New Article: “A Reality Check(list) for Digital Methods”

An article titled “A Reality Check(list) for Digital Methods” that I co-authored with with Tommaso Venturini, Liliana Bounegru and Richard Rogers has just been published in New Media & Society . The abstract for the article is copied below. You can download the PDF here.

A reality check(list) for digital methods

Digital Methods can be defined as the repurposing of the inscriptions generated by digital media for the study of collective phenomena. The strength of these methods comes from their capacity to take advantage of the data and computational capacities of online platforms; their weakness comes from the difficulty to separate the phenomena that they investigate from the features of the media in which they manifest (‘the medium is the message’, according to McLuhan’s 1964 dictum). In this article, we discuss various methodological difficulties deriving from the lack of separation between medium and message and propose eight practical precautions to deal with it.

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New Article: “Three Aspects of Data Worlds”, Krisis: Journal for Contemporary Philosophy

I’ve just had an article on “Three Aspects of Data Worlds” published in Krisis: Journal for Contemporary Philosophy as part of a special issue on “Data Activism”. Edited and introduced by Stefania Milan and Lonneke van der Velden, the issue includes articles from Helen Kennedy, Lina Dencik, Stefan Baack, Miren Gutiérrez, Leah Horgan and Paul Dourish. The abstract for my article is copied below. The whole issue can be read online or downloaded in PDF format here.

Three Aspects of Data Worlds

This article introduces the concept of “data worlds”. Drawing on previous literatures and theories of worlds, worlding and world-making, it outlines three closely related aspects of data worlds – as (i) horizons of intelligibility, (ii) collective accomplishments, and (iii) transnational coordination – illustrated with ongoing empirical work. It concludes by discussing how this kind of analysis might inform and enrich research, reflection and intervention around the politics of data.

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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.

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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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