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What counts in social media? - Politics of Big Data conference


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Based on joint work with Bernhard Rieder, UvA

Presentation at the Politics of Big Data conference at King's College London, May 8
Based on joint work with Bernhard Rieder, UvA

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What counts in social media? - Politics of Big Data conference

  1. 1. What  counts  in  social  media?   Politics of Big Data – Conference & Masterclass Kings College, May 08 2015 Dr. Carolin Gerlitz - University of Amsterdam
  2. 2. Which data matters? •  Data critique often focuses on calculation (Callon & Muniesa 2005): the recombination of data-points. •  Second order metrics: scores, recommendations, rankings, sentiment, derrivatives, dashboards. •  But what do the first order metrics that feed such composite metric make countable and comparable in the first place? •  Based on joint work with Bernhard Rieder.
  3. 3. Becoming data-point •  Empirical research: ex-post classification. •  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, making heterogeneous qualities countable and commensurable (Espeland & Stevens 1998).
  4. 4. •  Activities can come with different intentions (Gerlitz & Helmond 2013). •  Interpretative flexibility build into platforms (van Dijck 2012) allows for resignification & transformation. •  Multiple meanings may lead to more data. One number, multiple meanings
  5. 5. •  Platforms are increasingly being accessed through clients, automators, mobile interface or cross-syndication practices. •  Platform-interoperability (Bodle 2012) & programmability: allow for various ways of engaging with and producing content. One number, many platforms
  6. 6. Repurposing digital methods •  What lures behind social media metrics and what animates them? •  How to use digital research methods not to repurpose but to re-embed first order metrics? •  Example: Twitter. •  Twitter Capture & Analysis Toolkit (DMI-TCAT).
  7. 7. 1% sample •  Ongoing project on 1% random Twitter sample with Bernhard Rieder (2013). •  Retrieved via Twitter Streaming API. •  1% sample as cross-section on Twitter practices. Links Hashtags The Data Set 1% Random 1% sample 14-20. June 2014 Mentions Retweets Replies 16.8 15.8 58.1 32.9 18.2 Tweets Users 31.707.162 14.313.384
  8. 8. Decomposing metrics •  Starting point: source metric. •  Proliferation of access points to Twitter: web, mobile, clients, automators, cross-syndication, custom clients. •  72.000 sources in our sample.
  9. 9. iPhone Tweetdeck Instagram Tribez Tweetadder Web
  10. 10. Hashtags per source iPhone Instagram Tweetadder
  11. 11. De- & recomposing metrics #iraq
  12. 12. De- & recomposing metrics #gameinsight
  13. 13. De- & recomposing metrics #love
  14. 14. •  More nuanced account of non- human activity beyond the notion of ‘bots’ (Wilkie et al. 2014). •  Organic & automated content: cross-syndication, scheduled tweets, in-game tweets, automated action, bots accounts. •  Approach to automatisation beyond data-cleaning. Dealing with the non-human
  15. 15. •  Sources allow for different regimes of being on Twitter: alternative use practices, grammars & politics. •  Data-formats/practices of Twitter informed by data-formats of third parties. •  Platform-interoperability (Bodle 2012) & -programmability: technique of commensuration. Dealing with platform ecologies
  16. 16. The happening of commensuration •  Commensuration not only a media or metric effect. •  Distributed accomplishment: use practices, platform interoperability, hijacking, spam, humans, bots. •  ‘Happening’ (Lury & Wakeford 2012): relational, dynamic, distributed.
  17. 17. Lively metrics •  What a metric counts is not predefined by comparable grammars of action. •  Subject to distributed accomplishment, invite users & third parties to write themselves into them. •  Lively metrics: realised differently, subject to change, happening. •  What counts? Non-objective, dynamic & situated. •  What can be counted counts (Badiou 2008): need for debates on commensuration.
  18. 18. Thank you.