Slides from Talk on Actor-Network Theory, Digital Methods and Data Journalism at Ghent University

Yesterday I gave a talk at the Center for Journalism Studies at Ghent University about how Actor-Network Theory (ANT) and digital methods can be used to study and inform data journalism.

I will be using these approaches to study data journalism in my joint PhD with the University of Groningen and the University of Ghent. I will also be exploring the opportunities that these techniques afford for informing data journalism practices in my fellowship at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University. The Tow project is called ‘Controversy Mapping for Journalism’ and aims to convene pioneering Science and Technology Studies and digital methods researchers at Sciences Po and the University of Amsterdam with leading journalism scholars, information designers and computer scientists at Columbia University to explore how emerging digital traces, tools and methods can be utilised to transform the coverage of complex issues.

Below are the slides from this talk.

Slides from Talk on Digital Methods for Journalism at Columbia University

Last month Jonathan Gray and I gave a talk at Columbia University entitled ‘Mapping Issues with the Web: An Introduction to Digital Methods’. We talked about how Bruno Latour’s work on Actor-Network Theory has informed social and cultural research that uses online data and digital methods, with examples from the work of the Digital Methods Initiative at the University of Amsterdam and of the MediaLab at Sciences Po.

We were very pleased to have Professor Bruno Latour act as a respondent to our talk and join us for the discussion.

We will be building on this work in the coming months as part of our fellowship with the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University and exploring how these methods, tools and techniques can be made useful to journalists.

Below are the slides from this talk and here is an article on the Tow Center blog that summarises it.

Talk at Columbia University in New York on Issue Mapping for Journalism

Next week I will be giving a talk at Columbia University in New York together with Jonathan Gray, lead editor of the Data Journalism Handbook. This talk will bring together for the first time two activities that I have been doing in parallel for the past couple of years, namely the work with journalists to develop data literacy at the European Journalism Centre, and the digital methods research work done at the University of Amsterdam.

The talk is hosted by the Tow Center for Digital Journalism and takes place on the occasion of Bruno Latour‘s visit at Columbia University.

Below is the abstract for the talk:

Mapping Issues with the Web: An Introduction to Digital Methods

How can digital traces be used to understand issues and map controversies? On the occasion of Bruno Latour’s visit to Columbia University, this presentation will show participants how to operationalize his seminal Actor-Network Theory using digital data and methods in the service of social and cultural research.

Participants will be introduced to some of the digital methods and tools developed at the University of Amsterdam and Sciences Po over the past decade and how they have been used to generate insights around a wide variety of topics, from human rights to extremism, global health to climate change.

Please RSVP via Eventbrite.

What Data Journalists Can Learn From New Media Research

Earlier this month I wrote an article for the London School of Economics Impact of Social Sciences blog about how journalists can use the web and social media as a source of data about the state of issues, debates and information flows in different societies. 

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You can read the full post here.

List of Academic Papers about Data Journalism and Computational Journalism

In parallel to my work at the European Journalism Centre, for the past couple of years I have been working on and off on a research project that examines sourcing and knowledge production practices in data journalism and how these might be challenging traditional journalism epistemologies. I gave a talk at Stanford University last year about the first part of this study. Thanks to a four-year PhD grant from the University of Groningen and the University of Ghent, I will be able to dedicate more time to this project in the next few years, expand and improve it.

Below is a list of academic papers about data journalism and computational journalism that I collected during my work so far. A few of them, such as Schudson (2010) and Peters (2010) do not directly reference the practice of data journalism but discuss related and relevant developments.

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Sourcing Practices in Data Journalism – Slides from My Talk at Stanford

Earlier this year I gave a talk on data journalism at a conference at Stanford University that focused on the right to information and transparency in the digital age. The talk focused on sourcing practices in data journalism and was based on a research project that I am currently working on. The project examines sourcing practices and knowledge production at the Guardian, the New York Times and ProPublica, based on interviews with journalists and analysis of data journalism projects.

Below are the slides from my talk.

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Top 10 Most Tweeted Links from NICAR 2013

The annual US National Institute for Computer Assisted Reporting (NICAR) conference brings together hundreds of some of the most experienced data journalists, mainly US-based, and is packed with sessions where you can learn about the latest developments, tools and techniques in the field. Since I didn’t make it to NICAR last week, I followed the most used conference hashtag, #NICAR13, to stay on top of the discussions. The abundance of sessions and presentations at NICAR makes it impossible for anyone to absorb everything that is being discussed, so here is a list of the most tweeted links from the conference, which might be useful to come back to. (Unfortunately I missed capturing tweets from the first day of the conference.)

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Book review: “Media Work” by Mark Deuze

As technologies develop, media diversifies its platforms and products, and becomes more and more present and involved in our lives, building barthesian myths around every object surrounding us, which consequently turns our every act: production, purchasing, consumption, etc., into a cultural experience. But the changes that media has been undergoing due to the development of new technologies, have turned not only the media practitioners but also the media consumers into creators of culture. This phenomena, called convergence culture is one of the main factors of change in the nature and practice of media today, that shape the analysis that Mark Deuze, Assistant Professor of Telecommunications at Indiana University and Professor of Journalism and New Media at Leiden University, presents in the book Media Work.  

The main focus of the book is the media practitioner and how his work and life style are being changed by new social, cultural, economical and technological developments, that give birth to new paradigms, such as convergence culture (Henry Jenkins) or liquid life (Zygmunt Bauman), which Deuze uses in order to explain the changing nature of media work. The media work is described as a very complex reality, a mix of sometimes contradictory elements that need to work towards convergence: “content, connectivity, creativity and commerce” (Deuze). The collapse of the power system determined by the dissolving distinction between the traditional well established roles and relations between producer and audience, which characterizes the convergence media culture, as well as the consequences of this new pattern of behavior on individual life, which results in a convergence of all aspects of existence, enumerated by Deuze as: “work (production), life (consumption) and play”, determines some of the current features of working in the media.

Thanks to this mirror of the media work, that Deuze’s analysis creates, the book is a useful guide for anyone interested in working in the media, for example, for media students that want to know what to expect and what is expected from them as media practitioners, and for media professionals who want to have a critical view on their work environment, in order to better understand and adapt to the changes that the industry is going through. The main question that this book answers: What does working in the media really mean and how does it look like to work in the media?,  receives a comprehensive yet rather discouraging answer. The insecurity, fragmentation, precariousness, exploitation, especially in the case of new comers, that characterizes working in the media these days, due partly to the globalization of production and outsourcing, is far from the dreams, expectations and enthusiasm with which media students prepare to enter the industry.

What makes the book very actual and practical is that the data sources for Deuze’s analysis are from within the industry: practitioners’ blogs, publications, interviews with media professionals from various parts of the world: Finland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States, from four key fields of the creative industry: advertising (including public relations and marketing communication), journalism, film and television production, and game design and development.

The book is divided in eight chapters, starting with an overview of the main theoretical paradigms, such as convergence culture and liquid modernity, and the macro-factors: social, technological, cultural, etc., that influence life and work styles in the media industry nowadays, and continuing in separate chapters with an analysis of the institutional, technological, organizational and cultural aspects that determine the work style of professionals engaged in creative industries, in the four main fields mentioned above. Leaving aside the differences that may come from the different products, missions, audiences, technological tools, locations, etc., the media practitioners involved in all these fields seem to be facing nowadays the same challenges that result from the convergence culture. The media practitioners seem to find it difficult today to define their audience and preserve it, as the audience empowered by technology switched from the status of passive receiver towards active producer of media content. Each discipline and practitioner seems to find their own ways to cope with it, and the ones most willing to let go of power and control, both as far as content and the used medium are concerned, and to actively share the creative power with their audience in what is called participative media, seem to have most to win from the current situation, in Deuze’s opinion. This tendency can be most noticed in the game design and development industry.

Deuze does a good job at describing today’s media reality and the new work style pattern, which promotes flexibility, project-based work, multi-skilling, soft-skills, rotational work style, informal networking, in various proportions according to the industry, in what seems to be a transition period from the clearly defined unequal relations of power from the time of traditional mass media, towards the convergence media culture and the new power relations, that are in course of negotiation today. He leaves the picture a bit blurry though, as far as future tendencies are concerned. Is today’s insecurity and fragmentation the new media reality or just a transitory stage towards a new reality? Where will the current negotiation of power between creator and audience lead? Will we still be able to distinguish between the two categories in the near future? We hope the author will share more of his visions in a future book.


Media Work was first published by Polity Press in 2007, as part of the Digital Media and Society Series and is available for purchase on