CfP: The Social Lives of Digital Methods

# JANUARY 8-12, 2018



The Digital Methods Initiative (DMI), Amsterdam, is holding its annual
Winter School on ‘the Social Lives of Digital Methods: Encounters,
Experiments, Interventions.’ The format is that of a (social media and
web) data sprint, with hands-on work for telling stories with data,
together with a programme of keynote speakers and a Mini-conference,
where PhD candidates, motivated scholars and advanced graduate
students present short papers on digital methods and new media related
topics, and receive feedback from the Amsterdam DMI researchers and
international participants. Participants need not give a paper at the
Mini-conference to attend the Winter School. For a preview of what the
event is like, please view short video clips from a previous edition
of the Summer School,

Over the past decade digital methods of various kinds have been put to
use by data journalists, national ministries, non-governmental
organisations, city governments, media artists, police departments,
international organisations, philanthropic funding agencies in the
service of a wide variety of projects and objectives. Within the
academy digital methods have spread from researchers of the internet,
new media and computational culture, leading to encounters and
experiments with a wide range of disciplines in the humanities and
social sciences, working with their own publics, partners, questions,
concerns and modes of inquiry with and about the digital. That one may
intervene with digital methods is clear, but the question concerns the

Extremism and counter-terrorism units may wish to map online networks
of groups and individuals. Under which circumstances and with which
ethics to act? City governments may be interested in how to use
platform data to inform their responses to emerging “gig” and
“sharing” economies said to be changing the character of housing,
transport and work. When an analyst finds concrete instances of
over-renting properties, does one share the findings and if so how?
Non-governmental organisations would like to know whether their
anti-fossil fuel campaigns are reaching audiences outside of their own
bubbles. How to make such questions relevant for academic research?
Funders would like an issue area and the stakeholders mapped, but what
if one finds that the funders are overdetermining the agenda of the
field? How might the style of digital methods work on secure messaging
apps vary, depending on whether the audience is critical media
scholars, privacy advocates or public institutions?

Researchers in fields such as science and technology studies and
ethnomethodology have long pointed out that methods are not only used
by researchers to study social life, they are also a part of social
life (see, e.g. Garfinkel, 1984). This notion has been further
elaborated and explored through a more recent agenda on the “social
life of methods” (Ruppert, Law, & Savage, 2013). Digital methods and
data projects can be used to create not only novel styles of analysis,
but also different kinds of “interactivity” (Marres, 2017) — from
involving those who are researched in the research process, to
different forms of participatory design, public involvement and
experimentation. Such encounters may produce changes in the analytical
interests and approaches of both researchers and practitioners, and
may be considered a substantive part of the research process, rather
than a communicative afterthought.

At the 2018 Digital Methods Winter School we would like to put forward
positioning practices that address working with practitioners together
with the projects (and data sets) they bring along. The Winter School
has as its goal to take stock and tell stories of interventions and
the positionings one was able to take up. How to navigate the space
between scholarly research, practitioner expectation and critical
output? Additionally the Winter School will make interventions,
working together with ‘publics with an ask’.


The annual Digital Methods Mini-Conference at the Winter School,
normally a one-day affair, provides the opportunity for digital
methods and allied researchers to present short yet complete papers
(5,000-7,500 words) and serve as respondents, providing feedback.
Often the work presented follows from previous Digital Methods Summer
Schools. The mini-conference accepts papers in the general digital
methods and allied areas: the hyperlink and other natively digital
objects, the website as archived object, web historiographies, search
engine critique, Google as globalizing machine, cross-spherical
analysis and other approaches to comparative media studies, device
cultures, national web studies, Wikipedia as cultural reference, the
technicity of (networked) content, post-demographics, platform
studies, crawling and scraping, graphing and clouding, and similar.


The deadline for application is 7 December 2017. To apply please send
along a letter of motivation, your CV (including postal address), a
headshot photo, 100-word bio as well as a copy of your passport
(details page only). Notifications of acceptance will be sent on 8
December. If you are participating in the mini-conference the deadline
for submission of your paper is 2 January. The mini-conference takes
place on Friday 12 January 2018. Please send your mini-conference
paper to
. To attend the Winter
School, you need not participate in the mini-conference. The full
program and schedule of the Winter School and Mini-conference are
available on 4 January 2018.

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