Talk on Fake News in Digital Culture at the 2017 Institute for Policy Research Symposium

Last week I gave a talk at the ‘Politics, Fake News and the Post-Truth Era’ symposium organised by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Bath. I presented some of the work that myself and several other colleagues from the Public Data Lab, a network of researchers working to facilitate research, engagement and public debate around the future of the data society, have done on fake news this year. 

I focused on two publications we produced this year:

A Field Guide to Fake News – a research report that uses digital sociology approaches to explore the production, circulation and responses to fake news online. This is done in the form of recipes which other journalists and researchers can follow and adapt to their own investigations. You can see here the outcomes of a collaboration we had with BuzzFeed News around one of the recipes to explore ad networks used by fake news sites. 

Five Provocations about Fake News – a research article that draws on Science and Technology Studies (STS) to challenge some of the themes that underlie existing debates and research about fake news and proposes some provocations and analytical lenses to enrich the way we understand it.

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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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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.

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.

 

 

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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Seeing the Web through the ages – three stages of Internet research

This morning I attended the first lecture of the Digital Methods for Internet Research course at the University of Amsterdam. Richard Rogers, chair and professor in the university’s New Media & Digital Culture programme, introduced three stages of seeing the Web or of doing Internet research that we have witnessed so far.

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Remediation and Premediation as Medium Specificity in Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin

What is new about new media? As the term “new media” contains powerful ideological connotations, such as “new equals better,” the boundaries between old and new media have been intensely discussed in media studies. Are the old and the new media completely separate entities or are new media old media delivered with new technologies? Bolter and Grusin’s theory of remediation brings yet another way of thinking about new media and answering these questions. For Bolter and Grusin the specificity of new media, their “newness,” lies in the way they remediate older media. Building on McLuhan, they define remediation as “the representation of one medium in another.”[1] Against the technologically progressive view which celebrates new media as an improvement on and a complete break with old media, this notion sets the grounds for conceptualizing the relationship between old and new media not as oppositional but as part of a media genealogy, focusing, in Foucauldian fashion, on their connections and affiliations instead.[2]

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Approaches to Medium-Specific Theorizing in Hayles, Fuller and Manovich

The advent of digital media revived the interest for medium specificity as materiality of a medium in media studies, most influentially discussed until now by Marshall McLuhan. As Katherine Hayles[1] rightfully points out, in the literary criticism environment it was the emergence of an alternative medium for supporting literary work, the electronic medium, which helped to make visible the medium specific assumptions of print and the dependence of the meaning of a literary text on the material apparatus used to produce it.

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List of Publications to Include in your Bibliography When Critically Investigating the Concept of Smart House in Media and Cultural Studies

In doing research for my master thesis on smart houses as technologies of government ‘at a distance’ last year (which you can read here), I found it very difficult to find materials which treated this topic from a media and cultural studies perspective, as well as historically, which is what determined me to share this list with you. Most of the publications on smart houses treat the technical, design and technological innovation aspects of the subject and are usually written by technology designers as documentation for their experimental projects. There are extremely few books dedicated to smart houses as sole subject of investigation from a media and cultural studies perspective, but you may find references to the topic in books which treat broader related topics such as (new) media, domestic technologies, augmented reality, ambient intelligence or ubiquitous computing, and, more recently, life-assisting technologies for the elderly. Below are some of the most useful materials I consulted for a historical and critical media and cultural studies perspective on the topic:

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