Expertise article published in Convergence

An article that we wrote with Caroline Bassett and Katie Howland when I was still working in the University of Sussex was published last week in http://con.sagepub.com/content/21/3/328.abstract.The article is called ‘Expertise: A report and a manifesto’ and it explores the stakes of digital transformation through a consideration of digital expertise. The article draws on empirical research undertaken in Brighton, as part of a RCUK Digital Economy Communities and Cultures Network+ project. The concept of expertise is deployed here as a heuristic for inquiry into questions of digital use.

CFP for the workshop of the Digital Culture and Communication Section in ECREA

Call for Papers: Standards, Disruptions and Values in Digital Culture and Communication

Organised by the Digital Culture and Communication Section of ECREA (DCC), and the Department of Communication Studies (ICT&S Center), University of Salzburg, 26-28 November 2015

Keynote speakers:

  • Prof Charles Ess (University of Oslo)
  • Prof Helen Kennedy (University of Sheffield)

In digital culture and communication, with the pervasiveness that characterises online media, standards and values are contested, whereas well-established paths in the production and circulation of information have been newly arranged or abandoned altogether. Technical and social standards are consistent, formal and informal norms, values or conventions of doing, operating, producing, and/or performing. As the basis of technical transmission, standards in media allow transferability and interoperability, reduce complexity, and facilitate communication across formats, platforms and boundaries. As a consequence of transformations and re-orientations that continuously happen in almost all fields of the media, new technological standards, ethical codes, narrative and visual tropes are being produced.

It is therefore crucial to critically evaluate the relationship between standards and values in their social, political, technological and creative dimensions. Who has the power to define, develop and implement standards? Which values are attached to standardisation processes in creative industries and how are they related to copyright and patents in technological development? Are peer-production, open-access publishing and free-culture movements different kinds of markets or disruptions to existing models of markets? What is the relationship between technological standardisation and cultural diversity?

This workshop aims to address such questions. We welcome papers on the following issues and topics:

– Technical and social standards in digital media: How do technical standards evolve in the media industry and how are they implemented? What kind of values shape this process? What modes of interventions exist (e.g. between players like platform operators and users?)
– Visual and narrative standards and disruptions in digital culture: How are visual standards and codes built and how do they influence the comprehension of data? How do visual media and narratives introduce new canons in forms such such as remix, memes or selfies?
– Professional and ethical standards in digital contexts: Who is responsible of implementing professional ethical standards? Are there emerging frameworks? How do ethical codes inform digital culture research? How do big data contribute or condition these developments?

Please send abstracts by May 25, 2015 to ecreadigitalculture@gmail.com
Conference website: http://dcc.icts.sbg.ac.at/   See also: http://wp.me/p2XXkX-6v

Full Call online here.

I am glad to have been elected co-chair of the Digital Culture and Communication Section in ECREA, after two years acting as Early Scholar Representative for the Section (YECREA). While I was on leave, my co-chairs have started organising the next workshop!

Telling the story of the stories article

Telling the story of the stories: online content curation and digital engagement

The last (I think) of the research Outputs from the Storycircle project (Goldsmiths, University of London) that ended in July 2013, just got published online in the academic journal Information, Communication and Society. The title ‘Telling the story of the stories: online content curation and digital engagement’, is partly a quote from one of the participants in the study, a community reporter.

In the article, with co-author Prof Nick Couldry (LSE), we explore tensions between the imaginaries and material hindrances that accompany the development of digital infrastructures for narrative exchange and public engagement. Digital infrastructures allow civil society organizations to become narrators of their community lives, and to express solidarity and recognition. Often full development and implementation of such infrastructures result in drastic changes to an organization’s mode of operation. Drawing from empirical material collected during an action research project with an organization of community reporters in the North of England, here we examine the visions of ‘telling the story of the stories’ that motivated such changes, the experiments in web analytics and content curation that in practice realized these visions and the socio-economic contexts that constrained them. We attend to the wider social imaginaries about the digital as they help us understand better how social actors construct the worlds they want to inhabit within information society through mundane everyday practices. Examining how perceptions of digital engagement translate into such concrete practices is necessary in order to gain insight into the ways in which material infrastructures, such as resources and technologies, intertwine with social and cultural expectations about how life should be with digital technologies.

Autumn 2014 update!

There has been so much going on during the last few months and so little time to update the blog! After coming back from the States (my activities there are summarised in this report:  AFotopoulou_Nemode End of Placement052014 –Tracking biodata: Ownership & sharing, research placement output, RCUK Digital Economy NEMODE), I’ve been busy writing up a bunch of articles. My research in San Francisco was only partly about the Quantified Self (there is plenty of ethnographic research being done by anthropologists at the moment, such as Dawn Nafus), and it has resulted in a rather sociological approach to the phenomenon – which got published recently in Open Democracy. Here I raise some questions about the political potential of formations that engage with data policy in some way or another (such as the Quantified Self), and propose that this experimental engagement (a bit geeky, technical, but at the same time involving storytelling and meeting offline) might signify a new type of public, what I heuristically call ‘smart publics’. Of course this idea, and a theorisation of ‘smart publics’, is developed more clearly in an academic article (forthcoming, watch this space!).

At this point, priority for me has taken writing about cultural understandings of data sharing, and the underlying discourses that circulate in the media, particularly in fiction. I have been exploring how circulating ideas of ‘data utopia’ (a utopia of data abundance and a particular vision of democracy) informs user practices. I happily completed a draft of the article, with a working title ‘All these emotions, all these yearnings, all these data’ and due for submission any time now, during a three-day writing retreat at Forrest Hills, in Lancaster, organised by the Department of Sociology. Of course I’ve been testing these ideas since February this year, first in an invited talk at the Center for Cultural Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz, and then at Crossroads 2014,  the Cultural Studies Conference, in July in Finland, in a panel on Permeable Boundaries: Bodies in Science, Medicine, and Culture.

Joining the Department of Sociology in Lancaster University, on September 1st, has of course been absolutely thrilling – it’s a top department and a great fit for my work – especially because of the Centre for Science Studies and the Gender & Women’s Studies Centre (with current directors Imogen Tyler & Celia Roberts, and former directors Jackie Stacey, Sara Ahmed, Celia Lury, Bev Skeggs, Gail Lewis, Lynne Pearce, Anne-Marie Fortier, Vicky Singleton and Maureen McNeil). I have now the opportunity to complete my monograph ‘Feminist activism and new media: digital and networked by default?’, which will be published by Palgrave MacMillan in 2016. This is based on my PhD thesis but will include some new research and a refined theoretical framework. I pose a question in the subtitle, which many people have found intriguing – and I explain why I pose the question in the article Digital and Networked by default? Women’s organisations and the social imaginary of networked feminism, coming out any day now in New Media & Society. (So watch this space too!)

July also brought about the publication of the special issue on Queer feminist media praxis, which I co-edited with Alex Juhasz and Kate O’Riordan in  Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology, No.5. And the launch of  SusNet – the CCN+ funded network which brings together feminist cultural production, art and activist practices and enables exchanges between different researchers, activists, artists and aims to contribute to knowledge exchanges across these areas and beyond.

 

So a lot of research activity and productive interactions this Autumn – but I’m also looking forward to teaching Media and Cultural Studies courses. This term I’m teaching the 101 course in Media and Cultural Studies with Adam Fish, and Critical Cultural Theory with Debra Ferreday. Good stuff!