10 - 14 January 2022
In-person and online via Zoom
10 January at 9.15am Amsterdam time. Please be punctual!
Opening Day Location:
Oudemanhuispoort 4-6 (Law Faculty Building, University of Amsterdam)
1012 CN Amsterdam
Virtual participation also available
Digital Methods Initiative
University of Amsterdam
1012 XT Amsterdam
Digital Methods Initiative - Winter School 2022
Social media data criticism
The Digital Methods Initiative (DMI), Amsterdam, is holding its annual Winter School on 'Social media data critique'. 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.
Data critique and platform dependencies: How to study social media data?
Source criticism is the scholarly activity traditionally concerned with provenance and reliability. When considering the state of social media data provision such criticism would be aimed at what platforms allow researchers to do (such as accessing an API) and not to do (scrape). It also would consider whether the data returned from querying is ‘good’, meaning complete or representative. How do social media platforms fare when considering these principles? How to audit or otherwise scrutinise social media platforms’ data supply?
Recently Facebook has come under renewed criticism for its data supply through the publication of its ‘transparency’ report, Widely Viewed Content. It is a list of web URLs and Facebook posts that receive the greatest ‘reach’ on the platform when appearing on users’ News Feeds. Its publication comes on the heels of Facebook’s well catalogued ‘fake news problem’, first reported in 2016 as well as a well publicised Twitter feed that lists the most-engaged with posts on Facebook (using Crowdtangle data). In both instances those contributions, together with additional scholarly work, have shown that dubious information and extreme right-wing content are disporportionately interacted with. Facebook’s transparency report, which has been called ‘transparency theater’, demonstrates that it is not the case. How to check the data? For now, "all anybody has is the company’s word for it."
For Facebook as well as a variety of other platforms there are no public archives. Facebook's data sharing model is one of an industry-academic 'partnership'. The Social Science One project, launched when Facebook ended access to its Pages API, offers big data -- "57 million URLs, more than 1.7 trillion rows, and nearly 40 trillion cell values, describing URLs shared more than 100 times publicly on Facebook (between 1/1/2017 and 2/28/2021)." To obtain the data (if one can handle it) requires writing a research proposal and if accepted compliance with Facebook's 'onboarding', a non-negotiable research data agreement. Ultimately, the data is accessed (not downloaded) in a Facebook research environment, "the Facebook Open Research Tool (FORT) ... behind a VPN that does not have access to the Internet". There are also "regular meetings Facebook holds with researchers". A data access ethnography project, not so unlike to one written about trying to work with Twitter's archive at the Library of Congress, may be a worthwhile undertaking.
Other projects would evaluate 'repurposing' marketing data, as Robert Putnam's 'Bowling Alone' project did and as is a more general digital methods approach. Comparing multiple marketing data outputs may be of interest, and crossing those with CrowdTangle 's outputs. Facepager, one of the last pieces of software (after Netvizz and Netlytic) to still have access to Facebook's graph API reports that "access permissions are under heavy reconstruction". Its usage requires further scrutiny. There is also a difference between the user view and the developer view (and between ethnographic and computational approaches), which is also worth exploring. 'Interface methods' may be useful here. These and other considerations for developing social media data criticism are topics of interest for this year's Winter School theme.
At the Winter School there are the usual social media tool tutorials (and the occasional tool requiem), but also continued attention to thinking through and proposing how to work with social media data. There are also empirical and conceptual projects that participants work on. Projects from the past Summer and Winter Schools include: Detecting Conspiratorial Hermeneutics via Words & Images, Mapping the Dutchophone Fringe on Telegram, Greenwashing, in_authenticity & protest, Searching constructive/authentic posts in media comment sections: NU.nl/The Guardian, Mapping deepfakes with digital methods and visual analytics, “Go back to plebbit”: Mapping the platform antagonism between 4chan and Reddit, Profiling Bolsobots Networks, Infodemic everywhere, Post-Trump Information Ecology, Streams of Conspirational Folklore, and FIlterTube: Investigating echo chambers, filter bubbles and polarization on YouTube.
For all details about this Winter School Course, please visit the Digital Methods website below.
- Dates: 10-14 January 2021
- Tuition fee: € 695
- Registration deadline: rolling admissions until 25 November 2022
- Academic director: Richard Rogers
- Organizers: Guillén Torres, Lucia Bainotti
- Academic level: all graduate levels - Master's, PhD candidates and professionals/scholars
- Credits: 6 ECTS
- Field of study: New Media and Digital Culture
- Location: In-person and online via zoom. Media Studies, Turfdraagsterpad 9, 1012 XT Amsterdam, the Netherlands
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.” We encourage device and corpus literacy! The device training we ask you to do prior to the School through online tutorials, and at the 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 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.
 Alexander Galloway (2014)." The Cybernetic Hypothesis," Differences. 25(1):107-131. See page 127.
About the Winter School
The Digital Methods Winter School, a part of the Digital Methods Initiative, is directed by Professor Richard Rogers, Chair in New Media & Digital Culture, 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 first weeks 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 their laptops, learn method, undertake research projects, make reports, tools and graphics and write them up on the Digital Methods wiki. The 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.
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
Completion certificate and transcript for 6 ECTS are granted to participants who follow the School program, and complete a significant contribution to a School project as evidenced by co-authorship of the project report as well as final (joint) presentation slides. Templates for the project report as well as for the presentation slides are supplied. Please note that certificates of completion and the transcripts are the same. There are no other certificates or proof of participation supplied.
Digital Methods Winter School 2022Registration website for Digital Methods Winter School 2022
Digital Methods Winter School 2022 firstname.lastname@example.org
Digital Methods Winter School 2022 email@example.com://www.aanmelder.nl/128342
Digital Methods Winter School 2022 Digital Methods Winter School 2022 0.00EUROnlineOnly2019-01-01T00:00:00Z
University of Amsterdam - Digital Methods IntitiativeUniversity of Amsterdam - Digital Methods IntitiativeTurfdraagsterpad 9 1012 XT Amsterdam Netherlands