Call for Participation – Digital Methods Summer School 2014, On Geolocation: Remote Event Analysis (Mapping Conflicts, Disasters, Elections and other Events with Online and Social Media Data), 23 June – 4 July 2014
"The Digital Methods Initiative is a contribution to doing research into the 'natively digital'. Consider, for example, the hyperlink, the thread and the tag. Each may 'remediate' older media forms (reference, telephone chain, book index), and genealogical histories remain useful (Bolter/Grusin, 1999; Elsaesser, 2005; Kittler, 1995). At the same time new media environments – and the software–makers – have implemented these concepts, algorithmically, in ways that may resist familiar thinking as well as methods (Manovich, 2005; Fuller, 2007). In other words, the effort is not simply to import well–known methods – be they from humanities, social science or computing. Rather, the focus is on how methods may change, however slightly or wholesale, owing to the technical specificities of new media.
The initiative is twofold. First, we wish to interrogate what scholars have called 'virtual methods,' ascertaining the extent to which the new methods can stake claim to taking into account the differences that new media make (Hine, 2005). Second, we desire to create a platform to display the tools and methods to perform research that, also, can take advantage of 'web epistemology'. The web may have distinctive ways of recommending information (Rogers, 2004; Sunstein, 2006). Which digital methods innovate with and also critically display the recommender culture that is at the heart of new media information environments?
Amsterdam–based new media scholars have been developing methods, techniques and tools since 1999, starting with the Net Locator and, later, the Issue Crawler, which focuses on hyperlink analysis (Govcom.org, 1999, 2001). Since then a set of allied tools and independent modules have been made to extend the research into the blogosphere, online newssphere, discussion lists and forums, folksonomies as well as search engine behavior. These tools include scripts to scrape web, blog, news, image and social bookmarking search engines, as well as simple analytical machines that output data sets as well as graphical visualizations.
The analyses may lead to device critiques – exercises in deconstructing the political and epistemological consequences of algorithms. They may lead to critical inquiries into debates about the value and reputation of information."
"MIT technology specialist Nicholas Negroponte prophecies the emergence of 'the Daily Me'––a communications package that is personally designed, with each component fully chosen in advance . Many of us are applauding these developments, which obviously increase individual convenience and entertainment. But in the midst of the applause, we should insist on asking some questions. How will the increasing power of private control affect democracy? How will the Internet, the new forms of television, and the explosion of communications options alter the capacity of citizens to govern themselves? What are the social preconditions for a well–functioning system of democratic deliberation, or for individual freedom itself? ...
A large part of my aim is to explore what makes for a well–functioning system of free expression. Above all, I urge that in a diverse society, such a system requires far more than restraints on government censorship and respect for individual choices. For the last decades, this has been the preoccupation of American law and politics, and indeed the law and politics of many other nations as well, including, for example, Germany, France, England, and Israel. Censorship is indeed a threat to democracy and freedom. But an exclusive focus on government censorship produces serious blind spots. In particular, a well–functioning system of free expression must meet two distinctive requirements.
First, people should be exposed to materials that they would not have chosen in advance. Unplanned, unanticipated encounters are central to democracy itself. Such encounters often involve topics and points of view that people have not sought out and perhaps find quite irritating. They are important partly to ensure against fragmentation and extremism, which are predictable outcomes of any situation in which like–minded people speak only with themselves. I do not suggest that government should force people to see things that they wish to avoid. But I do contend that in a democracy deserving the name, people often come across views and topics that they have not specifically selected.
Second, many or most citizens should have a range of common experiences. Without shared experiences, a heterogeneous society will have a much more difficult time in addressing social problems. People may even find it hard to understand one another. Common experiences, emphatically including the common experiences made possible by the media, provide a form of social glue. A system of communications that radically diminishes the number of such experiences will create a number of problems, not least because of the increase in social fragmentation.
As preconditions for a well–functioning democracy, these requirements hold in any large nation. They are especially important in a heterogeneous nation, one that faces an occasional risk of fragmentation. They have all the more importance as each nation becomes increasingly global and each citizen becomes, to a greater or lesser degree, a 'citizen of the world."
(Cass Sunstein, 2002)
Sunstein, C. (2002). "The Daily Me". Republic.com, Princeton University Press.
Fig.1 San Liu (2004) 'Narcissism' webshots.com.