CFP Special Issue of Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media

Call for Papers Digital Culture Meets Data: Critical Perspectives

Special Issue of Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies

Guest Editors: Aristea Fotopoulou (University of Brighton) and Helen Thornham (University of Leeds)

Algorithms and big data shape our sociocultural and technical relations and our everyday experiences. Considerations of data, algorithms and infrastructure are now central to our critical perspectives on, and approaches to digital culture. The ‘data logical turn’ has been talked about as a necessary critical consideration for digital culture, not least because communication, media infrastructures, practices and social environments become increasingly ‘datafied’. But what does this turn to data mean for our research, scholarship and pedagogic practice? What does it mean for broader epistemological and ontological frameworks? Has the data paradigm arrived as an unquestionable unifying concept for studies of digital culture and digital media, communication, technology? It may be that a shift of focus on algorithms and data is fundamentally disruptive to the ways in which we see our research and disciplines. It may even appear to limit the theoretical and methodological tools through which we increasingly try to understand mediation, the formation of identity, social life, politics and the creative industries. To others, the data logical turn may be plainly repeating the processes of earlier instances of technological innovation. And for some, it may provide an opportunity to frame new theoretical concepts and methodological tools for a whole new set of social, cultural and political phenomena.

The focus of this special issue emerges from the ECREA conference of late 2017 and is motivated by conceptual and critical questions about the relationship between digital culture and data. We ask:  What theoretical and empirical perspectives on data and digital culture can be used to augment and diversify our research and educational approaches? How might we challenge data paradigms or aim to show alternative or complementary ways to address digital culture and communication?

We invite contributions that critically engage with digital culture and data specifically in relation to research, scholarship and pedagogic practice. We invite contributions that include (but are not reduced to) the following Themes:

  • Media studies and datafication
  • Researching media and culture using data methods
  • Data visualisation, art and design
  • Data cultures and neoliberalism
  • Data activism and citizen engagement
  • Data literacy
  •  Data and audiences
  • Data and gender, race, class inequalities
  • Datafication and the creative industries
  • Feminist approaches to data
  • Machine learning and AI
  • Data and the body
  • Smart cities, data and sustainability
  • Social bots and the management of sociality

Articles should be in the range of 6000-8000 words (including all references). Please send a 500-word abstract and a 100-word biography to the editors: A.Fotopoulou@brighton.ac.uk and H.Thornham@leeds.ac.uk by 31st August 2018. Authors of accepted abstracts will be notified by 1st October 2018. Full papers will be submitted 1st December 2018 and will undergo peer review following the usual procedures of the journal. The invitation to submit a full article does not guarantee acceptance into the special issue. The Special Issue will be out in 2020, and in time for REF.

Brief Bio of Guest Editors:

Dr. Aristea Fotopoulou is Principal Lecturer in Media and Communications at the University of Brighton, where she leads the MA Digital Media, Culture & Society. Her research focuses on critical aspects of digital and emerging technologies, with current emphasis on critical data literacy, digital health, and AI. She serves as Chair of the European Communication Research & Education Association (ECREA) Digital Culture and Communication Section. Publications include:

  • Fotopoulou, A. (forthcoming) Data practices, gender and citizenship. In Stephansen, H. and Trere, E. (eds) Citizen Media and Practice. Taylor & Francis/Routledge: Oxford.
  • Fotopoulou, A. (2018) From networked to quantified self: Self-tracking and the moral economy of data sharing. In Papacharissi, Z. (ed.) A Networked Self: Platforms, Stories, Connections. New York: Routledge.
  • Fotopoulou, A. (forthcoming) Citizen Media and Gender. In Baker, M., Blaagaard, B. and Pérez-González, L. (eds) The Routledge Encyclopedia of Citizen Media. New York: Routledge.
  • Fotopoulou, A. (2017) Feminist activism and digital networks: between empowerment and vulnerability, Palgrave Studies in Communication for Social Change, Palgrave MacMillan. (monograph).
  • Fotopoulou, A. and O’Riordan, K. (2016) Training to self-care: Fitness tracking and the knowledge-able consumer. Health Sociology Review.
  • Fotopoulou, A. and Couldry, N., (2015) Telling the story of the stories: online content curation and digital engagement. Information, Communication & Society, 18(2), pp.235-249.

Dr. Helen Thornham is an Associate Professor of Digital Cultures at Leeds University and has published widely on the social and cultural transformations of digital technologies. Her interdisciplinary work has been funded across RCUK, including AHRC Knowledge Infusion Grant (AH/H500065/1), EPSRC Community and Cultures Network+ (EP/K003585/1), and ESRC Defence, Uncertainty and Risk Project (ES/K011170/1).

Publications include:

  • Thornham, H (2018 forthcoming) Gender and Digital Culture: Irreconcilability in the Digital. Taylor Francis
  • Thornham, H & Gómez Cruz (2017) Not Just a Number? NEETS, Data and Datalogical Systems. Information, Communication & Society
  • Thornham, Helen & Maltby, Sarah (2017) ŒBeyond Pseuydonmity¹: The socio-technical structure of online military forums. New Media and Society DOI 10.117/1461444817707273
  • Thornham, H & Gómez Cruz (2016) Hackathons, Data and Discourse: Convolutions of the data(logical) in Big Data and Society DOI: 10.1177/2053951716679675
  • Thornham, Helen & Maltby, Sarah (2016) The Digital Mundane and the Military Media, Culture and Society DOI:
  • 1177/0163443716646173
  • Thornham, Helen & Gómez Cruz, Edgar (2016) [Im]mobility in the Age of [im]mobile phones: young NEETs and digital practices. New Media and Society DOI: 10.1177/1461444816643430

Call for Papers_Convergence PDF

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Audience, Datafication and the Everyday pre conference

I look forward to speaking at this exciting European Communication Conference (ECC) pre conference in Lugano, on the 31st October with fantastic co-panelists, organised by Ranjana Das (University of Surrey) and David Mathieu (Roskilde University), and supported by the Audience and Reception Studies section of ECREA.

11:00 to 12:45 Round table. Panellists for roundtable are –

Chair: Dr David Mathieu, Roskilde University, Denmark

Do check the Call for Papers and consider submitting, it will be a great day.

 

 

MeCCSA 2018 Critical Data Literacy paper abstract

I enjoyed MeCCSA 2018 in London South Bank this year – lots of interesting papers and it was great to meet old friends there too. I presented fresh findings from our new Critical Data Literacy project (University of Brighton), in what I think was the only data-related panel of the conference. Here is the abstract of the paper, and I will soon be preparing this as a journal article. 

MeCCSA 2018 Dr Aristea Fotopoulou “Creativity and critical data literacy for advocacy”

Abstract

Big data are everywhere, and they are transforming the way we live. But making sense of data and communicating in ways that are relevant to broad audiences and for the social good requires the skills and literacy to access, analyse and interpret them. Literature on data literacy mostly focuses on administrative and technical competences and is aimed at professionals and service providers (Frank et al, 2016). What do community organisations need to know if they want to communicate in an engaging way? How can data become relevant and accessible for the social good? And how can these skills help them address the critical and ethical questions that relate to data? This paper presents work from an ongoing research project that addresses these questions, and argues that there is pressing need to develop practices that allow civil society to use open data for advocacy, to make data more relevant and appealing to communities, and enable their engagement in policy debates. Situated within emerging debates in the fields of critical data studies and data literacy (Carretero, Vuorikari and Punie, 2017; Dalton and Thatcher, 2014; D’Ignazio, 2017; Hill et al., 2016; Kitchin and Lauriault, 2014), it draws from empirical work that identifies key elements of a “critical data literacy”  relevant to community organisations. It reports findings from two workshops with civil society organisations in the Southeast of England where we explored how a combination of creative media, storytelling and analytics allow participants to generate debates around specific issues that affect their communities, and help them tell stories that empower them.

Keywords: community, advocacy, open data, citizen engagement, critical data literacy, critical data studies

References

Carretero, S., Vuorikari, R. and Punie, Y. (2017) DigComp 2.1. The Digital Competence Framework for Citizens. With eight proficiency levels and examples of use. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

D’Ignazio, C., (2017) Creative data literacy. Information Design Journal23(1), pp.6-18.

Frank, M., Walker, J., Attard, J. and Tygel, A. (2016) ‘Data literacy – What is it and how can we make it happen?’, The Journal of Community Informatics, 12(3), pp. 4–8.

Hill, R. L., Kennedy, H., and Gerrard, Y. (2016) Visualizing Junk: Big Data Visualizations and the Need for Feminist Data Studies. Journal of Communication Inquiry 40, no. 4 (2016): 331-350.

Kitchin, R., and Lauriault, T., P., (2014) “Towards critical data studies: Charting and unpacking data assemblages and their work. The Programmable City Working Paper 2.”

 

Can data be neutral? //This Side of Reality

I very much enjoyed being part of the live podcast This Side of Reality in October, but was too busy to update the blog. Tanya (DR TANYA KANT, Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies, University of Sussex), Chris (CHRIS MIDDLETON, Journalist / Author / Robotics Expert / MusicianandCJ had all interesting insights to share, and it was great to be on the panel for this episode (episode 3: Can Data be Neutral?). We discussed various matters around data and discrimination and I also had a chance to present the Critical Data Literacy project.
You can now listen to the edited podcast (and of course share if you’d like) on iTunesTotallyRadio and SoundCloud.

Brighton Digital Festival explores the unexpected realities of digital culture in a new live podcast. Hosted by CJ Thorpe at 68 Middle Street. Broadcast live from the event on TotallyRadio DAB and totallyradio.com.

12 Oct – Episode 3: Can Data Be Neutral?

We think of data as science – indisputable collection of facts.

With machine learning taking over important aspects of our lives, we need to ask: can data ever be neutral? Are we running risks of automating existing biases and prejudice into our digital future?

From big data being used to determine employability, insurance, and criminal convictions, to personalised search results and newsfeeds stifling learning and democracy – we talk about the politics and ethics of data and machine learning.

 

 

Critical Data Literacy, Creative Media and Social Equality Research project

My new research project is about to start (once a Research Assistant joins me: see job ad here). I have become very interested lately in what can constitute the principles of a critical data literacy that is central for citizen engagement. Big data are everywhere, and they are transforming the way we live. But making sense of data and communicating in ways that are relevant to broad audiences and for the social good requires the skills and literacy to access, analyse and interpret them. My new University of Brighton research project addresses the need to develop practices that allow citizens to work with data, to make data more relevant and appealing to communities, and enable their engagement in policy debates. Instead then of focusing on enhancing data analysis and technical skills, I am interested to explore how a combination of creative media, storytelling and analytics allows participants to generate debates around specific issues that affect their communities.

I will be working with community organisations in the Brighton area, running a Datahub workshop focusing on sexuality/gender as they play out with other social issues, such as poverty, unemployment and housing. For updates see https://criticaldataliteracy.com.