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What Actor-Network Theory (ANT) and digital methods can do for data journalism research and practice

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Slides from a talk I gave at the University of Ghent on 21 October 2014 about how Actor-Network Theory (ANT) and digital methods can be used to study and inform data journalism.

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What Actor-Network Theory (ANT) and digital methods can do for data journalism research and practice

  1. 1. What Actor-Network Theory (ANT) and digital methods can do for data journalism research and practice 21st October 2014, Ghent University Liliana Bounegru | lilianabounegru.org | @bb_liliana!
  2. 2. Using ANT and digital methods! I. to study data journalism! II. to do data journalism
  3. 3. I. Using ANT and digital methods to study data journalism
  4. 4. Geeks vs. pundits: ! The clash of two epistemological cultures
  5. 5. "Nate Silver says this is a 73.6 percent chance that the president is going to win? Nobody in that campaign thinks they have a 73 percent chance — they think they have a 50.1 percent chance of winning. And you talk to the Romney people, it’s the same thing. . . . Anybody that thinks that this race is anything but a toss-up right now is such an ideologue, they should be kept away from typewriters, computers, laptops and microphones for the next 10 days, because they're jokes." (Joe Scarborough, MSNBC, 2012)
  6. 6. “I am Nate Silver, the Lord and God of the Algorithm!” (Jon Stewart, 2012)
  7. 7. How to study this collision with ANT and digital methods
  8. 8. “[T]here is nothing specific to social order; (…) there is no social dimension of any sort, no social ‘context’, no distinct domain of reality to which the label ‘social’ or ‘society’ could be attributed; (…) no ‘social force’ is available to ‘explain’ the residual features other domains cannot account for (…) and (…) society, far from being the context ‘in which’ everything is framed, should rather be constructed as one of the many connecting elements circulating in tiny conduits” – Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory (2005)
  9. 9. “The social is visible only by the traces it leaves..” – Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory (2005)
  10. 10. “The interest of electronic media lies in the fact that every interaction that passes through them leaves traces..” – Bruno Latour & Tommaso Venturini, “The Social Fabric: Digital Traces and Quali-quantitative Methods” (2009)
  11. 11. Digital methods are “methods of the medium” designed to repurpose digital objects such as tags, likes, links and hashtags to study issues. – Digital Methods Initiative
  12. 12. 1. An online mapping of data journalism
  13. 13. Who speaks about data journalism and what issues are at stake? What groups and practices are articulated around labels associated with data journalism online? What visions and values do they promote?
  14. 14. Twitter: co-hashtag analysis, social graph by mentions, URL frequency Web: Historical Google rankings, hyperlink analysis Mailing lists: lexical analysis, social graph by replies
  15. 15. 2. The life of data in the newsroom
  16. 16. “Objects, too, have agency” – Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory (2005)
  17. 17. “[F]ocusing on the objects of journalism […] can provide scholars with insights into the social, material, and cultural context that suffuses our technologically obsessed world.” – C.W. Anderson and Juliette De Maeyer, “Introduction: Objects of Journalism and the News”, 2014
  18. 18. What journalistic practices, values and visions are articulated around the use of data as raw material for reporting? How are traditional journalistic practices, values and norms, transformed?
  19. 19. Ethnography Interviews Observations Internal documents Digital methods
  20. 20. 3. The politics of quantitative methods in the newsroom
  21. 21. Where do journalists’ attachments to particular forms of quantitative analysis come from? How are these commitments articulated? How do they shape the process of knowledge production and its outcomes? What quantitative methods are being left out? (the question of alternative histories)
  22. 22. Ethnography Secondary literature Digital methods
  23. 23. II. Using ANT and digital methods to do data journalism!
  24. 24. Controversy mapping for journalism!
  25. 25. STS researchers leading digital newsrooms new ways of covering complex issues + =
  26. 26. suite of open source tools for capturing, analysing and narrating socio-technical controversies for journalism
  27. 27. Examples!
  28. 28. Mapping the rise of the far right in Europe with the web and social media
  29. 29. The Guardian (2013) “The rise of far right parties across Europe is a chilling echo of the 1930s”. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/15/far-right-threat-europe-integration
  30. 30. Huffington Post (2014) “Sudden Rise of Far Right Groups in EU Parliament Rings Alarm Bells Across Europe”. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elinadav-heymann/sudden-rise-of-far-right- _b_5512961.html
  31. 31. New York Times (2014) “Populist Party Gaining Muscle to Push Britain to the Right”. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/08/world/europe/populist-party-gaining-muscle-to-push-britain- to-the-right.html
  32. 32. What are the recruitment methods of far right groups?
  33. 33. Are current recruitment counter-measures proving effective?
  34. 34. What kinds of issues are most active amongst far right groups?
  35. 35. How are far right extremist groups connected to populist right and other right wing groups?
  36. 36. Profiles for 13 European countries.
  37. 37. 1. List of links per country 2. Analyse links between them 3. Study issues and actors
  38. 38. Findings New issues (e.g. environment, anti-globalisation and rights), principles and recruitment techniques. Counter-measures are outdated. ! Islamophobia is located primarily in the North.
  39. 39. Greece: blood and soil and organic markets
  40. 40. Rogers, R. et al (2013) “Right-Wing Formations in Europe and Their Counter-Measures: An Online Mapping”. Digital Methods Initiative. https://wiki.digitalmethods.net/Dmi/RightWingPopulismStudy
  41. 41. Hungary: horse and yurt recruitment festivals
  42. 42. Rogers, R. et al (2013) “Right-Wing Formations in Europe and Their Counter-Measures: An Online Mapping”. Digital Methods Initiative. https://wiki.digitalmethods.net/Dmi/RightWingPopulismStudy
  43. 43. Taking back the yurt?
  44. 44. Counter-Jihadist groups on social media
  45. 45. The Guardian (2012) “Far-right anti-Muslim network on rise globally as Breivik trial opens”. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/apr/14/breivik-trial-norway-mass-murderer
  46. 46. Hope Not Hate (2012) “Counter-Jihad Report”. Available at: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/counter-jihad/
  47. 47. Are different Counter-Jihadist groups in Europe connected? If so how?
  48. 48. Digital Methods Initiative. “Counter-Jihadist Networks: Mapping the Connections Between Facebook Groups in Europe.”
  49. 49. Digital Methods Initiative. “Counter-Jihadist Networks: Mapping the Connections Between Facebook Groups in Europe.”
  50. 50. Findings Facebook is an important medium for extremist groups. ! Three main clusters based on geographical proximity. ! European Counter-Jihadist groups are networked and transnational.
  51. 51. Who are the new leaders?
  52. 52. Findings! ! Offline leaders are active on Facebook. ! There are also new emerging online leaders. ! New technique for identifying online leaders.
  53. 53. Some tools and techniques that organise web and social media for research…
  54. 54. “Netvizz is a tool that extracts data from different sections of the Facebook platform (personal profile, groups, pages) for research purposes.”
  55. 55. Rieder, B. (2013). Studying Facebook via data extraction: the Netvizz application. In WebSci '13 Proceedings of the 5th Annual ACM Web Science Conference (pp. 346-355). New York: ACM.
  56. 56. Netvizz: https://tools.digitalmethods.net/netvizz/facebook/netvizz/
  57. 57. “The Twitter Capture and Analysis Toolset (DMI-TCAT) captures tweets and allows for multiple analyses (hashtags, mentions, users, search, ...).”
  58. 58. Borra, E. & Rieder, B. (2014) “Programmed method: developing a toolset for capturing and analyzing tweets”. Aslib Journal of Information Management. Vol. 66 No. 3: 262-278.
  59. 59. TCAT: https://wiki.digitalmethods.net/Dmi/ToolDmiTcat
  60. 60. TCAT: https://wiki.digitalmethods.net/Dmi/ToolDmiTcat
  61. 61. The Issue Crawler
  62. 62. “A software tool that locates and visualizes networks on the web”
  63. 63. Issue Crawler: https://wiki.digitalmethods.net/Dmi/ToolIssueCrawler
  64. 64. “Gephi is an interactive visualization and exploration platform for all kinds of networks and complex systems, dynamic and hierarchical graphs.”
  65. 65. Gephi: http://gephi.org
  66. 66. Techniques! Co-occurrence analysis to identify themes Network analysis to identify actors and sources Hyperlink analysis to explore “politics of association” Resonance analysis to identify source partisanship
  67. 67. Thank You! Liliana Bounegru | lilianabounegru.org | @bb_liliana

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