Talk: “Mapping Issues with the Web: An Introduction to Digital Methods”, 23rd September 2014, Columbia University, New York

Later this month Liliana Bounegru and I will be giving a talk at Columbia University in New York about how to use digital methods for social and cultural research.

The talk, hosted by the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, coincides with a week of public talks, seminars, performances and other activities with leading sociologist Bruno Latour.

Here’s the abstract:

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 operationalise 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

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Paper on “Open Data and the Politics of Transparency” at European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) General Conference 2014, University of Glasgow

Last week I gave a paper on “Open Data and the Politics of Transparency” at the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) General Conference 2014 at the University of Glasgow.

The original abstract for the talk was as follows:

In just a few years, open data has been established as a fundamental cornerstone of official transparency and accountability initiatives around the world – from US President Barack Obama and UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s respective open government programmes, to the Open Government Partnership, to the G8 Open Data Charter launched in June 2013.

This paper will look at how open data initiatives are shaping the way that government and civil society actors think and talk about transparency – in particular examining at the political visions and theories of change which they promote. Through interviews with key actors and close readings of speeches, reports and other materials, it will look at how open data advocacy has contributed to a shift in official transparency discourse away from social justice and the needs of citizens, and towards technological innovation, public sector efficiency and economic growth.

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Secret government contracts stop citizens knowing if outsourcing works

The following piece is cross-posted from The Guardian.

The past few months have seen a significant backlash against government outsourcing and the privatisation of public services.

A series of high profile controversies around outsourcing giants such as Atos, G4S and Serco have shaken the public’s faith in politicians’ claims that privatisation gives citizens a better deal.

While its advocates continue to argue that outsourcing leads to increased competition, greater efficiency, reduced costs and better public services, citizens are currently deprived of the evidence that they’d need to be able to evaluate whether or not this is true for particular contracts.

Unfortunately it is very difficult to know what actually happens with a public contract unless you are the contractor or the budget holder as the paper trail of documents surrounding most outsourced projects are shrouded in secrecy.

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The Data Journalism Handbook now freely available in 12 languages

I was recently surprised with a preview copy of a new Greek translation of the Data Journalism Handbook, which I co-edited along with Liliana Bounegru and Lucy Chambers.

This will be the twelfth language the book has been translated into so far. At the time of writing translations are also available and forthcoming in Arabic, Chinese, Czech, French, Georgian, Italian, Macedonian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Ukrainian.

The book is also currently used for teaching at more than twenty universities and higher educational institutions. If you hear of any other new translations or interesting uses of the book, please do get in touch.

Greek translation of Data Journalism Handbook

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Secret government contracts undermine our democracies. Let’s stop them.

I’ve just written a piece for Open Democracy about a new global campaign to stop secret government contracts, coordinated by the Open Knowledge Foundation. You can read it here and sign up to the campaign here.

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 12.13.29

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A Small Sebald

A Small Sebald

A small effigy of W. G. Sebald holding a copy of his book The Rings of Saturn.

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The Snowden leaks are about much more than state surveillance

My review of The Guardian journalist Luke Harding’s new book The Snowden Files in OpenDemocracy argues that the Snowden leaks are about much more than state surveillance.

Piece on Snowden leaks in OpenDemocracy

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The UK’s new Lobbying Bill is a farce

The UK’s new Lobbying Bill will do nothing to fight the malign influence of big money in politics, I argue in a piece for Open Democracy.

My piece on the UK's new lobbying bill on Open Democracy

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Mapping the Cultural Commons

Following is the text of a keynote talk I gave at an event organised by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication in Paris last week, also cross-posted on the Ministry’s Culture Blog. After the event, Aurélie Filippetti, the French Minister for Culture and Communication, announced a new partnership to begin to map the public domain in France.

I’m going to start by asking you to contemplate the unimaginable – the age-old fantasy of the total archive, the comprehensive record of humanity’s time on earth. Picture everything that the human mind has ever created laid out before you – every song and every story, every image, inscription, and invention – in chronological order from the dawn of humankind to the present day.

This fantastical archive is the record of the passage of history: the evolution of cultures and countries, politics and economics, science and scholarship, laws and literature. Not only the major figures, stories and works with which we are more familiar, but a kaleidoscopically rich reflection of the world and its inhabitants in all of their contingency and particularity, captured in images, documents, descriptions, and artefacts as though frozen in amber.

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The Business of Transparency

Following is the full version of an article that was recently published in the Guardian, arguing that the nascent ‘open government’ movement should focus on social justice and enabling citizens to hold power to account, rather than wealth creation and the technology industry.

“In all parts of the world, we see the promise of innovation to make government more open and accountable. And now, we must build on that progress.” Thus spoke President Obama at the UN General Assembly in September 2010.

This initial call to action gave rise to a new initiative called the Open Government Partnership (OGP). Last week senior government officials and campaigners from around 60 countries gathered in London for the OGP’s second annual summit to announce new voluntary commitments to open government, and for talks about freedom of information, civic participation, whistleblower protection, corporate accountability, and many other things.

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