2018 DMRC Summer School – Workshops

Digital Methods Workshops

DMRC workshops

Advanced Social Media Analytics – Axel Bruns (QUT)
Particularly when working with large social media datasets, quantitative and mixed-methods approaches that draw especially on visual representations of ‘big data’ are now an indispensable part of the the analytics process. This data analytics and visualisation workshop focusses on a number of emerging standard tools and methods for large-scale data analytics, using Twitter data to illustrate these approaches. It introduces participants to the open-source Twitter Capture and Analysis Toolkit (TCAT) as a capable and reliable tool for data gathering from the Twitter API, and to the high-end data analytics software Tableau as a powerful means of processing and visualising large datasets. The skills gained in the workshop are also transferrable to working with other large datasets from social media and other sources.

The App Walkthrough – Jean Burgess (QUT)
Software applications (apps) are the site of significant sociocultural and economic transformations across many domains, from health and relationships to entertainment and finance. As relatively closed systems, apps pose methodological challenges for digital media research. In this session, we will discuss a new approach, the walkthrough method, which combines cultural studies and science and technology studies (STS) as a lens for critical app analysis. Participants will learn how to establish an app’s environment of expected use by assessing its vision, operating model, and modes of governance. They will also gain hands-on experience using the walkthrough technique to systematically step through the stages of registration, everyday use, and discontinuation to identify the app’s embedded cultural meanings and implied ideal users.

Digital ethnography – conducting semi-structured interviews and focus groups – Michael Dezuanni (QUT)
Digital ethnography uses a range of digital and non-digital methods to investigate the use of digital media in everyday life. Semi-structured interviews and focus groups provide well established qualitative methods for generating data, particularly when it is difficult to generate data through observation, participation or other ethnographic methods. In this session, I will discuss using interviews and focus groups, particularly with children and young people about their use of digital platforms including Minecraft and YouTube. I will also conduct a mock focus group interview with a small group of participants about YouTube, followed by a whole group debrief. Participants will also have an opportunity to pair up to conduct a brief semi-structured interview with each other.

Instagrammatics and visual social media – Tim Highfield (QUT)
Visual content is a critical component of everyday social media, on platforms explicitly framed around the visual (Instagram, Snapchat), on those offering a mix of text and images in myriad forms (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr), and in apps and profiles where visual presentation and provision of information are important considerations. Making use of shared elements of social media content, such as hashtags, memes, and formal and informal conventions of communication, the methods used in this workshop position visual social media within the wider social media ecosystem. The workshop provides a hands-on means for approaching visual social media, giving participants the opportunity to interrogate what they might do with such data and what visual media and methods might contribute to research. The workshop will also elicit critical considerations around working with visual data, dynamic data, archival questions (and the challenges of collating such an archive in light of Instagram’s Terms of Use), and ethical issues, including privacy.

Multiplatform Issue Mapping and the platform-specificity of controversies – Ariadna Matamoros Fernandez (QUT)
This workshop introduces issue mapping as an advanced method to account for the cultural dynamics of digital media within and across platforms. The first part of this session will contextualize issue mapping within the field of Internet studies and illustrate how the method can be applied to social media analysis. The second part of the session will focus on Facebook as an object of research. We will use the Netvizz tool (Rieder, 2013) to gather data and explore different analytical possibilities (for example, Like networks, Facebook search results, the examination of Facebook reactions over time and the possibility to extract stickers, emoji and other visual materials from comments). The workshop will demonstrate how the use of digital tools in combination with network and qualitative analyses can help illuminate the platform-specificity of social media controversies both from the perspective of users’ practices and of the platforms’ mediation of them. Overall, we will discuss the importance of treating platforms as active actors in the shaping of controversies rather than as transparent sources of behavioural data on social issues.

Digital methods, digital ethics – Peta Mitchell and Elija Cassidy (QUT)
The expanding horizon of research in digital media has thrown up a broad array of ethical issues and dilemmas that researchers need to grapple with and that institutional ethics review boards may see as particularly challenging. In this workshop, we review existing ethical frameworks for doing digital media research and examine a range of ethical issues that emerge at the levels of method, platform, data, tool, and visualisation. We will focus in on a couple of case studies—including ethical considerations in studying dating apps—and ask workshop participants to discuss the ethical dilemmas their own projects have raised, how they have resolved these dilemmas, and what, if any, challenges they encountered in receiving institutional ethics approval to conduct their research.

Encrypt all the things!!! Digital Privacy and Security for Researchers — Brenda Moon (QUT) and Felix Münch (QUT)
The political upheavals of 2016 support Edward Snowden’s warnings of a turn-key surveillance state. As the aftermath of the military coup in Turkey shows, academics can be amongst the first targets of autocratic governments. Even in supposedly stable democracies, the passing of surveillance laws and indcrease in hacking attacks threatens the security of data and communication. In addition, researchers mostly do not enjoy the protection of information provided to lawyers, medical doctors, and clergy. Recognising these increasing risks, researchers need to become more aware of digital methods to protect their research and sources. In this hands-on workshop, we address threats a researcher should protect against, explain basics of computer security, the encryption of data and communication, and provide recommendations for existing tools.

Conducting online focus groups via Facebook — Kim Osman (QUT) 
This workshop will discuss the challenges and issues raised when migrating traditional social research methods like focus groups to social media platforms. It will reflect on a recent project that used online focus groups to do research with hard to reach participants, and the opportunities presented by using platforms such as Facebook for conducting in-depth qualitative research with specific target audiences. The workshop consider the risks and ethics of working on social media sites with particular regard to working with young people, along with how to use Facebook as a site for long term engagement with focus group participants. It will also consider the practicalities of gathering data in a secret group, and introduce MaxQDA as a tool for grounded, qualitative approaches to analysing focus group data. Participants will work with provided data to generate their own qualitative findings using Max QDA, and export the data for further visualisation.

Introducing Instagrab – A tool for collecting and presenting Instagram posts – Patrik Wikström (QUT)
In this workshop you will explore a research tool developed at DMRC for collecting and presenting Instagram posts without access to the Instagram Web API. The workshop consists of four parts. In part one, you will set up your computer to run the Instagrab software. In part two, you will be able to experiment with the software and adjust the settings in order to generate output that is useful for your own research projects. In part three, we will have a critical discussion about using a tool such as Instagrab, primarily from an ethical and legal perspective. Finally, if time allows, we will look under the hood to examine how Instagrab works (Instagrab is written in Python). In order to participate in this workshop you need a PC or Mac and be able to install some software packages on your machine.

Guest workshops

Information Visualisation for Text-based Social Data  – Dan Angus (University of Queensland)
Visualisations are helping reveal previously hidden patterns and trends in social datasets; the availability of powerful software packages which can produce easily customized visualisations has helped proliferate their use across the social sciences. Visualisations are being used to help analyse and communicate findings of thematic change and prominence in various social forums and platforms, to analyse news discourse at national scale, and to visualise single conversations to discover patterns of conceptual exchange between interlocutors. While there is much to be gained from the continued development and use of social science visualisation, there is also room for caution, to ensure that visualisations meet the expectations of researchers and their audience and that best practice is followed in their design and application. The workshop is intended to provide a forum for the discussion of current and emerging visualisation methods, practice and theory specifically in the analysis of textual social data. Examples and training in the use of software for creating such visualisations will be offered in this workshop. Participants will be encouraged to bring their own data, but datasets will also be provided for worked examples.

Studying Fan Communities, Pirate Trackers, and Other Networks of User-Generated/User-Distributed Content – Abigail De Kosnik, University of California Berkeley
This workshop will focus on research methods that can be used to gather data on, and analyze the activity of, Internet fan and remix communities, pirate (torrent) trackers, and other networks with a high volume of user-generated content (UGC) or user-distributed content (UDC). Participants will be guided in designing studies that center on a strong research question, make use of existing methods and tools (such as ethnographic observation, interviewing, data scraping, and network analysis), and situate their scholarship in relation to larger fields of research. Participants will also learn processes for formulating hypotheses, interpreting data, and articulating findings in ways that constitute a contribution to a field. Challenges in conducting research on UGC/UDC, such as how to ethically study large networks of users as “big data,” how to navigate legal issues pertaining to users’ appropriations of copyrighted material, how to submit studies to institutional review boards, and how humanities and social science scholars can recruit and collaborate with computer science and technology scholars, will also be discussed.

Researching digital personal assistants and AI in the home – Melissa Gregg, Intel Corporation
As more devices are added to the domestic environment, the always watching, always listening capabilities of integrated software and hardware solutions resonate with existing critical issues surrounding the home (e.g. privacy, gender and labour) but demand new methods from researchers. Today, Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana and Google Home all extend the history of delegation and logistical operations in the home, even while this space remains our most intimate environment. This workshop will share two methodological approaches to study these trends: a historical framing for today’s experiences of household engineering, and an overview of the gender and cultural studies methods that are critically informing Melissa’s work as research lead for Intel’s Smart Home Group. Participants will act on this knowledge by working together to propose research projects focused on smart home / assistance technologies. The workshop will conclude with a discussion of the appropriate methods and approaches for industry-engaged research in this space.

Towards Feminist Digital Media Research Methods — Alison Harvey (University of Leicester) and Bridget Conor (Kings College London)
Digital and data-driven research methods in media and communication have reignited old debates about positionality and positivism as well as objectivity, subjectivity, and situated reflexivity. In this workshop, we will discuss these questions in light of participants’ research projects and interests, and explore the relationship between big and small data, ethical obligations and an ethics of care, and the politics of (in)visibility in contemporary digital media research. Through this conversation we aim to illuminate existing best practices in our collective work and to collaboratively develop recommendations for more ethical, caring, and critical ways of engaging in digital media research.