New Project: MiniVAN for the Visual Analysis of Networks

Introducing MiniVAN

I’m happy to announce that the Public Data Lab has received funding from Sage Publishing to develop a project called MiniVAN. This will be a simple tool to facilitate the visual analysis of networks and online publication of results. Further details are copied below.

MiniVAN will be an easy-to-use tool that will support non-specialist social scientists in the visual analysis of their networks and in the online publication of their results.

Networks are becoming increasingly popular in the social sciences as interfaces for exploratory data analysis. The “Visual Analysis of Networks” (VAN) allows academics to explore large relational datasets without having to deal with the full complexity of graph mathematics. A key barrier remains, however, for the adoption of this approach: current VAN tools are either too complicated or unable handle the growing size of the datasets that are typical in the digital social sciences.

MiniVAN aims to solve this problem by providing a tool for the visual analysis of networks that is accessible to academics with little knowledge of mathematics or coding and yet able to scale up to output graphs containing hundreds of thousands of nodes.

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Panels on data journalism and climate change at International Journalism Festival in Perugia, 11-15th April 2018

I’m involved in several panels at the upcoming International Journalism Festival in Perugia on 11-15th April 2018.

I’m moderating one on “conversations with data” with Gregor Aisch (Datawrapper), Caelainn Barr (The Guardian), Sam Leon (Global Witness), Simon Rogers (Google News Lab), Lam Thuy Vo (Buzzfeed News). This will explore themes in the second edition of The Data Journalism Handbook, amongst other things.

I’ll be speaking on one on “connecting science and journalism though climate change and digital innovation” with Alok Jha (Wellcome Trust), Viktorija Mickute (Contrast VR), John Reilly (MIT Joint Program), Alan Rusbridger (former editor-in-chief at the Guardian, now University of Oxford), Elisabetta Tola (Formicablu) and Rina Tsubaki (European Forest Institute).

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New Article: “Redistributing Data Worlds: Open Data, Data Infrastructures and Democracy”, Statistique et Société, 5(3)

I’ve just had an article published in the latest issue of Statistique et Société, a journal dedicated to exploring “how statistics intervenes in society, plays a role that is often unnoticed, and is in turn transformed by it”.

The article is titled “Quand les mondes de données sont redistribués : Open Data, infrastructures de données et démocratie” (“Redistributing Data Worlds: Open Data, Data Infrastructures and Democracy”).

You can download the French PDF here and the English version here. The text of the article is also copied inline below. The full reference is: Gray, J. (2017). Quand les mondes de données sont redistribués: Open Data, infrastructures de données et démocratie. Statistique et Société, 5(3), 29–34.

Statistique et Société is an open access journal run by the Société Française de Statistique (French Society of Statistics). It is edited by Emmanuel Didier (CNRS/EHESS), a leading researcher on the social and historical study of statistics. It includes scholars such as Theodore Porter on its advisory board.

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Publication: A Field Guide to “Fake News” and Other Information Disorders

Today sees the launch of A Field Guide to “Fake News and Other Information Disorders, a new free and open access resource to help students, journalists and researchers investigate misleading content, memes, trolling and other phenomena associated with recent debates around “fake news”.

The field guide responds to an increasing demand for understanding the interplay between digital platforms, misleading information, propaganda and viral content practices, and their influence on politics and public life in democratic societies.

It contains methods and recipes for tracing trolling practices, the publics and modes of circulation of viral news and memes online, and the commercial underpinnings of this content. The guide aims to be an accessible learning resource for digitally-savvy students, journalists and researchers interested in this topic. Read More »

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New edition of Data Journalism Handbook to explore journalistic interventions in the data society

The first edition of The Data Journalism Handbook has been widely used and widely cited by students, practitioners and researchers alike, serving as both textbook and sourcebook for an emerging field. It has been translated into over 12 languages – including Arabic, Chinese, Czech, French, Georgian, Greek, Italian, Macedonian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Ukrainian – and is used for teaching at many leading universities, as well as teaching and training centres around the world.

A huge amount has happened in the field since the first edition in 2012. The Panama Papers project undertook an unprecedented international collaboration around a major database of leaked information about tax havens and offshore financial activity. Projects such as The Migrants Files, The Guardian’s The Counted and ProPublica’s Electionland have shown how journalists are not just using and presenting data, but also creating and assembling it themselves in order to improve data journalistic coverage of issues they are reporting on.

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Call for Papers: “Data Worlds? Public Imagination and Public Experimentation with Data Infrastructures”, EASST2018, 25-28th July 2018, Lancaster University, UK

A call for papers has just been published for our panel on “Data Worlds? Public Imagination and Public Experimentation with Data Infrastructures” at EASST2018 which takes place on 25-28th July 2018 at Lancaster University, UK. EASST2018 is the latest edition of the conference of the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology. The panel is organised by several colleagues at the Public Data Lab, including Noortje Marres (University of Warwick), Carolin Gerlitz (University of Siegen), Tommaso Venturini (École Normale Supérieure Lyon) and myself. The call is copied below.

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Talk: “Between the Worlds: Infrastructures, Standards and Platforms of Fiscal Data”, Workshop on Digital Platforms and Boundary Infrastructures, 2-3rd November 2017, University of Siegen

Tomorrow I’ll be giving a talk on “Between the Worlds: Infrastructures, Standards and Platforms of Fiscal Data” at a workshop on Digital Platforms and Boundary Infrastructures at the University of Siegen. The abstract for the talk is copied below.

This talk will examine the social life of public data infrastructures online – with a particular focus on how different actors attempt to contest, challenge, shape, intervene and participate around them. It will explore how these infrastructures cut across and undergird different social worlds, enabling different styles of reasoning and modes of experience through public data. Focusing on transnational initiatives to integrate and harmonise information around public spending, contracting and tax, it will look at different competing visions and emerging actors around the standards, governance and infrastructures of public data online. On the one hand it will draw attention to different ways of organising public data worlds – from platforms inspired by technology companies to other distributed practices of assembling and aligning data inspired by open source software development. On the other hand it will examine their world-making capacities, reflecting different conceptions of the relationships between states and markets, companies and citizens.

Posted in academia, data, Data Worlds, datajournalism, open data, politics, research, science and technology studies, sociology, taxjustice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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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