Preprint on “Visual Network Exploration for Data Journalists”, Routledge Handbook to Developments in Digital Journalism Studies

Annotated graph of the Décodex network.

We’ve recently uploaded a new preprint for a book chapter on “Visual Network Exploration for Data Journalists”, which is to be published in the forthcoming Routledge Handbook to Developments in Digital Journalism Studies (Abingdon: Routledge, 2018) edited by Scott Eldridge II and Bob Franklin.

This is part of a series of collaborations with Tommaso Venturini, Mathieu Jacomy, Liliana Bounegru and other colleagues at the Public Data Lab on papers and projects studying and experimenting with networks in different fields, including data journalism, digital methods, digital sociology and associated areas. This includes looking at how people use networks to tell stories or undertake different “styles of reasoning” and analysis. We’re also very interested in interdisciplinary encounters drawing on different cultures and practices of “doing things with networks”.

So far we’ve got several pieces published and in the pipeline, including “Narrating Networks: Exploring the Affordances of Networks as Storytelling Devices in Journalism” and “How to Tell Stories with Networks: Exploring the Narrative Affordances of Graphs with the Iliad”.

The abstract for the preprint on “Visual Network Exploration for Data Journalists” is copied below.

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Graph of Total Number of Websites on the Internet (1991-2015)

I was recently looking for a chart illustrating the estimated growth of the total number of websites online, while preparing for a series of lectures I’m giving on digital methods (including reviewing cultural and social histories of the web, as well as different ways of doing research both with and about hyperlinks and search engines).

I couldn’t immediately find one that I liked, so I just created one using the Datawrapper tool and data compiled by InternetLiveStats.com. I’m sharing here in case useful for anyone else. It is on Datawrapper and image available here. You can read a bit more about methodological issues about counting websites on this page from InternetLiveStats.com, as well as this page from Netcraft, where the more recent data is sourced from. If anyone has recommendations for articles about website counting methodologies and website statistics, I’d love to hear about them.

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“The Social Lives of Digital Methods: Encounters, Experiments, Interventions” – Call for Participation in Digital Methods Winter School 2018, University of Amsterdam, 8-12th January 2018

The call for the Digital Methods Winter School 2018 at the University of Amsterdam is out now. This year’s theme is “The Social Lives of Digital Methods: Encounters, Experiments, Interventions”. I was kindly invited by Richard Rogers, Founder of the Digital Methods Initiative at the University of Amsterdam (where I’m also a Research Associate) to help shape the theme and give input to the call. So it is no coincidence that it is very well aligned with many of my current research interests, as well as many recent discussions we’ve been having with colleagues around the Public Data Lab, inspired by our activities around the Field Guide to Fake News; a recent session on digital methods and public policy at the International Conference on Public Policy in Singapore; recent projects in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, London, Milan and Paris, as well as Noortje Marres’s recent book (see below). Further information can be found here. It promises to be a fun and interesting event and hope to see you there!

“The Social Lives of Digital Methods: Encounters, Experiments, Interventions” – Call for Participation in Digital Methods Winter School 2018, University of Amsterdam, 8-12th January 2018

Over the past decade digital methods of various kinds have been put to use by data journalists, national ministries, non-governmental organisations, city governments, media artists, police departments, international organisations, philanthropic funding agencies in the service of a wide variety of projects and objectives. Within the academy digital methods have spread from researchers of the internet, new media and computational culture, leading to encounters and experiments with a wide range of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, working with their own publics, partners, questions, concerns and modes of inquiry with and about the digital. That one may intervene with digital methods is clear, but the question concerns the positioning.

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Joining King’s College London as Lecturer in Critical Infrastructure Studies

This has been under wraps for a while, but it has just been publicly announced that I’ll be joining the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London as Lecturer in Critical Infrastructure Studies.

The department is a world-leading centre for doing social and cultural research both with and about the digital. It is one of the oldest departments for research in this area, going back to the 1970s. In addition to its pioneering work in the digital humanities, current research and teaching interests in the department include new media theory, digital methods, digital sociology, social networks, participatory culture, data economies and industries, and the politics of platforms, big data and artificial intelligence. In terms of methods and approaches, it combines empirical digital research, social and humanistic reflection, public intervention and experimentation, and cultural practice. King’s has been ranked as one of the top 25 universities in the world, and has made significant investments to support its digital studies agenda.

In this new role I’ll continue my research and activities around the politics of data – including on my Data Worlds book and associated papers and projects on digital methods, data activism, data journalism, data visualisation, networks, participatory design, participatory data infrastructures and other topics. I will also continue work to develop the Public Data Lab, which I co-founded earlier this year, collaborating in the first instance with a network of colleagues at leading centres such as the Digital Methods Initiative (University of Amsterdam), the médialab (Sciences Po, Paris), the Techno-Anthropology Lab (Copenhagen), the DensityDesign lab (Politecnico di Milano), the Media of Cooperation group (University of Siegen) and beyond. I will contribute to building links between King’s and other leading research centres, public institutions and civil society groups in relevant fields.

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Panel on “Digital Methods for Public Policy” at International Conference on Public Policy, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, 29th June 2017

How is “born digital” data being repurposed in the context of public policy research and practice? Tomorrow I’ll be chairing a panel on “Digital Methods for Public Policy” at the International Conference on Public Policy 2017 hosted at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore.

This is a really exciting new area and we hope the panel will contribute to advancing further interdisciplinary research, conversation and experimentation – including with our recently launched Public Data Lab which several of the panellists are involved in. The overview for the panel and abstracts for the papers are copied below. If you’re interested in getting in touch about potential collaborations or further initiatives in this area, please do feel free to get in touch.

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Hello Public Data Lab

Apart from working on my Data Worlds book, one of the things that I’ve been doing as part of my Prize Fellowship at the University of Bath is working to set up a new trans-national, trans-institutional Public Data Lab. I’m delighted to announce that Sage Publishing have recently committed to supporting the lab to help get us started.

As I commented for the press release:

We are delighted to be working with SAGE to establish the Public Data Lab. Given its world-leading role in publishing social science research and methods texts, as well as its work to support innovative research around the social, political and cultural consequences of datafication – including through venues such as Big Data and Society – SAGE is the perfect fit for us. We are also particularly appreciative of its role in supporting open access publication. We look forward to exploring how the lab can advance methods and working formats to broaden participation and enrich debate around the creation and use of data in society.

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New Book Chapter: “Exploring the Narrative Affordances of Graphs with the Iliad” in The Datafied Society, Amsterdam University Press

A book chapter that I co-authored on “How to Tell Stories with Networks: Exploring the Narrative Affordances of Graphs with the Iliad” has just been published in The Datafied Society: Studying Culture Through Data (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press) edited by Karin van Es and Mirko Tobias Schäfer.

The chapter was written by Tommaso Venturini (INRIA), Liliana Bounegru (University of Groningen / University of Ghent), Mathieu Jacomy (médialab, Sciences Po) and I. An excerpt from the beginning of our chapter is included below.

The whole book is available as an open access PDF which can be downloaded from OAPEN, thanks to Amsterdam University Press’s forward thinking and experimentation in this area. It also features contributions from Mercedes Bunz, Nick Couldry, Carolin Gerlitz, Lev Manovich, Evgeny Morozov, Cornelius Puschmann, Bernhard Rieder, Theo Röhle, Richard Rogers, Natalia Sánchez-Querubín and many others.

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Call for Collaborators: “A Field Guide to Fake News”

We’re pleased to announce a new project to create “A Field Guide to Fake News”, led by myself, Liliana Bounegru and Tommaso Venturini. It will be launched at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia in April 2017.

In the wake of concerns about the role of “fake news” in relation to the US elections, the project aims to catalyse collaborations between leading digital media researchers, data journalists and civil society groups in order to map the issue and phenomenon of fake news in US and European politics.

The guide will look at how digital methods, data, tools, techniques and research approaches can be utilised in the service of increasing public understanding of the politics, production, circulation and responses to fake news online. In particular it will look at how digital traces from the web and online platforms can be repurposed in the service of public interest research, investigations, data stories and data journalism projects.

If you’re a data journalist or researcher interested in collaborating on data stories or investigations around fake news phenomenon in your country, then please do drop us a line.

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Talk: “Data Visualisation, Data Experiences and Data Worlds” at Density Design, Politecnico di Milano, 28th February 2017

I was invited to give the opening address at the 2017 graduate exhibition of Density Design, Politecnico di Milano, one of the world’s leading research labs focusing on the visualisation of complex phenomenon.

This year’s graduates produced a very interesting set of projects based on both official data and web data – on topics from climate change adaptation to climate finance, cultural heritage to migration.

A recording of my talk is available here, slides are here, and the transcript can be found below.

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New Network on “Programming as Social Science” (PaSS)

What is the role of software programming in the social sciences? My colleague Phillip Brooker (University of Bath) and I have recently been working together to set up a new initiative to advance both critical reflection and what Philip Agre describes as “critical technical practice” around programming in the context of the social sciences. If you’re interested in joining the network, you can sign up here. Further details are copied below.

This is an interdisciplinary network for researchers interested in software programming both as a research device and an object of study, particularly around the methodological innovations happening through social science usages of digital data. It aims to support the cultivation of “critical technical practice” (Agre, 1997) around the research, development and use of code – informed by developments in digital methods, digital sociology and emerging teaching formats. PaSS draws on research in Science and Technology Studies, New Media Studies, Software Studies, Ethnomethodology, Human-Computer Interaction and associated fields to look at how programming practices can not just be studied, but also critically leveraged for teaching and research. The PaSS mailing list is a low traffic list for news, announcements and discussion around programming in the context of social research.

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