4-8 January 2021 


Online via Zoom, and in-person when available

Winter school theme

Capturing bias in content recommendation and moderation

The Digital Methods Initiative (DMI), Amsterdam, is holding its annual Winter School on 'Capturing biases in content recommendation and moderation'. The format is that of a (social media and web) data sprint, with tutorials as well as hands-on work for telling stories with data. There is also a programme of keynote speakers. It is intended for advanced Master's students, PhD candidates and motivated scholars who would like to work on (and complete) a digital methods project in an intensive workshop setting. For a preview of what the event is like, you can view short video clips from previous editions of the School.

When one argues that algorithms are biased, how is the case made? Similarly, when it is claimed that content moderation (that results in removal or demonetisation) is unfair, what is considered to be a convincing account? This year’s Digital Methods Winter School is dedicated to the empirical study of the biases of algorithms and moderated content. We would like to take stock of the claims made about biases (in search engines as well as social media platforms), and pay special attention to the measurement and representation of these biases. First, we would like to present the celebrated cases (such as discriminatory pricing, stereotyping and computer vision training), but also a discussion of the supposed political motivations surrounding takedowns by Google, Facebook, Twitter and others. Subsequently, we would like to critique and learn from how bias is represented and also put forward methods that capture and seek to lay bare bias, such as algorithmic auditing and other testing regimes. Finally, we would like to visualise these biases in ways that make more legible and apparent.

At the Winter School there are the usual social media tool tutorials (and the occasional tool requiem), but also invitations for thinking through and proposing how to work with social media data after the demise of the API.

Digital Methods Intiative


For all details about this Winter course, please visit the Digital Methods website below. 

Instructions, project descriptions and welcome package (as they become available)

Winter school philosophy

The Digital Methods Winter School is exploratory and experimental. It is not a setting for ‘just’ tool training or for principally tool-driven research. Substantive research projects are conceived and carried out. Participants are encouraged to ‘span time with their issue’ and the materials. In other words, we heed Alexander Galloway’s admonition about data and tool-driven work: “Those who were formerly scholars or experts in a certain area are now recast as mere tool users beholden to the affordances of the tool — while students spend ever more time mastering menus and buttons, becoming literate in a digital device rather than a literary corpus.”[1] We encourage device and corpus literacy! The device training we ask you to do prior to the Winter School through online tutorials, and at the Winter School itself, in a kind of flipped learning environment (if you'll excuse the overused phrase), we would like to believe that you have familiarised yourself already with the tools (and are driven, to complete the thought). During the Winter School we will discuss and tinker with the nitty-gritty, aim to invent new methods, techniques and heuristics and create the first iterations of compelling work to be shared.

[1] Alexander Galloway (2014)." The Cybernetic Hypothesis," Differences. 25(1):107-131. See page 127.

About the Winter School

The Digital Methods Winter School, founded in 2007 together with the Digital Methods Initiative, is directed by Professor Richard Rogers, Chair in New Media & Digital Culture and Department Chair at Media Studies, University of Amsterdam. The Winter School is one training opportunity provided by the Digital Methods Initiative (DMI). DMI also has a Summer School, held the last week of June and the first week of July. Both Schools have a technical staff as well as a design staff, drawn from the ranks of Density Design in Milan. The Schools also rely on a technical infrastructure of servers hosting tools and storing data. 

In a culture of experimentation and skill-sharing, participants bring or log on with their laptops, learn method, undertake research projects, make reports, tools and graphics and write them up on the Digital Methods wiki. The Winter School concludes with final presentations. Often there are subject matter experts from non-governmental or other organizations who present their analytical needs and issues at the outset and the projects seek to meet those needs, however indirectly.

Please see previous Digital Methods Winter Schools, 2007-2019, https://wiki.digitalmethods.net/Dmi/DmiSummerSchool. See also previous Digital Methods Winter Schools, 2009-2020, https://wiki.digitalmethods.net/Dmi/WinterSchool.

The Digital Methods Initiative was founded with a grant from the Piet Mondriaan Foundation, the public cultural funding organization. The Digital Methods Summer and Winter Schools are self-sustaining.

Credits and completion certificate

6 ECTS are granted to participants who follow the Winter School program, and complete a significant contribution to a Winter School project (evidenced by co-authorship of the project reports as well as final (joint) presentations.) Templates for the project report as well as for the presentation slides are supplied. Certificates of completion are also available to all participants.

Course information:

  • Dates: 4 - 8 January 2021
  • Tuition fee: € 695
  • Registration deadline: 16 November 2020
  • Academic director: Richard Rogers
  • Organizers: Guillén Torres, Esther Weltevrede
  • Academic level: all graduate levels - Master's, PhD candidates and professionals/scholars
  • Credits: 6 ECTS 
  • Field of study: New Media and Digital Culture
  • Location: Online via Zoom or in person when available.  Media Studies, Turfdraagsterpad 9, 1012 XT Amsterdam, the Netherlands