Launch of A Field Guide to Fake News at the International Journalism Festival in Italy

Today saw the launch of A Field Guide to Fake News, a set of methodological recipes to explore the production, circulation and reception of fake news online. The field guide is the first project of the Public Data Lab, a new network of researchers working to facilitate research, engagement and public debate around the future of the data society. Claire Wardle of First Draft has been very supportive of the project from the very beginning and the field guide is produced in collaboration with First Draft

The project was born out of an interest in “post-truth” politics and the rise of debates around fake news in relation to the US elections. The project is the result of a three-month collaboration between over 60 researchers, graduates and students at several universities in Europe through a series of “data sprints”. The data sprint is a short-form hands-on working format that convenes for a week participants from different backgrounds, including new media researchers, designers and issue experts, to collaborate around research projects. So far we’ve had sprints in Amsterdam, London, Copenhagen and Milan. We used this process to allow us to produce research that can respond in a timely way to a rapidly evolving phenomenon – as well as involving journalists, civil society groups, public institutions and others in the rapid co-production of research methods which speak to their interests and needs – while in the process challenging and enriching all of our different ways of seeing the issue.

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Talk on Fake News, Algorithmic Accountability and the Role of Data Journalism in the Post-Truth Era at the University of Cambridge

Earlier this month I was pleased to receive an invitation from the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) at the University of Cambridge to contribute to a workshop called ‘How Can Public Interest Journalism Hold Algorithms to Account?’

Nick Diakopoulos from the University of Maryland gave an interesting talk on algorithmic accountability and computational journalism and Jonathan Gray and I gave a preview of the Public Data Lab’s A Field Guide to Fake News, to be launched next month at the International Journalism Festival in Italy.

The field guide is a collection of recipes to trace the production, circulation and responses to fake news online. Its production is supported by the First Draft Coalition. The aim is to suggest different ways of mapping and responding to fake news beyond identifying and fact-checking suspect claims – including “thicker” accounts of circulation as a way to develop a richer understanding of how fake news moves and mobilises people, more nuanced accounts of what fake news is, and responses which are better attuned to the phenomenon.

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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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