SUNCAT updated

SUNCAT has been updated. Updates from the following libraries were loaded into the service over the last week. The dates displayed indicate when files were received by SUNCAT.

  • Aberdeen University (03 Oct 16)
  • British Library (20 Oct 16)
  • Cambridge University (11 Oct 16)
  • CONSER (Not UK Holdings) (19 Oct 16)
  • Cranfield University (20 Oct 16)
  • De Montfort University (20 Oct 16)
  • Directory of Open Access Journals (19 Oct 16)
  • Exeter University (07 Oct 16)
  • Manchester Central Library (11 Oct 16)
  • Religious Society of Friends (06 Oct 16)
  • Royal Asiatic Society (07 Oct 16)
  • Royal College of Music (16 Oct 16)
  • Royal Society of Medicine (10 Oct 16)
  • Senate House Libraries, University of London (04 Oct 16)
  • Trinity College Dublin (07 Oct 16)

To check on the currency of other libraries on SUNCAT please check the updates page for further details.

SUNCAT updated

SUNCAT has been updated. Updates from the following libraries were loaded into the service over the last week. The dates displayed indicate when files were received by SUNCAT.

  • British Museum (07 Oct 16)
  • CONSER (Not UK Holdings) (12 Oct 16)
  • Courtauld Institute of Art (06 Oct 16)
  • Edinburgh Napier University (01 Oct 16)
  • Imperial College London (01 Oct 16)
  • King’s College London (02 Oct 16)
  • Leeds University (07 Oct 16)
  • Nottingham University (04 Oct 16)
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To check on the currency of other libraries on SUNCAT please check the updates page for further details.

Helping you deliver the national curriculum for geography – aerial photography

The top improvement requested for Digimap for Schools was the addition of Aerial photography so we were delighted to make this available earlier this term. Why do schools need this?

  • Key Stage 1 and 2 require pupils to interpret a range of sources of geographical information, including aerial photographs
  • Key Stage 1 specifically requires schools to ‘use aerial photographs and plan perspectives to recognise landmarks and basic human and physical features’

In Digimap for Schools you can use the transparency slider to view the aerial imagery and the present day map together, helping to introduce pupils to the concept of maps and how they differ from photographs.

We have some step by step teaching resources that feature aerial photography:

All sorts of exciting things can be found in the photographs. If you spot anything unusual that you think pupils will particularly enjoy please do tweet it to us at @Digimap4Schools and we will compile a list of the best for a future blog post?



Concorde 216 – the last one to be built will move indoors into a new museum at Filton in 2017

SUNCAT updated

SUNCAT has been updated. Updates from the following libraries were loaded into the service over the last week. The dates displayed indicate when files were received by SUNCAT.

  • Aberystwyth University (01 Oct 16)
  • Bristol University (01 Oct 16)
  • British Library (06 Oct 16)
  • Brunel University London (01 Oct 16)
  • CONSER (Not UK Holdings)  (05 Oct 16)
  • Dundee University (14 Sep 16)
  • Kent University (01 Oct 16)
  • Kingston University (01 Oct 16)
  • London Metropolitan University (26 Sep 16)
  • London School of Economics and Political Science (01 Sep 16)
  • Manchester University (01 Oct 16)
  • National Archives (01 Sep 16)
  • Natural History Museum (01 Oct 16)
  • Open University (01 Oct 16)
  • Queen’s University, Belfast (03 Oct 16)
  • Sheffield University (01 Oct 16)
  • Sussex University (01 Sep 16)
  • Swansea University (01 Oct 16)

To check on the currency of other libraries on SUNCAT please check the updates page for further details.

Association of Internet Researchers AoIR2016: Day 4

Today is the last day of the Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2016 – with a couple fewer sessions but I’ll be blogging throughout.

As usual this is a liveblog so corrections, additions, etc. are welcomed. 

PS-24: Rulemaking (Chair: Sandra Braman)

The DMCA Rulemaking and Digital Legal Vernaculars – Olivia G Conti, University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States of America

Apologies, I’ve joined this session late so you miss the first few minutes of what seems to have been an excellent presentation from Olivia. 

Property and ownership claims made of distinctly American values… Grounded in general ideals, evocations of the Bill of Rights. Or asking what Ben Franklin would say… Bringing the ideas of the DCMA as being contrary to the very foundations of the United Statements. Another them was the idea of once you buy something you should be able to edit as you like. Indeed a theme here is the idea of “tinkering and a liberatory endeavour”. And you see people claiming that it is a basic human right to make changes and tinker, to tweak your tractor (or whatever). Commentators are not trying to appeal to the nation state, they are trying to perform the state to make rights claims to enact the rights of the citizen in a digital world.

So, John Deere made a statement that tractro buyers have an “implied license” to their tractor, they don’t own it out right. And that raised controversies as well.

So, the final register rule was that the farmers won: they could repair their own tractors.

But the vernacular legal formations allow us to see the tensions that arise between citizens and the rights holders. And that also raises interesting issues of citizenship – and of citizenship of the state versus citizenship of the digital world.

The Case of the Missing Fair Use: A Multilingual History & Analysis of Twitter’s Policy Documentation – Amy Johnson, MIT, United States of America

This paper looks at the multilingual history and analysis of Twitter’s policy documentation. Or policies as uneven scalar tools of power alignment. And this comes from the idea of thinking of the Twitter as more than just the whole complete overarching platform. There is much research now on moderation, but understanding this type of policy allows you to understand some of the distributed nature of the platforms. Platforms draw lines when they decide which laws to tranform into policies, and then again when they think about which policies to translate.

If you look across at a list of Twitter policies, there is an English language version. Of this list it is only the Fair Use policy and the Twitter API limits that appear only in English. The API policy makes some sense, but the Fair Use policy does not. And Fair Use only appears really late – in 2014. It sets up in 2005, and many other policies come in in 2013… So what is going on?

So, here is the Twitter Fair Use Policy… Now, before I continue here, I want to say that this translation (and lack of) for this policy is unusual. Generally all companies – not just tech companies – translate into FIGS: French, Italian, German, Spanish languages. And Twitter does not do this. But this is in contrast to the translations of the platform itself. And I wanted to talk in particularly about translations into Japanese and Arabic. Now the Japanese translation came about through collaboration with a company that gave it opportunities to expand out into Japen. Arabic is not put in place until 2011, and around the Arab Spring. And the translation isn’t doen by Twitter itself but by another organisaton set up to do this. So you can see that there are other actors here playing into translations of platform and policies. So this iconic platforms are shaped in some unexpected ways.

So… I am not a lawyer but… Fair Use is a phenomenon that creates all sorts of internet lawyering. And typically there are four factors of fair use (Section 107 of US Copyright Act of 1976): purpose and character of use; nature of copyright work; amount and substantiality of portion used; effect of use on potential market for or value of copyright work. And this is very much an american law, from a legal-economic point of view. And the US is the only country that has Fair Use law.

Now there is a concept of “Fair Dealing” – mentioned in passing in Fair Use – which shares some characters. There are other countries with Fair Use law: Poland, Israel, South Korea… Well they point to the English language version. What about Japanese which has a rich reuse community on Twitter? It also points to the English policy.

So, policy are not equal in their policynesss. But why does this matter? Because this is where rule of law starts to break down… And we cannot assume that the same policies apply universally, that can’t be assumed.

But what about parody? Why bring this up? Well parody is tied up with the idea of Fair Use and creative transformation. Comedy is protected Fair Use category. And Twitter has a rich seam of parody. And indeed, if you Google for the fair use policy, the “People also ask” section has as the first question: “What is a parody account”.

Whilst Fair Use wasn’t there as a policy until 2014, parody unofficially had a policy in 2009, an official one in 2010, updates, another version in 2013 for the IPO. Biz Stone writes about, when at Google, lawyers saying about fake accounts “just say it is parody!” and the importance of parody. And indeed the parody policy has been translated much more widely than the Fair Use policy.

So, policies select bodies of law and align platforms to these bodies of law, in varying degree and depending on specific legitimation practices. Fair Use is strongly associated with US law, and embedding that in the translated policies aligns Twitter more to US law than they want to be. But parody has roots in free speech, and that is something that Twitter wishes to align itself with.

Visual Arts in Digital and Online Environments: Changing Copyright and Fair Use Practice among Institutions and Individuals Abstract – Patricia Aufderheide, Aram Sinnreich, American University, United States of America

Patricia: Aram and I have been working with the College Art Association and it brings together a wide range of professionals and practitioners in art across colleges in the US. They had a new code of conduct and we wanted to speak to them, a few months after that code of conduct was released, to see if that had changed practice and understanding. This is a group that use copyrighted work very widely. And indeed one-third of respondents avoid, abandon, or are delayed because of copyrighted work.

Aram: four-fifths of CAA members use copyrighted materials in their work, but only one fifth employ fair use to do that – most or always seek permission. And of those that use fair use there are some that always or usually use Fair Use. So there are real differences here. So, Fair Use are valued if you know about it and undestand it… but a quarter of this group aren’t sure if Fair Use is useful or not. Now there is that code of conduct. There is also some use of Creative Commons and open licenses.

Of those that use copyright materials… But 47% never use open licenses for their own work – there is a real reciprocity gap. Only 26% never use others openly licensed work. and only 10% never use others’ public domain work. Respondents value creative copying… 19 out of 20 CAA members think that creative appropriation can be “original”, and despite this group seeking permissions they also don’t feel that creative appropriation shouldn’t neccassarily require permission. This really points to an education gap within the community.

And 43% said that uncertainty about the law limits creativity. They think they would appropriate works more, they would public more, they would share work online… These mirror fair use usage!

Patricia: We surveyed this group twice in 2013 and in 2016. Much stays the same but there have been changes… In 2016, 2/3rd have heard about the code, and a third have shared that information – with peers, in teaching, with colleagues. Their associations with the concept of Fair Use are very positive.

Arem: The good news is that the code use does lead to change, even within 10 months of launch. This work was done to try and show how much impact a code of conduct has on understanding… And really there was a dramatic differences here. From the 2016 data, those who are not aware of the code, look a lot like those who are aware but have not used the code. But those who use the code, there is a real difference… And more are using fair use.

Patricia: There is one thing we did outside of the survey… There have been dramatic changes in the field. A number of universities have changed journal policies to be default Fair Use – Yale, Duke, etc. There has been a lot of change in the field. Several museums have internally changed how they create and use their materials. So, we have learned that education matters – behaviour changes with knowledge confidence. Peer support matters and validates new knowledge. Institutional action, well publicized, matters .The newest are most likely to change quickly, but the most veteran are in the best position – it is important to have those influencers on board… And teachers need to bring this into their teaching practice.

Panel Q&A

Q1) How many are artists versus other roles?

A1 – Patricia) About 15% are artists, and they tend to be more positive towards fair use.

Q2) I was curious about changes that took place…

A2 – Arem) We couldn’t ask whether the code made you change your practice… But we could ask whether they had used fair use before and after…

Q3) You’ve made this code for the US CAA, have you shared that more widely…

A3 – Patricia) Many of the CAA members work internationally, but the effectiveness of this code in the US context is that it is about interpreting US Fair Use law – it is not a legal document but it has been reviewed by lawyers. But copyright is territorial which makes this less useful internationally as a document. If copyright was more straightforward, that would be great. There are rights of quotation elsewhere, there is fair dealing… And Canadian law looks more like Fair Use. But the US is very litigious so if something passes Fair Use checking, that’s pretty good elsewhere… But otherwise it is all quite territorial.

A3 – Arem) You can see in data we hold that international practitioners have quite different attitudes to American CAA members.

Q4) You talked about the code, and changes in practice. When I talk to filmmakers and documentary makers in Germany they were aware of Fair Use rights but didn’t use them as they are dependent on TV companies buy them and want every part of rights cleared… They don’t want to hurt relationships.

A4 – Patricia) We always do studies before changes and it is always about reputation and relationship concerns… Fair Use only applies if you can obtain the materials independently… But then the question may be that will rights holders be pissed off next time you need to licence content. What everyone told me was that we can do this but it won’t make any difference…

Chair) I understand that, but that question is about use later on, and demonstration of rights clearance.

A4 – Patricia) This is where change in US errors and omissions insurance makes a difference – that protects them. The film and television makers code of conduct helped insurers engage and feel confident to provide that new type of insurance clause.

Q5) With US platforms, as someone in Norway, it can be hard to understand what you can and cannot access and use on, for instance, in YouTube. Also will algorithmic filtering processes of platforms take into account that they deal with content in different territories?

A5 – Arem) I have spoken to Google Council about that issue of filtering by law – there is no difference there… But monitoring

A5 – Amy) I have written about legal fictions before… They are useful for thinking about what a “reasonable person” – and that can be vulnerable by jury and location so writing that into policies helps to shape that.

A5 – Patricia) The jurisdiction is where you create, not where the work is from…

Q6) There is an indecency case in France which they want to try in French court, but Facebook wants it tried in US court. What might the impact on copyright be?

A6 – Arem) A great question but this type of jurisdictional law has been discussed for over 10 years without any clear conclusion.

A6 – Patricia) This is a European issue too – Germany has good exceptions and limitations, France has horrible exceptions and limitations. There is a real challenge for pan European law.

Q7) Did you look at all of impact on advocacy groups who encouraged writing in/completion of replies on DCMA. And was there any big difference between the farmers and car owners?

A7) There was a lot of discussion on the digital right to repair site, and that probably did have an impact. I did work on Net Neutrality before. But in any of those cases I take out boiler plate, and see what they add directly – but there is a whole other paper to be done on boiler plate texts and how they shape responses and terms of additional comments. It wasn’t that easy to distinguish between farmers and car owners, but it was interesting how individuals established credibility. For farmers they talked abot the value of fixing their own equipment, of being independent, of history of ownership. Car mechanics, by contrast, establish technical expertise.

Q8) As a follow up: farmers will have had a long debate over genetically modified seeds – and the right to tinker in different ways…

A8) I didn’t see that reflected in the comments, but there may well be a bigger issue around micromanagement of practices.

Q9) Olivia, I was wondering if you were considering not only the rhetorical arguements of users, what about the way the techniques and tactics they used are received on the other side… What are the effective tactics there, or locate the limits of the effectiveness of the layperson vernacular stategies?

A9) My goal was to see what frames of arguements looked most effective. I think in the case of the John Deere DCMA case that wasn’t that conclusive. It can be really hard to separate the NGO from the individual – especially when NGOs submit huge collections of individual responses. I did a case study on non-consensual pornography was more conclusive in terms of strategies that was effective. The discourses I look at don’t look like legal discourse but I look at the tone and content people use. So, on revenge porn, the law doesn’t really reflect user practice for instance.

Q10) For Amy, I was wondering… Is the problem that Fair Use isn’t translated… Or the law behind that?

A10 – Amy) I think Twitter in particular have found themselves in a weird middle space… Then the exceptions wouldn’t come up. But having it in English is the odd piece. That policy seems to speak specifically to Americans… But you could argue they are trying to impose (maybe that’s a bit too strong) on all English speaking territory. On YouTube all of the policies are translated into the same languages, including Fair Use.

Q11) I’m fascinated in vernacular understanding and then the experts who are in the round tables, who specialise in these areas. How do you see vernacular discourse use in more closed/smaller settings?

A11 – Olivia) I haven’t been able to take this up as so many of those spaces are opaque. But in the 2012 rule making there were some direct quotes from remixers. And there a suggestion around DVD use that people should videotape the TV screen… and that seemed unreasonably onorous…

Chair) Do you forsee a next stage where you get to be in those rooms and do more on that?

A11 – Olivia) I’d love to do some ethnographic studies, to get more involved.

A11 – Patricia) I was in Washington for the DMCA hearings and those are some of the most fun things I go to. I know that the documentary filmmakers have complained about cost of participating… But a technician from the industry gave 30 minutes of evidence on the 40 technical steps to handle analogue film pieces of information… And to show that it’s not actually broadcast quality. It made them gasp. It was devastating and very visual information, and they cited it in their ruling… And similarly in John Deere case the car technicians made impact. By contrast a teacher came in to explain why copying material was important for teaching, but she didn’t have either people or evidence of what the difference is in the classroom.

Q12) I have an interesting case if anyone wants to look at it, around Wikipedia’s Fair Use issues around multimedia. Volunteers take pre-emptively being stricter as they don’t want lawyers to come in on that… And the Wikipedia policies there. There is also automation through bots to delete content without clear Fair Use exception.

A12 – Arem) I’ve seen Fair Use misappropriated on Wikipedia… Copyright images used at low resolution and claimed as Fair Use…

A12- Patricia) Wikimania has all these people who don’t want to deal with law on copyright at all! Wikimedia lawyers are in an a really difficult position.


Nicola Osborne 2016-10-07 09:32:33

PS-15: Divides (Chair: Christoph Lutz)

The Empowered Refugee: The Smartphone as a Tool of Resistance on the Journey to Europe

Katja Kaufmann

For those of you from other continents we had a great deal of refugees coming to Europe last year, from Turkey, Syria, etc. who were travelling to Germany, Sweden, and Vienna – where I am from – was also a hub. Some of these refugees had smartphones and that was covered in the (right wing) press about this, criticising this group’s ownership of devices but it was not clear how many had smartphones, how they were being used and that’s what I wanted to look at.

So we undertook interviews with refugees to see if they used them, how they used them. We were researching empowerment by mobile phones, following Svensson and Wamala Larsson (2015) on the role of the mobile phone in transforming capacilities of users. Also with reference to N. Kabeer (1999), A. Sen (1999) etc. on meanings of empowerment in these contexts. Smith, Spend and Rashid (2011) describe mobiles and their networs altering users capability sets, and about phone increasing access to flows of information (Castell 2012).

So, I wanted to identify how smartphones were empowering refugees through: gaining an advantage in knowledge by the experiences of other refugees; sensory information; cross-checking information; and capabilities to opposse actions of others.

In terms of an advantage in knowledge refugees described gaining knowledge from previous refugees on reports, routes, maps, administrative processes, warnings, etc. This was through social networks and Facebook groups in particular. So, a male refugee (age 22) described which people smugglers cannot be trusted, and which can. And another (same age) felt that smart phones were essential to being able to get to Europe – because you find information, plan, check, etc.

So, there was retrospective knowledge here, but also engagement with others during their refugee experience and with those ahead on their journey. This was mainly in WhatsApp. So a male refugee (aged 24) described being in Macedonia and speaking to refugees in Serbia, finding out the situation. This was particularly important last year when approaches were changes, border access changed on an hour by hour basis.

In terms of Applying Sensory Abilities, this was particularly manifested in identifying own GPS position – whilst crossing the Aegean or woods. Finding the road with their GPS, or identifying routes and maps. They also used GPS to find other refugees – friends, family members… Using location based services was also very important as they could share data elsewhere – sending GPS location to family members in Sweden for instance.

In terms of Cross-checking information and actions, refugees were able to track routes whilst in the hand of smugglers. A male Syrian refugee (aged 30) checked information every day whilst with people smugglers, to make sure that they were being taken in the right direction – he wanted to head west. But it wasn’t just routes, it was also weather condiions, also rumous, and cross-checking weather conditions before entering a boat. A female Syrian refugee downloaded an app to check conditions and ensure her smuggler was honest and her trip would be safer.

In terms of opposing actions of others, this was about being capable of opposing actions of others – orders of authorities, potential acts of (police) violence, risks, fraud attempts, etc. Also disobedience by knowledge – the Greek government gave orders about the borders, but smartphones allowed annotated map sharing that allowed orders to be disobeyed. And access to timely information – exchange rates for example – a refugee described negotiating price of changing money down by Google searching for this. And opposition was also about a means to apply pressure – threatening with or publishing photos. A male refugee (aged 25) described holding up phones to threaten to document policy violence, and that was impactful. Also some refugees took pictures of people smugglers as a form of personal protection and information exchange, particularly with publication of images as a threat held in case of mistreatment.

So, in summary the smartphones


Q1) Did you have any examples of privacy concerns in your interviews, or was this a concern for later perhaps?

A1) Some mentioned this, some felt some apps and spaces are more scrutinised than others. There was concern that others may have been identified through Facebook – a feeling rather than proof. One said that they do not send their parents any pictures in case she was mistaken by Syrian government as a fighter. But mostly privacy wasn’t an immediate concern, access to information was – and it was very succesful.

Q2) I saw two women in the data here, were there gender differences?

A2) We tried to get more women but there were difficulties there. On the journey they were using smartphones in similar ways – but I did talk to them and they described differences in use before their journey and talked about picture taking and sharing, the hijab effect, etc.

Social media, participation, peer pressure, and the European refugee crisis: a force awakens? – Nils Gustafsson, Lund university, Sweden

My paper is about receiving/host nations. Sweden took in 160,000 refugees during the crisis in 2015. I wanted to look at this as it was a strange time to live in. A lot of people started coming in late summer and early autumn… Numbers were rising. At first response was quite enthusiastic and welcoming in host populations in Germany, Austria, Sweden. But as it became more difficult to cope with larger groups of people, there were changes and organising to address challenge.

And the organisation will remind you of Alexander (??) on the “logic of collective action” – where groups organise around shared ideas that can be joined, ideas, almost a brand, e.g. “refugees welcome”. And there were strange collaborations between government, NGOs, and then these ad hoc networks. But there was also a boom and bust aspect here… In Sweden there were statements about opening hearts, of not shutting borders… But people kept coming through autumn and winter… By December Denmark, Sweden, etc. did a 180 degree turn, closing borders. There were border controls between Denmark and Sweden for the first time in 60 years. And that shift had popular support. And I was intrigued about this. And this work is all part of a longer 3 year project on young people in Sweden and their political engagement – how they choose to engage, how they respond to each other. We draw on Bennett & Segerberg (2013), social participation, social psychology, and the notion of “latent participation” – where people are waiting to engage so just need asking to mobilise.

So, this is work in progress and I don’t know where it will go… But I’ll share what I have so far. And I tried to focus on recruitment – I am interested in when young people are recruited into action by their peers. I am interested in peer pressure here – friends encouraging behaviours, particularly important given that we develop values as young people that have lasting impacts. But also information sharing through young people’s networks…

So, as part of the larger project, we have a survey, so we added some specific questions about the refugee crisis to that. So we asked, “you remember the refugee crisis, did you discuss it with your friends?” – 93.5% had, and this was not surprising as it is a major issue. When we asked if they had discussed it on social media it was around 33.3% – much lower perhaps due to controversy of subject matter, but this number was also similar to those in the 16-25 year old age group.

We also asked whether they did “work” around the refugee crisis – volunteering or work for NGOs, traditional organisations. Around 13.8% had. We also asked about work with non-traditional organisations and 26% said that they had (and in 16-25% age group, it was 29.6%), which seems high – but we have nothing to compare this too.

Colleagues and I looked at Facebook refugee groups in Sweden – those that were open – and I looked at and scraped these (n=67) and I coded these as being either set up as groups by NGOs, churches, mosques, traditional organisations, or whether they were networks… Looking across autumn and winter of 2015 the posts to these groups looked consistent across traditional groups, but there was a major spike from the networks around the crisis.

We have also been conducting interviews in Malmo, with 16-19 and 19-25 year olds. They commented on media coverage, and the degree to which the media influences them, even with social media. Many commented on volunteering at the central station, receiving refugees. Some felt it was inspiring to share stories, but others talked about their peers doing it as part of peer pressure, and critical commenting about “bragging” in Facebook posts. Then as the mood changed, the young people talked about going to the central station being less inviting, on fewer Facebook posts… about feeling that “maybe it’s ok then”. One of our participants was from a refugee background and ;;;***


Q1) I think you should focus on where interest drops off – there is a real lack of research there. But on the discussion question, I wasn’t surprised that only 30% discussed the crisis there really.

A1) I wasn’t too surprised

Q2) I am from Finland, and we also helped in the crisis, but I am intrigued at the degree of public turnaround as it hasn’t shifted like that in Finland.

A2) Yeah, I don’t know… The middleground changed. Maybe something Swedish about it… But also perhaps to do with the numbers…

Q2) I wonder… There was already a strong anti-immigrant movement from 2008, I wonder if it didn’t shift in the same way.

A2) Yes, I think that probably is fair, but I think how the Finnish media treated the crisis would also have played a role here too.

An interrupted history of digital divides – Bianca Christin Reisdorf, Whisnu Triwibowo, Michael Nelson, William Dutton, Michigan State University, United States of America

I am going to switch gears a bit with some more theoretical work. We have been researching internet use and how it changes over time – from a period where there was very little knowledge of or use of the internet to the present day. And I’ll give some background than talk about survey data – but that is an issue of itself… I’ll be talking about quantitative survey data as it’s hard to find systematic collection of qualitative research instruments that I could use in my work.

So we have been asking about internet use for over 20 years… And right now I have data from Michigan, the UK, and the US… I have also just received further data from South Africa (this week!).

When we think about Digital Inequality the idea of the digital divide emerged in the late 1990s – there was government interest, data collection, academic work. This was largely about the haves vs. have-nots; on vs. off. And we saw a move to digital inequalities (Hargittai) in the early 2000s… Then it went quite aside from work from Neil Selwyn in the UK, from Helsper and Livingstone… But the discussion has moved onto skills…

Policy wise we have also seen a shift… Lots of policies around digital divide up to around 2002, then a real pause as there was an assumption that problems would be solved. Then, in the US at least, Obama refocused on that divide from 2009.

So, I have been looking at data from questionnaires from Michigan State of the State Survey (1997-2016); questionnaires from digital future survey in the US (2000, 2002, 2003, 2014); questionnaires from the Oxford Internet Surveys in the UK (2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2013); Hungarian World Internet Project (2009); South African World Internet Project (2012).

Across these data sets we have looked at questionnaires and frequency of use of particular questions here on use, on lack of use, etc. When internet penetration was less high there was a lot of explanation in questions, but we have shifted away from that, so that we assume that people understand that… And we’ve never returned to that. We’ve shifted to devices questions, but we don’t ask other than that. We asked about number of hours online… But that increasingly made less sense, we do that less as it is essentially “all day” – shifting to how frequently they go online though.

Now the State of the State Survey in Michigan is different from the other data here – all the others are World Internet Project surveys but SOSS is not looking at the same areas as not interent researchers neccassarily. In Hungary (2009 data) similar patterns of question use emerged, but particular focus on mobile use. But the South African questionnaire was very different – they ask how many people in the household is using the internet – we ask about the individual but not others in the house, or others coming to the house. South Africa has around 40% penetration of internet connection (at least in 2012 when we have data here), that is a very different context. There they ask for lack of access and use, and the reasons for that. We ask about use/non-use rather than reasons.

So there is this gap in the literature, there is a need for quantitative and qualitative methods here. We also need to understand that we need to consider other factors here, particularly technology itself being a moving target – in South Africa they ask about internet use and also Facebook – people don’t always identify Facebook as internet use. Indeed so many devices are connected – maybe we need


Q1) I have a question about the questionnaires – do any ask about costs? I was in Peru and lack of connections, but phones often offer free WhatsApp and free Pokemon Go.

A1) Only the South African one asks that… It’s a great question though…

Q2) You can get Pew questionnaires and also Ofcom questionnaires from their website. And you can contact the World Internet Project directly… And there is an issue with people not knowing if they are on the internet or not – increasingly you ask a battery of questions… and then filtering on that – e.g. if you use email you get counted as an internet user.

A2) I have done that… Trying to locate those questionnaires isn’t always proving that straightforward.

Q3) In terms of instruments – maybe there is a need to developmore nuanced questionnaires there.

A3) Yes.

Levelling the socio-economic playing field with the Internet? A case study in how (not) to help disadvantaged young people thrive online – Huw Crighton Davies, Rebecca Eynon, Sarah Wilkin, Oxford Internet Institute, United Kingdom

This is about a scheme called the “Home Access Scheme” and I’m going to talk about why we could not make it work. The origins here was a city council’s initiative – they came to us. DCLG (2016) data showed 20-30% of the population were below the poverty line, and we new around 7-8% locally had no internet access (known through survey responses). And the players here were researchers, local government, schools, and also an (unnamed) ISP.

The aim of the scheme was to raise attainment in GCSEs, to build confidence, and to improve employability skills. The Schools had a responsibility to identify students in need at school, to procure laptops, memory sticks and software, provide regular, structured in-school pastoral skills and opportunities – not just in computing class. The ISP was to provide set up help, technical support, free internet connections for 2 years.

This scheme has been running two years, so where are we? Well we’ve had successes: preventing arguments and conflict; helped with schoolwork, job hunting; saved money; and improved access to essential services – this is partly as cost cutting by local authorities have moved transactions online like bidding for council housing, repeat prescription etc. There was also some intergenerational bonding as families shared interests. Families commented on the success and opportunities.

We did 25 interiews, 84 1-1 sessions in schools, 3 group workshops, 17 ethnographic visits, plus many more informal meet ups. So we have lots of data about these families, their context, their lives. But…

Only three families had consistent internet access throughout. Only 8 families are still in the programme. It fell apart… Why?

Some schools were so nervous about use that they filtered and locked down their laptops. One school used the scheme money to buy teacher laptops, gave students old laptops instead. Technical support was low priority. Lead teachers left/delegated/didn’t answer emails. Very narrow use of digital technology. No in-house skills training. Very little cross-curriculum integration. Lack of ICT classes after year 11. And no matter how often we asked about it we got no data from schools.

The ISP didn’t set up collections, didn’t support the families, didn’t do what they had agreed to. They tried to bill families and one was threatened with debt collectors!

So, how did this happen? Well maybe these are neoliberalist currents? I use that term cautiously but… We can offer an emergent definition of neoliberalism from this experience.

There is a neoliberalist disfigurement of schools: teachers under intense pressue to meet auditable targets; the scheme’s students subject to a range of targets used to problematise a school’s performance – exclusions, attendance, C grades; the scheme shuffled down priorities; ICT not deemed academic enough under Govian school changes; and learning is stribbed back to narrow range of subjects and focus towards these targets.

There were effects of neoliberalism on the city council: targets and “more for less” culture; scheme disincentivised; erosion of authority of democratic institutional councils – schools beyond authority controls, and high turn over of staff.

There were neoliberalist practices at the ISP: commodifying philanthropy; couldn’t not treat families as customers. And there were dysfunctional mini-markets: they subcontracted delivery and set up; they subcontracted support; they charged for support and charged for internet even if they couldn’t help…


Q1) Is the problem digital divides but divides… Any attempt to overcome class separation and marketisation is working against the attempts to fix this issue here.

A1) We have a paper coming and yes, there were big issues here for policy and a need to be holistic… We found parents unable to attend parents evening due to shift work, and nothing in the school processes to accommodate this. And the measure of poverty for children is “free school meals” but many do not want to apply as it is stigmatising, and many don’t qualify even on very low incomes… That leads to children and parents being labelled disengaged or problematic

Q2) Isn’t the whole basis of this work neoliberal though?]

A2) I agree. We didn’t set the terms of this work..

Panel Q&A

Q1/comment) RSE and access

A1 – Huw) Other companies the same

Q2) Did the refugees in your work Katja have access to Sim cards and internet?

A2 – Katja) It was a challenge. Most downloaded maps and resources… And actually they preferred Apple to Android as the GPS is more accurate without an internet connection – that makes a big difference in the Aegean sea for instance. So refugees shared sim cards, used power banks for the energy.

Q3) I had a sort of reflection on Nils’ paper and where to take this next… It occurs to me that you have quite a few different arguements… You have this survey data, the interviews, and then a different sort of participation from the Facebook groups… I have students in Berlin here looking at the boom and bust – and I wondered about that Facebook group work being worth connecting up to that type of work – it seems quite separate to the youth participation section.

A3 – Nils) I wasn’t planning on talking about that, but yes.

Comment) I think there is a really interesting aspect of these campaigns and how they become part of social media and the everyday life online… The way they are becoming engaged… And the latent participation there…

Q3) I can totally see that, though challenging to cover in one article.

Q4) I think it might be interesting to talk to the people who created the surveys to understand motivations…

A4) Absolutely, that is one of the reasons I am so keen to hear about other surveys.

Q5) You said you were struggling to find qualitative data?

A5 – Katja) You can usually download quantitative instruments, but that is harder for qualitative instruments including questions and interview guides…


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Association of Internet Researchers AoIR 2016: Day Two

Today I am again at the Association of Internet Researchers AoIR 2016 Conference in Berlin. Yesterday we had workshops, today the conference kicks off properly. Follow the tweets at: #aoir2016.

As usual this is a liveblog so all comments and corrections are very much welcomed. 

Platform Studies: The Rules of Engagement (Chair: Jean Burgess, QUT)

How affordances arise through relations between platforms, their different types of users, and what they do to the technology – Taina Bucher (University of Copenhagen) and Anne Helmond (University of Amsterdam)

Taina: Hearts on Twitter: In 2015 Twitter moved from stars to hearts, changing the affordances of the platform. They stated that they wanted to make the platform more accessible to new users, but that impacted on existing users.

Today we are going to talk about conceptualising affordances. In it’s original meaning an affordance is conceived of as a relational property (Gibson). For Norman perceived affordances were more the concern – thinking about how objects can exhibit or constrain particular actions. Affordances are not just the visual clues or possibilities, but can be felt. Gaver talks about these technology affordances. There are also social affordances – talked about my many – mainly about how poor technological affordances have impact on societies. It is mainly about impact of technology and how it can contain and constrain sociality. And finally we have communicative affordances (Hutchby), how technological affordances impact on communities and communications of practices.

So, what about platform changes? If we think about design affordances, we can see that there are different ways to understand this. The official reason for the design was given as about the audience, affording sociality of community and practices.

Affordances continues to play an important role in media and social media research. They tend to be conceptualised as either high-level or low-level affordances, with ontological and epistemological differences:

  • High: affordance in the relation – actions enabled or constrained
  • Low: affordance in the technical features of the user interface – reference to Gibson but they vary in where and when affordances are seen, and what features are supposed to enable or constrain.

Anne: We want to now turn to platform-sensitive approach, expanding the notion of the user –> different types of platform users, end-users, developers, researchers and advertisers – there is a real diversity of users and user needs and experiences here (see Gillespie on platforms. So, in the case of Twitter there are many users and many agendas – and multiple interfaces. Platforms are dynamic environments – and that differentiates social media platforms from Gibson’s environmental platforms. Computational systems driving media platforms are different, social media platforms adjust interfaces to their users through personalisation, A/B testing, algorithmically organised (e.g. Twitter recommending people to follow based on interests and actions).

In order to take a relational view of affordances, and do that justice, we also need to understand what users afford to the platforms – as they contribute, create content, provide data that enables to use and development and income (through advertisers) for the platform. Returning to Twitter… The platform affords different things for different people

Taking medium-specificity of platforms into account we can revisit earlier conceptions of affordance and critically analyse how they may be employed or translated to platform environments. Platform users are diverse and multiple, and relationships are multidirectional, with users contributing back to the platform. And those different users have different agendas around affordances – and in our Twitter case study, for instance, that includes developers and advertisers, users who are interested in affordances to measure user engagement.

How the social media APIs that scholars so often use for research are—for commercial reasons—skewed positively toward ‘connection’ and thus make it difficult to understand practices of ‘disconnection’ – Nicolas John (Hebrew University of Israel) and Asaf Nissenbaum (Hebrew University of Israel)

Consider this… On Facebook…If you add someone as a friend they are notified. If you unfriend them, they do not. If you post something you see it in your feed, if you delete it it is not broadcast. They have a page called World of Friends – they don’t have one called World of Enemies. And Facebook does not take kindly to app creators who seek to surface unfriending and removal of content. And Facebook is, like other social media platforms, therefore significantly biased towards positive friending and sharing actions. And that has implications for norms and for our research in these spaces.

One of our key questions here is what can’t we know about

Agnotology is defined as the study of ignorance. Robert Proctor talks about this in three terms: native state – childhood for instance; strategic ploy – e.g. the tobacco industry on health for years; lost realm – the knowledge that we cease to hold, that we loose.

I won’t go into detail on critiques of APIs for social science research, but as an overview the main critiques are:

  1. APIs are restrictive – they can cost money, we are limited to a percentage of the whole – Burgess and Bruns 2015; Bucher 2013; Bruns 2013; Driscoll and Walker
  2. APIs are opaque
  3. APIs can change with little notice (and do)
  4. Omitted data – Baym 2013 – now our point is that these platforms collect this data but do not share it.
  5. Bias to present – boyd and Crawford 2012

Asaf: Our methodology was to look at some of the most popular social media spaces and their APIs. We were were looking at connectivity in these spaces – liking, sharing, etc. And we also looked for the opposite traits – unliking, deletion, etc. We found that social media had very little data, if any, on “negative” traits – and we’ll look at this across three areas: other people and their content; me and my content; commercial users and their crowds.

Other people and their content – APIs tend to supply basic connectivity – friends/following, grouping, likes. Almost no historical content – except Facebook which shares when a user has liked a page. Current state only – disconnections are not accounted for. There is a reason to not know this data – privacy concerns perhaps – but that doesn’t explain my not being able to find this sort of information about my own profile.

Me and my content – negative traits and actions are hidden even from ourselves. Success is measured – likes and sharin, of you or by you. Decline is not – disconnections are lost connections… except on Twitter where you can see analytics of followers – but no names there, and not in the API. So we are losing who we once were but are not anymore. Social network sites do not see fit to share information over time… Lacking disconnection data is an idealogical and commercial issue.

Commercial users and their crowds – these users can see much more of their histories, and the negative actions online. They have a different regime of access in many cases, with the ups and downs revealed – though you may need to pay for access. Negative feedback receives special attention. Facebook offers the most detailed information on usage – including blocking and unliking information. Customers know more than users, or Pages vs. Groups.

Nicholas: So, implications. From what Asaf has shared shows the risk for API-based research… Where researchers’ work may be shaped by the affordances of the API being used. Any attempt to capture negative actions – unlikes, choices to leave or unfriend. If we can’t use APIs to measure social media phenomena, we have to use other means. So, unfriending is understood through surveys – time consuming and problematic. And that can put you off exploring these spaces – it limits research. The advertiser-friends user experience distorts the space – it’s like the stock market only reporting the rises except for a few super wealthy users who get the full picture.

A biography of Twitter (a story told through the intertwined stories of its key features and the social norms that give them meaning, drawing on archival material and oral history interviews with users) – Jean Burgess (Queensland University of Technology) and Nancy Baym (Microsoft Research)

I want to start by talking about what I mean by platforms, and what I mean by biographies. Here platforms are these social media platforms that afford particular possibilities, they enable and shape society – we heard about the platformisation of society last night – but their governance, affordances, are shaped by their own economic existance. They are shaping and mediating socio-cultural experience and we need to better to understand the values and socio-cultural concerns of the platforms. By platform studies we mean treating social media platforms as spaces to study in their own rights: as institutions, as mediating forces in the environment.

So, why “biography” here? First we argue that whilst biographical forms tend to be reserved for individuals (occasionally companies and race horses), they are about putting the subject in context of relationships, place in time, and that the context shapes the subject. Biographies are always partial though – based on unreliable interviews and information, they quickly go out of date, and just as we cannot get inside the heads of those who are subjects of biographies, we cannot get inside many of the companies at the heart of social media platforms. But (after Richard Rogers) understanding changes helps us to understand the platform.

So, in our forthcoming book, Twitter: A Biography (NYU 2017), we will look at competing and converging desires around e.g the @, RT, #. Twitter’s key feature set are key characters in it’s biography. Each has been a rich site of competing cultures and norms. We drew extensively on the Internet Archives, bloggers, and interviews with a range of users of the platform.

Nancy: When we interviewed people we downloaded their archive with them and talked through their behaviour and how it had changed – and many of those features and changes emerged from that. What came out strongly is that noone knows what Twitter is for – not just amongst users but also amongst the creators – you see that today with Jack Dorsey and Anne Richards. The heart of this issue is about whether Twitter is about sociality and fun, or is it a very important site for sharing important news and events. Users try to negotiate why they need this space, what is it for… They start squabling saying “Twitter, you are doing it wrong!”… Changes come with backlash and response, changed decisions from Twitter… But that is also accompanied by the media coverage of Twitter, but also the third party platforms build on Twitter.

So the “@” is at the heart of Twitter for sociality and Twitter for information distribution. It was imported from other spaces – IRC most obviously – as with other features. One of the earliest things Twitter incorporated was the @ and the links back.. You have things like originally you could see everyone’s @ replies and that led to feed clutter – although some liked seeing unexpected messages like this. So, Twitter made a change so you could choose. And then they changed again to automatically not see replies from those you don’t follow. So people worked around that with “.@” – which created conflict between the needs of the users, the ways they make it usable, and the way the platform wants to make the space less confusing to new users.

The “RT” gave credit to people for their words, and preserved integrity of words. At first this wasn’t there and so you had huge variance – the RT, the manually spelled out retweet, the hat tip (HT). Technical changes were made, then you saw the number of retweets emerging as a measure of success and changing cultures and practices.

The “#” is hugely disputed – it emerged through you couldn’t follow them in Twitter at first but they incorporated it to fend off third party tools. They are beloved by techies, and hated by user experience designers. And they are useful but they are also easily coopted by trolls – as we’ve seen on our own hashtag.

Insights into the actual uses to which audience data analytics are put by content creators in the new screen ecology (and the limitations of these analytics) – Stuart Cunningham (QUT) and David Craig (USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism)

The algorithmic culture is well understood as a part of our culture. There are around 150 items on Tarleton Gillespie and Nick Seaver’s recent reading list and the literature is growing rapidly. We want to bring back a bounded sense of agency in the context of online creatives.

What do I mean by “online creatives”? Well we are looking at social media entertainment – a “new screen ecology” (Cunningham and Silver 2013; 2015) shaped by new online creatives who are professionalising and monetising on platforms like YouTube, as opposed to professional spaces, e.g. Netflix. YouTube has more than 1 billion users, with revenue in 2015 estimated at $4 billion per year. And there are a large number of online creatives earning significant incomes from their content in these spaces.

Previously online creatives were bound up with ideas of democratic participative cultures but we want to offer an immanent critique of the limits of data analytics/algorithmic culture in shaping SME from with the industry on both the creator (bottom up) and platform (top down) side. This is an approach to social criticism exposes the way reality conflicts not with some “transcendent” concept of rationality but with its own avowed norms, drawing on Foucault’s work on power and domination.

We undertook a large number of interviews and from that I’m going to throw some quotes at you… There is talk of information overload – of what one might do as an online creative presented with a wealth of data. Creatives talk about the “non-scalable practices” – the importance and time required to engage with fans and subscribers. Creatives talk about at least half of a working week being spent on high touch work like responding to comments, managing trolls, and dealing with challenging responses (especially with creators whose kids are engaged in their content).

We also see cross-platform engagement – and an associated major scaling in workload. There is a volume issue on Facebook, and the use of Twitter to manage that. There is also a sense of unintended consequences – scale has destroyed value. Income might be $1 or $2 for 100,000s or millions of views. There are inherent limits to algorithmic culture… But people enjoy being part of it and reflect a real entrepreneurial culture.

In one or tow sentences, the history of YouTube can be seen as a sort of clash of NoCal and SoCal cultures. Again, no-one knows what it is for. And that conflict has been there for ten years. And you also have the MCNs (Multi-Contact Networks) who are caught like the meat in the sandwich here.

Panel Q&A

Q1) I was wondering about user needs and how that factors in. You all drew upon it to an extent… And the dissatisfaction of users around whether needs are listened to or not was evident in some of the case studies here. I wanted to ask about that.

A1 – Nancy) There are lots of users, and users have different needs. When platforms change and users are angry, others are happy. We have different users with very different needs… Both of those perspectives are user needs, they both call for responses to make their needs possible… The conflict and challenges, how platforms respond to those tensions and how efforts to respond raise new tensions… that’s really at the heart here.

A1 – Jean) In our historical work we’ve also seen that some users voices can really overpower others – there are influential users and they sometimes drown out other voices, and I don’t want to stereotype here but often technical voices drown out those more concerned with relationships and intimacy.

Q2) You talked about platforms and how they developed (and I’m afraid I didn’t catch the rest of this question…)

A2 – David) There are multilateral conflicts about what features to include and exclude… And what is interesting is thinking about what ideas fail… With creators you see economic dependence on platforms and affordances – e.g. versus PGC (Professionally Generated Content).

A2 – Nicholas) I don’t know what user needs are in a broader sense, but everyone wants to know who unfriended them, who deleted them… And a dislike button, or an unlike button… The response was strong but “this post makes me sad” doesn’t answer that and there is no “you bastard for posting that!” button.

Q3) Would it be beneficial to expose unfriending/negative traits?

A3 – Nicholas) I can think of a use case for why unfriending would be useful – for instance wouldn’t it be useful to understand unfriending around the US elections. That data is captured – Facebook know – but we cannot access it to research it.

A3 – Stuart) It might be good for researchers, but is it in the public good? In Europe and with the Right to be Forgotten should we limit further the data availability…

A3 – Nancy) I think the challenge is that mismatch of only sharing good things, not sharing and allowing exploration of negative contact and activity.

A3 – Jean) There are business reasons for positivity versus negativity, but it is also about how the platforms imagine their customers and audiences.

Q4) I was intrigued by the idea of the “Medium specificity of platforms” – what would that be? I’ve been thinking about devices and interfaces and how they are accessed… We have what we think of as a range but actually we are used to using really one or two platforms – e.g. Apple iPhone – in terms of design, icons, etc. and the possibilities of interface is, and what happens when something is made impossible by the interface.

A4 – Anne) When the “medium specificity” we are talking about the platform itself as medium. Moving beyond end user and user experience. We wanted to take into account the role of the user – the platform also has interfaces for developers, for advertisers, etc. and we wanted to think about those multiple interfaces, where they connect, how they connect, etc.

A4 – Taina) It’s a great point about medium specitivity but for me it’s more about platform specifity.

A4 – Jean) The integration of mobile web means the phone iOS has a major role here…

A4 – Nancy) We did some work with couples who brought in their phones, and when one had an Apple and one had an Android phone we actually found that they often weren’t aware of what was possible in the social media apps as the interfaces are so different between the different mobile operating systems and interfaces.

Q5) Can you talk about algorithmic content and content innovation?

A5 – David) In our work with YouTube we see forms of innovation that are very platform specific around things like Vine and Instagram. And we also see counter-industrial forms and practices. So, in the US, we see blogging and first person accounts of lives… beauty, unboxing, etc. But if you map content innovation you see (similarly) this taking the form of gaps in mainstream culture – in India that’s stand up comedy for instance. Algorithms are then looking for qualities and connections based on what else is being accessed – creating a virtual circle…

Q6) Can we think of platforms as instable, about platforms having not quite such a uniform sense of purpose and direction…

A6 – Stuart) Most platforms are very big in terms of their finance… If you compare that to 20 years ago the big companies knew what they were doing! Things are much more volatile…

A6 – Jean) That’s very common in the sector, except maybe on Facebook… Maybe.


Association of Internet Researchers AoIR 2016 РDay 1 РJos̩ van Dijck Keynote

If you’ve been following my blog today you will know that I’m in Berlin for the Association of Internet Researchers AoIR 2016 (#aoir2016) Conference, at Humboldt University. As this first day has mainly been about workshops – and I’ve been in a full day long Digital Methods workshop – we do have our first conference keynote this evening. And as it looks a bit different to my workshop blog, I thought a new post was in order.

As usual, this is a live blog post so corrections, comments, etc. are all welcomed. This session is also being videoed so you will probably want to refer to that once it becomes available as the authoritative record of the session. 

Keynote: The Platform Society – José van Dijck (University of Amsterdam) with Session Chair: Jennifer Stromer-Galley



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Association of Internet Researchers AoIR 2016: Day 1 – Workshops

After a few weeks of leave I’m now back and spending most of this week at the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR) Conference 2016. I’m hugely excited to be here as the programme looks excellent with a really wide range of internet research being presented and discussed. I’ll be liveblogging throughout the week starting with today’s workshops.

I am booked into the Digital Methods in Internet Research: A Sampling Menu workshop, although I may be switching session at lunchtime to attend the Internet rules… for Higher Education workshop this afternoon.

The Digital Methods workshop is being chaired by Patrik Wikstrom (Digital Media Research Centre, Queensland University of Technology, Australia) and the speakers are:

  • Erik Borra (Digital Methods Initiative, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands),
  • Axel Bruns (Digital Media Research Centre, Queensland University of Technology, Australia),
  • Jean Burgess (Digital Media Research Centre, Queensland University of Technology, Australia),
  • Carolin Gerlitz (University of Siegen, Germany),
  • Anne Helmond (Digital Methods Initiative, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands),
  • Ariadna Matamoros Fernandez (Digital Media Research Centre, Queensland University of Technology, Australia),
  • Peta Mitchell (Digital Media Research Centre, Queensland University of Technology, Australia),
  • Richard Rogers (Digital Methods Initiative, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands),
  • Fernando N. van der Vlist (Digital Methods Initiative, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands),
  • Esther Weltevrede (Digital Methods Initiative, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands).

I’ll be taking notes throughout but the session materials are also available here:

Patrik: We are in for a long and exciting day! I won’t introduce all the speakers as we won’t have time!

Conceptual Introduction: Situating Digital Methods (Richard Rogers)

My name is Richard Rogers, I’m professor of new media and digital culture at the University of Amsterdam and I have the pleasure of introducing today’s session. So I’m going to do two things, I’ll be situating digital methods in internet-related research, and then taking you through some digital methods.

I would like to situate digital methods as a third era of internet research… I think all of these eras thrive and overlap but they are differentiated.

  1. Web of Cyberspace (1994-2000): Cyberstudies was an effort to see difference in the internet, the virtual as distinct from the real. I’d situate this largely in the 90’s and the work of Steve Jones and Steve (?).
  2. Web as Virtual Society? (2000-2007) saw virtual as part of the real. Offline as baseline and “virtual methods” with work around the digital economy, the digital divide…
  3. Web as societal data (2007-) is about “virtual as indication of the real. Online as baseline.

Right now we use online data about society and culture to make “grounded” claims.

So, if we look at Thanksgiving recipe searches on a map we get some idea of regional preference, or we look at Google data in more depth, we get this idea of internet data as grounding for understanding culture, society, tastes.

So, we had this turn in around 2008 to “web as data” as a concept. When this idea was first introduced not all were comfortable with the concept. Mike Thelwell et al (2005) talked about the importance of grounding the data from the internet. So, for instance, Google’s flu trends can be compared to Wikipedia traffic etc. And with these trends we also get the idea of “the internet knows first”, with the web predicting other sources of data.

Now I do want to talk about digital methods in the context of digital humanities data and methods. Lev Manovich talks about Cultural Analytics. It is concerned with digitised cultural materials with materials clusterable in a sort of art historical way – by hue, style, etc. And so this is a sort of big data approach that substitutes “continuous change” for periodisation and categorisation for continuation. So, this approach can, for instance, be applied to Instagram (Selfiexploration), looking at mood, aesthetics, etc. And then we have Culturenomics, mainly through the Google Ngram Viewer. A lot of linguists use this to understand subtle differences as part of distance reading of large corpuses.

And I also want to talk about e-social sciences data and method. Here we have Webometrics (Thelwell et al) with links as reputational markers. The other tradition here is Altmetrics (Priem et al), which uses online data to do citation analysis, with social media data.

So, at least initially, the idea behind digital methods was to be in a different space. The study of online digital objects, and also natively online method – methods developed for the medium. And natively digital is meant in a computing sense here. In computing software has a native mode when it is written for a specific processor, so these are methods specifically created for the digital medium. We also have digitized methods, those which have been imported and migrated methods adapted slightly to the online.

Generally speaking there is a sort of protocol for digital methods: Which objects and data are available? (links, tags, timestamps); how do dominant devices handle them? etc.

I will talk about some methods here:

1. Hyperlink

For the hyperlink analysis there are several methods. The Issue Crawler software, still running and working, enable you to see links between pages, direction of linking, aspirational linking… For example a visualisation of an Armenian NGO shows the dynamics of an issue network showing politics of association.

The other method that can be used here takes a list of sensitive sites, using Issue Crawler, then parse it through an internet censorship service. And variations on this that indicate how successful attempts at internet censorship are. We do work on Iran and China and I should say that we are always quite thoughtful about how we publish these results because of their sensitivity.

2. The website as archived object

We have the Internet Archive and we have individual archived web sites. Both are useful but researcher use is not terribly signficant so we have been doing work on this. See also a YouTube video called “Google and the politics of tabs” – a technique to create a movie of the evolution of a webpage in the style of timelapse photography. I will be publishing soon about this technique.

But we have also been looking at historical hyperlink analysis – giving you that context that you won’t see represented in archives directly. This shows the connections between sites at a previous point in time. We also discovered that the “Ghostery” plugin can also be used with archived websites – for trackers and for code. So you can see the evolution and use of trackers on any website/set of websites.

6. Wikipedia as cultural reference

Note: the numbering is from a headline list of 10, hence the odd numbering… 

We have been looking at the evolution of Wikipedia pages, understanding how they change. It seems that pages shift from neutral to national points of view… So we looked at Srebenica and how that is represented. The pages here have different names, indicating difference in the politics of memory and reconciliation. We have developed a triangulation tool that grabs links and references and compares them across different pages. We also developed comparative image analysis that lets you see which images are shared across articles.

7. Facebook and other social networking sites

Facebook is, as you probably well know, is a social media platform that is relatively difficult to pin down at a moment in time. Trying to pin down the history of Facebook find that very hard – it hasn’t been in the Internet Archive for four years, the site changes all the time. We have developed two approaches: one for social media profiles and interest data as means of stufying cultural taste ad political preference or “Postdemographics”; And “Networked content analysis” which uses social media activity data as means of studying “most engaged with content” – that helps with the fact that profiles are no longer available via the API. To some extend the API drives the research, but then taking a digital methods approach we need to work with the medium, find which possibilities are there for research.

So, one of the projects undertaken with in this space was elFriendo, a MySpace-based project which looked at the cultural tastes of “friends” of Obama and McCain during their presidential race. For instance Obama’s friends best liked Lost and The Daily Show on TV, McCain’s liked Desperate Housewives, America’s Next Top Model, etc. Very different cultures and interests.

Now the Networked Content Analysis approach, where you quantify and then analyse, works well with Facebook. You can look at pages and use data from the API to understand the pages and groups that liked each other, to compare memberships of groups etc. (at the time you were able to do this). In this process you could see specific administrator names, and we did this with right wing data working with a group called Hope not Hate, who recognised many of the names that emerged here. Looking at most liked content from groups you also see the shared values, cultural issues, etc.

So, you could see two areas of Facebook Studies, Facebook I (2006-2011) about presentation of self: profiles and interests studies (with ethics); Facebook II (2011-) which is more about social movements. I think many social media platforms are following this shift – or would like to. So in Instagram Studies the Instagram I (2010-2014) was about selfie culture, but has shifed to Instagram II (2014-) concerned with antagonistic hashtag use for instance.

Twitter has done this and gone further… Twitter I (2006-2009) was about urban lifestyle tool (origins) and “banal” lunch tweets – their own tagline of “what are you doing?”, a connectivist space; Twitter II (2009-2012) has moved to elections, disasters and revolutions. The tagline is “what’s happening?” and we have metrics “trending topics”; Twitter III (2012-) sees this as a generic resource tool with commodification of data, stock market predictions, elections, etc.

So, I want to finish by talking about work on Twitter as a storytelling machine for remote event analysis. This is an approach we developed some years ago around the Iran event crisis. We made a tweet collection around a single Twitter hashtag – which is no longer done – and then ordered by most retweeted (top 3 for each day) and presented in chronological (not reverse) order. And we then showed those in huge displays around the world…

To take you back to June 2009… Mousavi holds an emergency press conference. Voter turn out is 80%. SMS is down. Mousavi’s website and Facebook are blocked. Police use pepper spray… The first 20 days of most popular tweets is a good succinct summary of the events.

So, I’ve taken you on a whistle stop tour of methods. I don’t know if we are coming to the end of this. I was having a conversation the other day that the Web 2.0 days are over really, the idea that the web is readily accessible, that APIs and data is there to be scraped… That’s really changing. This is one of the reasons the app space is so hard to research. We are moving again to user studies to an extent. What the Chinese researchers are doing involves convoluted processes to getting the data for instance. But there are so many areas of research that can still be done. Issue Crawler is still out there and other tools are available at

Twitter studies with DMI-TCAT (Erik Borra)

I’m going to be talking about how we can use the DMI-TCAT tool to do Twitter Studies. I am here with Emile den Tex, one of the original developers of this tool, alongside Eric Borra.

So, what is DMI-TCAT? It is the Digital Methods Initiative Twitter Capture and Analysis Toolset, a server side tool which tries to capture robust and reproducible data capture and analysis. The design is based on two ideas: that captured datasets can be refined in different ways; and that the datasets can be analysed in different ways. Although we developed this tool, it is also in use elsewhere, particularly in the US and Australia.

So, how do we actually capture Twitter data? Some of you will have some experience of trying to do this. As researchers we don’t just want the data, we also want to look at the platform in itself. If you are in industry you get Twitter data through a “data partner”, the biggest of which by far is GNIP – owned by Twitter as of the last two years – then you just pay for it. But it is pricey. If you are a researcher you can go to an academic data partner – DiscoverText or Hexagon – and they are also resellers but they are less costly. And then the third route is the publicly available data – REST APIs, Search API, Streaming APIs. These are, to an extent, the authentic user perspective as most people use these… We have built around these but the available data and APIs shape and constrain the design and the data.

For instance the “Search API” prioritises “relevance” over “completeness” – but as academics we don’t know how “relevance” is being defined here. If you want to do representative research then completeness may be most important. If you want to look at how Twitter prioritises the data, then that Search API may be most relevant. You also have to understand rate limits… This can constrain research, as different data has different rate limits.

So there are many layers of technical mediation here, across three big actors: Twitter platform – and the APIs and technical data interfaces; DMI-TCAT (extraction); Output types. And those APIs and technical data interfaces are significant mediators here, and important to understand their implications in our work as researchers.

So, onto the DMI-TCAT tool itself – more on this in Borra & Reider (2014) (doi:10.1108/AJIM-09-2013-0094). They talk about “programmed method” and the idea of the methodological implications of the technical architecture.

What can one learn if one looks at Twitter through this “programmed method”? Well (1) Twitter users can change their Twitter handle, but their ids will remain identical – sounds basic but its important to understand when collecting data. (2) the length of a Tweet may vary beyond maximum of 140 characters (mentions and urls); (3) native retweets may have their top level text property stortened. (4) Unexpected limitations  support for new emoji characters can be problematic. (5) It is possible to retrieve a deleted tweet.

So, for example, a tweet can vary beyond 140 characters. The Retweet of an original post may be abbreviated… Now we don’t want that, we want it to look as it would to a user. So, we capture it in our tool in the non-truncated version.

And, on the issue of deletion and witholding. There are tweets deleted by users, and their are tweets which are withheld by the platform – and the withholding is a country by country issue. But you can see tweets only available in some countries. A project that uses this information is “Politwoops” ( which captures tweets deleted by US politicians, that lets you filter to specific states, party, position. Now there is an ethical discussion to be had here… We don’t know why tweets are deleted… We could at least talk about it.

So, the tool captures Twitter data in two ways. Firstly there is the direct capture capabilities (via web front-end) which allows tracking of users and capture of public tweets posted by these users; tracking particular terms or keywords, including hashtags; get a small random (approx 1%) of all public statuses. Secondary capture capabilities (via scripts) allows further exploration, including user ids, deleted tweets etc.

Twitter as a platform has a very formalised idea of sociality, the types of connections, parameters, etc. When we use the term “user” we mean it in the platform defined object meaning of the word.

Secondary analytical capabilities, via script, also allows further work:

  1. support for geographical polygons to delineate geographical regions for tracking particular terms or keywords, including hashtags.
  2. Built-in URL expander, following shortened URLs to their destination. Allowing further analysis, including of which statuses are pointing to the same URLs.
  3. Download media (e.g. videos and images (attached to particular Tweets).

So, we have this tool but what sort of studies might we do with Twitter? Some ideas to get you thinking:

  1. Hashtag analysis – users, devices etc. Why? They are often embedded in social issues.
  2. Mentions analysis – users mentioned in contexts, associations, etc. allowing you to e.g. identify expertise.
  3. Retweet analysis – most retweeted per day.
  4. URL analysis – the content that is most referenced.

So Emile will now go through the tool and how you’d use it in this way…

Emile: I’m going to walk through some main features of the DMI TCAT tool. We are going to use a demo site ( and look at some Trump tweets…

Note: I won’t blog everything here as it is a walkthrough, but we are playing with timestamps (the tool uses UTC), search terms etc. We are exploring hashtag frequency… In that list you can see Bengazi, tpp, etc. Now, once you see a common hashtag, you can go back and query the dataset again for that hashtag/search terms… And you can filter down… And look at “identical tweets” to found the most retweeted content. 

Emile: Eric called this a list making tool – it sounds dull but it is so useful… And you can then put the data through other tools. You can put tweets into Gephi. Or you can do exploration… We looked at Getty Parks project, scraped images, reverse Google image searched those images to find the originals, checked the metadata for the camera used, and investigated whether the cost of a camera was related to the success in distributing an image…

Richard: It was a critique of user generated content.

Analysing Social Media Data with TCAT and Tableau (Axel Bruns)

Analysing Network Dynamics with Agent Based Models (Patrik Wikström)

Tracking the Trackers (Anne Helmond, Carolin Gerlitz, Esther Weltevrede and Fernando van der Vlist)

Multiplatform Issue Mapping (Jean Burgess & Ariadna Matamoros Fernandez)

Analysing and visualising geospatial data (Peta Mitchell)