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.
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.
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.
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.
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 CIVICUSDataShift initiative and can be accessed here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.