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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Nieman Lab Article on Fake News in the Digital Age

Nieman Lab published today an article that Jonathan Gray, Tommaso Venturini and I wrote about fake news in the digital age. In this article we argue that fake news encapsulates key aspects of our digital environments and cultures and hence that it can be taken as an opportunity to learn not just about misinformation but, more importantly for us as new media researchers, about the digital arrangements that make such phenomena possible.

The article discusses some insights from A Field Guide to Fake News, a collection of recipes for tracing the production, circulation and reception of fake news online which will be launched at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia tomorrow.

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Collaboration with BuzzFeed News on Article about Ad Networks Used by Fake News Sites

Today BuzzFeed News published an article inspired by one of the recipes in our upcoming A Field Guide to Fake News, to be launched at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia later this week. The article investigates how fake news publishers have adapted to being blacklisted from major ad networks last year. I contributed some research and analysis to compare the presence of trackers on a set of fake news sites in March 2017 and prior to November 2016 by using the Tracker Tracker tool maintained by the Digital Methods Initiative. It has been a pleasure to work with Craig Silverman and Lam Thuy Vo and hope I’ll get a chance to work with them again in the future.

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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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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.

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.

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.