Call for Collaborators: “A Field Guide to Fake News”

We’re pleased to announce a new project to create “A Field Guide to Fake News”, led by myself, Jonathan Gray and Tommaso Venturini. It will be launched at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia in April 2017.

In the wake of concerns about the role of “fake news” in relation to the US elections, the project aims to catalyse collaborations between leading digital media researchers, data journalists and civil society groups in order to map the issue and phenomenon of fake news in US and European politics.

The guide will look at how digital methods, data, tools, techniques and research approaches can be utilised in the service of increasing public understanding of the politics, production, circulation and responses to fake news online. In particular it will look at how digital traces from the web and online platforms can be repurposed in the service of public interest research, investigations, data stories and data journalism projects.

If you’re a data journalist or researcher interested in collaborating on data stories or investigations around the fake news phenomenon in your country, then please do drop us a line.

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Doing Digital Methods – Talk at Digital Methods Winter School 2017

Earlier this month I gave a talk at the Digital Methods Winter School at the University of Amsterdam on how it is like to do social and cultural research with digital methods in a data sprint format. The talk happened on the opening day of a data sprint dedicated to exploring different aspects of the 2016 US presidential elections on social media, from fake news to the alt-right to the drama of election night on Twitter (I’ll be writing about the outcomes of this work in a separate post).

The data sprint is a week-long collaborative event where researchers, graphic designers and programmers work together on research projects that repurpose data from digital platforms for social and cultural research. It is a great way to do research in a multidisciplinary environment, to learn from others as well as to test hypotheses and to pilot studies.

I spoke about some of the most interesting projects from last year’s winter and summer schools in order to give participants a sense of what a good digital methods project looks like and what can be achieved in this collaborative format in one week. Highlighted projects included a study of how Tumblr is used for recovery from illness, an analysis of digitised records of collective action against human rights abuses coordinated by Amnesty International, a study of the feminist politics of stock photography, as well as a critical cartography of the Mediterranean refugee crisis in 2015 as seen through the maps embedded in media coverage of this issue.

The slides from the talk are below.

Slides from Talk on Data Journalism and Digital Sociology at University of Miami

Last week the University of Miami organised what might have been the first event dedicated to building bridges between digital humanities and data journalism. There were a lot of great talks. Scott Klein spoke about the culture clash between programmer-journalists and traditional journalists and several digital humanities scholars presented their work, from Geoff McGhee, to Ben Schmidt and Lauren Klein. I’d particularly recommend having a look at Lauren’s work on the cultural and critical dimensions of data visualisation and on feminist data visualisation.

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Data Journalism and the Remaking of Data Infrastructures – Talk at Bath University

Earlier this month I gave a talk at the “Evidence and the Politics of Policymaking” conference at the University of Bath on some of my PhD research on data journalism. The talk focused on the role that data journalism may play in the reshaping of public information systems by looking at cases where journalists did not just exploit the outputs of information systems but engaged in challenging the techniques of measurement and monitoring embedded in these systems in order to reshape what becomes evidence. Such examples would include the Guardian’s The Counted Project, The Migrants’ Files and Al Jazeera America’s Jim Crow Returns. More examples from journalism and civil society are included in a report by myself and colleagues called Changing What Counts published by Civicus earlier this year. 

Below are the slides from the talk.

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What can Data Journalists and Digital Humanists Learn from Each Other?

Later this week Jonathan Gray and I will be giving a talk at the Digital Humanities + Data Journalism Symposium organised by Alberto Cairo at the University of Miami. I have been working in both areas for several years and was very pleased to see organised what I think is the first event dedicated to bringing the two communities together.

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New Paper on Networks as Storytelling Devices in Journalism

A journal article I worked on during the first year of my PhD entitled “Narrating Networks: Exploring the Affordances of Networks as Storytelling Devices in Journalism”, has recently been published in Digital Journalism.

The article examines five ways in which networks have been used to tell stories in journalism, from exploring associations around single actors, to detecting key players, mapping alliances and oppositions, exploring the evolution of associations over time, and revealing hidden ties. A list of over 40 journalism projects that use network diagrams or visualisations which we compiled while doing this research has been published with the article and can be accessed on figshare.

The article is co-authored with Jonathan Gray of the University of Amsterdam, Tommaso Venturini from King’s College London and Mathieu Jacomy from the Sciences Po Paris medialab.

The title and the abstract are copied below. An open access pre-print of the paper is available here (PDF).

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“Changing What Counts” – Research Report on Data Collection Initiatives by Civil Society and Citizens

Last year I contributed some of my research on data journalism to a report on data collection initiatives by citizens and civil society, called “Changing What Counts: How Can Citizen-Generated and Civil Society Data Be Used as an Advocacy Tool to Change Official Data Collection?”

In recent years establishing own data collection operations has become a powerful journalistic tactic for putting neglected issues on the public agenda and advocating and intervening in official monitoring, measurement and data production practices. I wrote about the importance of own data production in journalism a couple of years ago in an article for the Harvard Business Review. Among these data collection initiatives in journalism, counting operations have emerged as one particularly prominent type of intervention, from counts of drone strikes and their casualties, to migrant and mine worker death counts, and counts of killings by police.

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For the “Changing What Counts” report I reviewed two examples, one based in Europe and one in the US, where journalists have successfully set up and conducted death count operations. The report has been published yesterday by Open Knowledge and the CIVICUS DataShift initiative and can be accessed here.

Talk on Doing Social and Political Research with Digital Methods

Earlier this month I gave a two-day workshop at the University of Zurich together with Stefania Milan called “Doing social and political research in the digital age.” The workshop was organised by the National Center of Competence in Research: Challenges to Democracy in the 21st Century for a great group of political science PhD students from all over Switzerland.

Below are the slides from the lecture I gave on the first day of the workshop.

GitHub as Transparency Device in Data Journalism, Open Data and Data Activism

At this year’s Digital Methods Summer School I am coordinating a research project on how journalists use GitHub, together with Jonathan Gray and Stefania Milan. This is part of a broader research collaboration with Erik Borra and Richard Rogers from the Digital Methods Initiative to expand the digital methods repertoire by developing tools and techniques for using code sharing platforms as sources of data for social, political and cultural research.

In the context of journalism GitHub has become an increasingly important platform in the data journalist’s toolkit. In spite of this, not much research has been done so far to understand how journalists use GitHub and how the platform is reconfiguring journalistic practises.

Below are the slides from the talk which introduced the project earlier in the week. Over the coming months I will be working to produce a research report on uses and users of GitHub in the context of journalism. In a second phase the study will be extended to examining the role of code sharing platforms such as GitHub in data activism and open data.

This project is part of a broader research agenda looking at how approaches from digital social research, at the confluence between Internet Studies, Actor-Network Theory and Science and Technology Studies (STS), can be used to study journalism and news production in an age of big data.

Talk on Journalism as a Data Public and the Politics of Quantification in the Newsroom at Data Power Conference

On Monday I gave a talk at the great Data Power conference at Sheffield University as part of the data journalism panel. I had the pleasure to share the panel with C.W. Anderson, Jonas Andersson Schwarz, Raul Ferrer Conill and Eddy-Borges Rey.

The talk introduces the data journalism research agenda developed as part of my PhD as well as a paper in progress on networks as storytelling devices in journalism, based on work done for the Tow Center at Columbia University. The paper is a collaboration with Jonathan Gray (University of London, University of Amsterdam) and Tommaso Venturini  (Sciences Po, MediaLab).

Below are the slides from my talk and more about this work to come soon.