciences, de l’innovation et de l’information électronique (DSIIE). R.H. Coats, Ottawa, 14, 5-25.

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