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.

 

 

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.

 

 

Real Social Analytics in BJS

1280px-social-mediaOur article in the British Journal of Sociology is (early) online . This article argues against the assumption that agency and reflexivity disappear in an age of ‘algorithmic power’ (Lash 2007). Following the suggestions of Beer (2009), it proposes that, far from disappearing, new forms of agency and reflexivity around the embedding in everyday practice of not only algorithms but also analytics more broadly are emerging, as social actors continue to pursue their social ends but mediated through digital interfaces: this is the consequence of many social actors now needing their digital presence, regardless of whether they want this, to be measured and counted. The article proposes ‘social analytics’ as a new topic for sociology: the sociological study of social actors’ uses of analytics not for the sake of measurement itself (or to make profit from measurement) but in order to fulfil better their social ends through an enhancement of their digital presence. The article places social analytics in the context of earlier debates about categorization, algorithmic power, and self-presentation online, and describes in detail a case study with a UK community organization which generated the social analytics approach. The article concludes with reflections on the implications of this approach for further sociological fieldwork in a digital world.

 
Cite: Couldry, N., Fotopoulou, A. and Dickens, L. (2016), Real social analytics: A contribution towards a phenomenology of a digital world. The British Journal of Sociology. doi: 10.1111/1468-4446.12183

 

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!