Transmediale 2015 – Capture All
Carolin Gerlitz - University of Amsterdam
(based on joint work with Bernhard Rieder UvA)
Which data matters?
• Data capture critique focuses on
calculation (Callon & Muniesa 2005):
the recombination of data-points.
• Not individual data-points matter, but
the relations that can be created
between them (Mackenzie 2012).
• But what do the initial data-points
make countable and comparable in
the first place?
• First order metrics (Power 2004) :
likes, tweets, shares, pins, comments.
• Second order metrics: scores,
• Commensuration allows to transform
non-comparable qualities into
common metric (Espeland & Stevens
• Similarity of data is not a property.
• Digital media come with specific grammars of
action (Agre 1994) which invite & capture user
action in a standardised form.
• Grammars naturalise distinct use practices into
comparable data points.
• But countability ≠ equivalence.
• How to use digital research
methods not to repurpose but
to re-embed data-points?
• Ongoing project on 1%
random Twitter sample with
Bernhard Rieder (2013,
• Metrics are epistemic devices.
• What do metrics not show?
What are they animated by?
The Data Set
1% Random 1% sample 14-20. June 2014
• Hashtags can take on different
functions: shout-out, frame (Gerlitz &
Rieder 2013); can be used by different
social formations (Bruns & Stieglitz
• Understudied metric: device/source.
• Device as possible intervening
variable (Gerlitz & Rieder 2014)?
• 1.iPhone, 2.Android 3.Web
• Specific devices cater to specific
hashtags in 1% sample.
The happening of
• Commensuration is not enacted by
the metric itself.
• Distributed accomplishment: use
practices, platform interoperability,
hijacking, spam, humans, bots.
Conclusion: Lively metrics
• We do not count hashtags, we
calculate (detach and order) them
(Callon & Muniesa 2005).
• Social media first order metrics like
hashtags or tweets are lively metrics
that invite users to write themselves
• Animated by distributed actors.
• Data-point critique: public debate
about what metrics make similar and