Social Imaginaries: The re-invention of social research
Panel discussion and book launch of Digital Sociology by Noortje Marres

 

Date and Time: 9 May, 5-7pm
Location: Central Saint Martins, Granary Building, Granary Square, London N1C 4AA

Hosted by:

– Innovation Insights Hub, University of the Arts London
– Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies, University of Warwick
– Warwick in London.
With: Les Back (Goldsmiths), Lucy Kimbell (UAL), Hannah Knox (UCL), Noortje Marres (Warwick), Mike Savage (LSE), and Amanda Windle (UAL)

 

The digital makes possible new ways of monitoring, analysing and intervening in social life. Critics have pointed at the new forms of surveillance and control that this makes possible, and to new types of data economies. But the creation of new forms of knowledge about social life is central to efforts to implement digital infrastructures: they enable the introduction of new kinds of actionable insight into society. At the same time, however, the liking-and-sharing economy has recently been exposed to serve power more than truth. In this context, how can we communicate the constructive potential of the insight that knowing is a social process? What can be the role of social research in digital societies? This is the issue that Digital Sociology (Marres, 2017) examines, and one that this event will explore by way of a panel discussion about the following proposition: in a digital age, “knowing society” becomes an inherently interdisciplinary undertaking, one that requires mutual engagement, and thrives on creative exchange, between computing, social sciences, and the arts.
Places are limited, so please register at digitalsociologylaunch@gmail.com

Mini-Conference on Digital Sociology

Call for Abstracts

Eastern Sociological Society

2017 Annual Meeting,

Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown
Philadelphia, PA, February 23-26

The Eastern Sociological Society’s theme of “The End of the World as We Know It?,” references the rise of digital sociology in the following:

“Technology is revolutionizing everyday life: powerful hand-held computers are ubiquitous, communications are much easier, and commercial drones will soon fill the skies. Yet the consequences for social life are contradictory. People can be in touch with many more people, yet they are often not fully present in personal interaction. Racism and class inequality persist or worsen. The life-long career with one employer may be giving way to a “gig economy,” in which people offer their own assets or temporary labor for hire.” 

The Digital Sociology Mini-Conference seeks papers that address the many ways digital media technologies are “revolutionizing” everyday life.  Suggested topics, include, but are not limited to, the following themes:

  • Critical Theories of Everyday Digital Life: How have we theorized everyday life, and how are these theories being challenged by digital transformations? What challenges does the digital pose to epistemologies underlying sociological theories of the everyday?
  • Digital Labor: How is the “gig economy” shifting the means of production, alienation from labor, and wages? How is creating online content a form of labor and who benefits from this? What are the consequences for social life of temporary labor done primarily online?
  • Digital Citizenship: Given the changing landscapes of public and private life, what does it mean to be a citizen in the digital era? Do the affordances of ditigal technologies changes our responsibilities as citizens? How do citizens respond to moves toward “open government” in an era of pervasive government surveillance?
  • Digital Structures, Digital Institutions: The datafication of everyday life is posing unique challenges to the composition of social institutions and giving rise to new instantiations of education, finance, labor, and governance. How do we theorize, study, and conceptualize the re-composition of these institutions?
  • Digital Sociological Methods: How do traditional, analog sociological methods become digital? Are there new, “born digital” sociological methods? Is knowledge production different now? Will big data replace survey methodology?
  • Identity, Community, and Networks: How do sociological concepts of micro and macro, personal and public, “front stage” and “back stage,” evolve as digital and mobile technologies increasingly blur these boundaries? How do digital environments shape identities of race, gender, sexuality and queerness?
  • Social Movements, Digital Technologies: Given the increasing attention to social media as a tool used by both political and social movements and campaigns in the U.S. and abroad, we invite papers that address the connections between movements and media. Topics may include but are not limited to comparisons of online and offline activism, risks and costs associated with online activism, comparisons of traditional and social media, online activist identity, and ways in which social media platforms transmit movement content such as frames.
  • Digital Pedagogy: How are educators using digital tools to teach in innovative ways?

We encourage submissions from scholars at all levels, and are particularly enthusiastic to support the work of graduate students and early career researchers. We welcome submissions for individual papers and for entirely constituted sessions. The organizers share a commitment to creating a field that honors diverse voices, and as such are excited to see scholars from groups that are typically underrepresented in sociology. When proposing entirely constituted panels, please keep this commitment to diverse voices in mind.

If you have any questions about proposals, topics, or session ideas please contact one of the organizers: Leslie Jones (lesjones@sas.upenn.edu), Rachel Durso (rdurso2@washcoll.edu)  or Jessie Daniels (jdaniels@hunter.cuny.edu).

Please submit to https://www.meetingsavvy.org/ess/frmLogin.aspx an abstract of no more than 250 words, as well as the title of the paper, name of presenter as it should appear in the ESS program r , institutional affiliation and contact details. The deadline is October 15, 2016.  In the “Submission Details” window, select “Paper” for “Type of Submission,” and select keyword: “miniconference: digital sociology” for “Select the topic area that best describes your submission.”  Be sure to include a paper title along with your abstract of 250 words or less, your name as it should appear in the ESS program, institutional affiliation, and contact information

Proposals not accepted for the Mini-Conference will be submitted to the ESS general call for submissions.

A two-day postgraduate workshop that explores, defines and practices digital sociological research

Are you curious about Digital Sociology? Consider, or already conducting, a postgraduate study on the subject? Want to explore the relations between Data, Society and the Self? Want to meet digital sociologists? Come and enjoy two days of roundtables, masterclasses, a research workshop and a keynote, with experts from MMU and further afield. The workshop is aimed at postgraduate students but is open to all.

26-27 May 2016, The Shed, Manchester Metropolitan University
Organised by Tom Brock, Adi Kuntsman and Esperanza Miyake, Digital Transformations Research Network, MMU

Keynote: Prof. Patricia Clough, CUNY

Speakers:

Dr. Tom Brock, Department of Sociology, MMU
Dr. Mark Carrigan, Centre for Social Ontology, Department of Sociology, Warwick University
Dr. EJ Gonzales-Polledo, Department of Methodology, LSE
Dr. Adi Kuntsman, Department of Languages, Information and Communications, MMU
Dr. Esperanza Miyake, Department of Languages, Information and Communications, MMU

Follow us on Twitter: #SocDataSelf
Conference flyer

Plenary speakers announced:

Nick Fox – Professor of Sociology, The University of Sheffield

‘The micropolitical economy of posthuman health’

Graham Scambler – Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University College London

‘Digital sociology or sociology of the digital? A case study on health.’

This is your last chance to also speak at the event  by submitting your abstract for the Digital Health/Digital Capitalism event (deadline 15 February 2016). More details below.

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Digital technologies have had a profound impact on the ways in which people live their lives, relate to one another and think about themselves and their capacities. This event will bring together scholars who are interested in the impacts of the digital on ideas and practices of health and the workings of capitalist economies and how the two come together.

The generation and management of vast amounts of health data has been enabled through digital means. In particular this has enabled fine grained analysis of particular types and groups of people in relation to a diversity of factors. Private and profit making enterprises have become increasingly involved with personal health data through partnerships with health services and the generation of new kinds of data through commercial devices apps and websites.

Digital capitalism has produced new approaches to work and profit generation. Human bodies are now intensively digitised due to the (self) tracking and monitoring conducted by commercial enterprises. New digital ways of working have freed some workers from the office while increasing the amount of time and attention they are expected to dedicate to work tasks and the length of time spent sedentary. The productivity and activity levels of some workers are closely monitored leading to increasing physical and psychological stress.

Questions addressed at this event will include but not be limited to:

  • How has the digital changed the ways in which bodies and health are understood, managed and experienced?
  • How does the management of health data by commercial enterprises (public-private partnerships and sharing and collaborative websites such asPatientsLikeMe) impact on health outcomes and peoples’ engagement with themselves, others and their health and bodies?
  • In what ways are digital technologies affecting work practices which themselves impact on wellbeing, physical and mental health?
  • How has the blurring of work and non-work life through an “always on” digital culture created new health problems and new potential strategies for managing health?
  • What can existing theories tell us about the changes brought about by digital health and digital capitalism? What theoretical innovations are needed?
  • Does the commercial monitoring of health and wellbeing (through areas as diverse as corporate wellness initiatives and telehealth) enable greater freedom and stimulation for healthier lives or intensify surveillance?
  • What potential is there in digital management of health and work for increasing or decreasing existing health inequalities or producing new ones? Will the digital divide transfer to these arenas or be minimised?

If you would like to talk at this one day event please send a title and abstract of no more than 250 words to Chris Till c.till@leedsbeckett.ac.ukby Monday 15th February 2016. Registration will open 1st March.

The event will take place on Monday 4th July, 2016 at Leeds Beckett University.

This BSA Digital Sociology Group and BSA MedSoc Yorkshire event is supported by a grant from Leeds Beckett University.

I’m quite pleased with this little collection I curated for The Sociological Review:

See here for a podcast about Digital Sociology of Education which Neil Selwyn sent me.

In recent years Digital Sociology has emerged as an increasingly prominent trend within the discipline at an international level. But it remains unclear precisely what this tendency represents, provoking enthusiasm and skepticism in equal measure. In this special section for The Sociological Review’s website, we invite short blog posts (1500 words or less) addressing digital sociology and the questions it raises for the future of the discipline. This could include but is by no means limited to:

  • What does the ‘digital’ in digital sociology really mean? Is there a risk that digital sociology fetishises the ‘digital’?
  • Should digital technology lead us to reconceptualise the social?
  • What, if anything, distinguishes digital sociology from fields of inquiry such as cyber cultures, web studies and the sociology of the internet?
  • How does digital sociology relate to parallel trends in cognate disciplines e.g. digital anthropology, digital geography and the digital humanities?
  • How should we conceptualize the ‘offline’, the ‘online’ and the relationship between them? Should we reject this dichotomy entirely?
  • What role can digital sociology play in an intellectual landscape increasingly dominated by data science and computational social science?
  • Does digital sociology change the relationship between sociology and other disciplines?

Please contact Mark Carrigan with submissions or any questions relating to the special section: mark@markcarrigan.net. The deadline for contributions is December 1st 2015.

In recent years Digital Sociology has emerged as an increasingly prominent trend within the discipline at an international level. But it remains unclear precisely what this tendency represents, provoking enthusiasm and skepticism in equal measure. In this special section for The Sociological Review’s website, we invite short blog posts (1500 words or less) addressing digital sociology and the questions it raises for the future of the discipline. This could include but is by no means limited to:

  • What does the ‘digital’ in digital sociology really mean? Is there a risk that digital sociology fetishises the ‘digital’?
  • Should digital technology lead us to reconceptualise the social?
  • What, if anything, distinguishes digital sociology from fields of inquiry such as cyber cultures, web studies and the sociology of the internet?
  • How does digital sociology relate to parallel trends in cognate disciplines e.g. digital anthropology, digital geography and the digital humanities?
  • How should we conceptualize the ‘offline’, the ‘online’ and the relationship between them? Should we reject this dichotomy entirely?
  • What role can digital sociology play in an intellectual landscape increasingly dominated by data science and computational social science?
  • Does digital sociology change the relationship between sociology and other disciplines?

Please contact Mark Carrigan with submissions or any questions relating to the special section: mark@markcarrigan.net. The deadline for contributions is December 1st 2015.

Yesterday saw the news that ‘Infidelity site’ Ashley Madison had been hacked, with the attackers claiming 37 million records had been stolen. The site is an online forum for infidelity, a dating site explicitly designed to facilitate affairs, something which potentially provoked the ire of the hackers. Or it could be the fact that users are charged a fee of £15 to permanently delete their records from the site, the efficacy of which the hackers dispute. This seems to be indicative of a broader trend in which dating sites as a whole were found by the Electronic Freedom Foundation to have failed to implement basic security procedures and to be near uniformly vague or silent about whether user data was deleted after the closure of an account.

This is a specific instance of a much broader category of problem which I’ve been thinking a lot about recently: escaping the filter bubble. I use this concept in a much broader sense than Eli Pariser‘s original use in his (excellent) book. I see filter bubbles as being a matter of algorithmic enclosure but also of information security. In fact I would argue that the former inevitably poses questions for the latter, because filter bubbles rest upon the collection of personal information and intervention upon this basis. Filter bubbles always pose questions of information security because environments designed around them are always information-hungry and mechanisms of personalisation inevitably introduce opacity into interactions between users and a system in an asymmetric way. But I’d like to expand the concept of filter bubble to encompass the entire informational environment in which we find increasingly find ourselves deliberately enclosed through our use of digital technology. Not all of this is applied algorithmically but I would argue, somewhat crudely, we can talk about greater or lesser tracts of everyday life being lived via digital mediation in a filter bubble characterised by varying degrees of enclosure.

What interests me are experience where we don’t realise we’re in a filter bubble. The questions of information security don’t occur. We live with ontological security, sufficiently comfortable with this technology (something which personalisation can contribute to) in order to act ‘as-if’ the filter bubble doesn’t create risks for us. Will Davies offers an analogy which captures this effectively:

I have a memory from childhood, a happy memory — one of complete trust and comfort. It’s dark, and I’m kneeling in the tiny floor area of the back seat of a car, resting my head on the seat. I’m perhaps six years old. I look upward to the window, through which I can see streetlights and buildings rushing by in a foreign town whose name and location I’m completely unaware of. In the front seats sit my parents, and in front of them, the warm yellow and red glow of the dashboard, with my dad at the steering wheel.

Contrary to the sentiment of so many ads and products, this memory reminds me that dependence can be a source of deep, almost visceral pleasure: to know nothing of where one is going, to have no responsibility for how one gets there or the risks involved. I must have knelt on the floor of the car backward to further increase that feeling of powerlessness as I stared up at the passing lights.

http://thenewinquiry.com/essays/the-data-sublime/

But when this ontological security is punctured, we can see risks everywhere. What are people doing with our data? What could they be doing with our data? How are our online environments manipulating us? I’m interested in using ontological security as a conceptual frame through which to understand the urge to escape the filter bubble on a psychoanalytical level. As I develop this line of argument, I need to work on making the exact sense of the underlying concept clearer, but leaving that aside for now, I think it offers a really interesting frame for exploration. Here are the propositions I’m going to come back to in order to develop further:

  1. We are enmeshed within a filter bubble through our everyday use of digital technology
  2. The filter bubble is deliberately designed, indeed redesigned on a sometimes hour-to-hour basis, driven by complex and opaque interests
  3. Our orientation towards the filter bubble is extremely variable, even over time in one life, let alone between people

But for now what I’m interested in is how we escape the filter bubble. When we see the endemic risks, when the reassuring cocoon of ontological security recedes, what do we do? The problem is  that not everyone is equally well positioned to escape the filter bubble. It necessitates technical knowledge, time and energy. Some people don’t care but know what to do. Some people do care but don’t know what to do. Most people fall between these two poles at different points in relation to specific issues. What I’m interested in is how any definite attempt to escape the filter bubble leads to an intensification of cognitive burdens at a time of endemic acceleration. If everyone feels rushed, how does the urge to escape the filter bubble contribute to that experience, constituting just one more thing to worry about? How does this in turn contribute to the problem of what I’ve elsewhere described as cognitive triage? I can imagine an emerging profession, consultant digital escapologist, paid to help the cash-rich but time-poor manage their information security.

The social ontology of trolling paper I’ve been pondering recently probably wouldn’t work for this but I plan to attend nonetheless:

Scold’s to Trolls; Social and Legal Responses to Visible and Audible Women

A one-day symposium: September 15th 2015

Organised by the Centre for Law and Society at Lancaster University Law School

Keynote Speaker: Professor Feona Attwood, Professor of Cultural Studies, Communication and Media, Middlesex University, UK

Theme

Underlying the trolling of visible and audible women is the deeply entrenched misogynistic idea of silencing women. Trolling is arguably just the latest methodology used to keep women silenced. The process of silencing women has been on-going for centuries. In the middle ages, women were silenced by various methods one of which was the scolds bridle; a cast iron cage fitted over a woman’s head and which included a metal plate with spikes on that was inserted into her mouth. The intention and the effect were not only to silence that particular woman, but also to have a disciplinary effect on other women. The trolling of women such as Emma Watson; Mary Beard; Caroline Criado-Perez and Stella Creasy, raise questions about whether the trolling of audible and visible women is a modern equivalent of the scolds bridle. When looking at the effects these mechanisms produce, it is difficult to see the difference between the 15th century and the 21st century. Whilst men can indeed be trolled, the significant difference in their experience is that they are not trolled because of their sex or gender.  The silencing of women and issues related to women straddles all areas of life from bank notes; video games and the high street (e.g. River Island’s ‘Anti Nag Gag’); or politics (e.g. Michael Fabricant’s tweet that he would like to ‘throat-punch’ a female journalist).

Submission are welcomed from a broad range of disciplines including law, criminology, media, sociology, cultural studies, history, social sciences, economics, psychology, linguistics and gender studies; from academics and non-academics whose work is relevant to the symposium theme, or which is of a multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary nature.

ABSTRACT SUBMISSION

Please submit an abstract of max. 300 words and 5-7 keywords (indicating the main research area in particular), and a short biographical note (approx. 2-3 lines) to s.beresford@lancaster.ac.uk or m.butler1@lancaster.ac.uk or s.weare@lancaster.ac.uk. Please include in your subject line ‘Abstract submission’.

The deadline for submitting abstracts is 1st May 2015.  A draft programme will be announced as soon as possible after the abstract submission deadline (and no later than 19th May 2015), together with registration details.

This innovative conference brings together leading figures from a variety of fields which address issues of digital technology and digital data. We’ve invited speakers with a range of intellectual perspectives and disciplinary backgrounds who engage with questions relating to digital data and digital technology in their work. Our suggestion is that social ontology, however this might be construed, represents a potential common ground that could cut across this still rather siloed domain of inquiry into the social dimensions of digital technology.

The conference aims to explore this possibility by assembling a diverse range of perspectives and drawing them into a dialogue about a common question, without assuming a shared understanding of the topic at hand. Our aim is to extend this digitally via twitter, podcast and blog beyond the event itself, in order to facilitate an extended conversation that will draw more people into its remit as it circulates after the conference itself.

To this end, we invite each speaker to address this theme (the social ontology of digital data & digital technology) in whatever way they choose. Each speaker will have 30 mins to talk and 15 mins for questions. We’ll have an accomplished audio editor on hand to record each talk as a podcast. These will be released on www.socialontology.org and will be circulated on social media in order to try and stimulate a continuing debate around the issues raised at the conference. The hashtag for the day will be #socialontology.

Confirmed Speakers:

  • Noortje Marres (Goldsmiths) – Does Digital Sociology have a Problem?
  • Jochen Runde (Cambridge) – Non-materiality and the Ontology of Digital Objects
  • Alistair Mutch (NTU) – title TBC
  • Susan Halford (Southampton) – title TBC
  • Nick Couldry (LSE) – title TBC
  • Another speaker TBC

Eventbrite - The Social Ontology of Digital Data & Digital Technology

In my talk at the Digital Sociology conference in New York in February 2015 (available online here) I explained my enthusiasm for the new possibilities afforded by social media for doing research in real time with communities. These are the two examples I’m familiar with but I’d like to know about any others that exist.

  1. Every minute of every day was an experiment in ‘real time ethnography’ undertaken by Les Back and others at Goldsmiths. You can read about it here. Unfortunately the project’s website is no longer online because it was hosted on Posterous website. This is sad and highlights some of the risks involved in relying upon commercial problems.
  2. The Barrio Ed Project is a “digital, participatory research project on Comunidades Latinos & EdReform”. You can read more about it here.

One potential constraint upon these projects is the absence of a pre-existing audience. In some cases this won’t be a problem but in others I expect it will be and interesting work will be done that would benefit from a much wider audience. The life cycle of any project makes it difficult to gather an audience purely for that project. Obviously an audience doesn’t constitute a public but in many cases the project might benefit from a public and an audience.

Given that the original idea for SociologicalImagination.org was a platform for public sociology, I’d love to open it up for use by research projects if it would be helpful. The twitter feed has almost 17,400 followers and the blog gets 1000-3000 page views per day so there’s a significant audience already in place. I’m not sure exactly how this would work in practice but if you’d like to discuss it further then please do get in touch. My e-mail address is mark AT markcarrigan.net.

Wish I could make this:


Research Seminar – The Ethical Economy
Collaborative ethics, promotional cultures and digital media

Guest Speaker: Prof. Adam Arvidsson (University of Milan)
Tuesday 17th February (h. 17 – Middlesex University, Room C107)

The event will explore the different aspects around the new ‘collaborative economy’ that is emerging out of the crisis of corporate capitalism: peer production, the sharing economy, co-working spaces, impact business and prosumerism.

Professor Adam Arvidsson from University of Milan will discuss how a more ethical economic system can emerge that rectifies the crisis of our current downturn, while balancing the injustices of extreme poverty and wealth.

Join us to discuss how innovations in production, valuation and distribution systems interplay to potentially demonstrate that social production and the motivation of continuous capital accumulation can exist hand-in-hand with a new desire to maximize social impact.

Respondents: Sophia Drakopoulou (Middlesex University – Cybersalon) and Alessandro Gandini (Middlesex University).