Talk on "Repurposing digital media for collective inquiry. Notes from the Public Data Lab 2017-2023", médialab, Sciences Po, Paris
médialab, Sciences Po in 2016. Ewen Chardronnet

Liliana Bounegru and I will be back for a visit at the médialab, Sciences Po in Paris, where we are affiliated as research associates. This will be the first time going back since Bruno Latour passed away last year.

As part of the visit we will give a talk on “Repurposing digital media for collective inquiry. Notes from the Public Data Lab 2017-2023” on Tuesday 18th April, 2-4pm. If you’ll be around in Paris and interested in joining you can register here. The talk blurb is copied below.

The Public Data Lab was founded in 2017 as an interdisciplinary network exploring what difference the digital makes in attending to public problems. It aims to develop materials and formats for collective inquiry with and about digital data, digital methods and digital infrastructures.

It developed out of a network of researchers with backgrounds in fields such as science and technology studies, media studies, design studies, political ecology and participatory arts-based methods. This network had previously gathered through funded projects (such as the H2020 funded EMAPS project, led by Bruno Latour), activities such as the Digital Methods Initiative Winter and Summer Schools, and through a shared interested in tools and approaches for gathering, analysing and visualising data from the web and online platforms and devices.

While many labs are housed within universities, the Public Data Lab was set-up as a distributed, trans-institutional, trans-national, trans-disciplinary network and as an “experimental space” for collaboration – gathering around specific projects and activities either through physical workshops or online channels. While strongly grounded in a shared set of tools, methods and approaches, the Public Data Lab has also been designed to accommodate a variety of different research programmes and styles rather than a single shared agenda – including “digital methods”, “inventive methods”, “critical analytics”, “experiments in participation”, “issue mapping” and “controversy mapping”.

Building on previous lab stories and reflections on collective inquiry with digital methods, this talk will explore some of the different approaches and formats that have emerged in the course of the Public Data Lab’s projects and activities to date, including around “fake news” and misinformation, air pollution, tax justice, climate denial, COVID-19 testing, conspiracy cultures, fact-checking, data journalism, nature-based solutions, political bots, forest fires, forest restoration, diasporic solidarity and collective identity formation. These projects have sought to curate methods, materials, techniques and arrangements in order to create spaces where problems can be addressed differently. This includes through repurposing, modifying and re-assembling “methods of the medium” and associated tools and datasets in order to address different kinds of questions about digital infrastructures, cultures and societies.

We will conclude by reflecting on what we have learned from these experiences about the lab as a socio-technical gathering for organising collaborations grounded in the social sciences, arts and humanities and how such arrangements may contribute to reconfiguring universities as spaces of experimental collective learning and inquiry.

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