2019 DMRC Summer School Workshops

#dmrcss19 Digital Methods Workshops

Information Visualisation for Text-based Social Data  – Dan Angus (joining QUT in February 2019) 
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.

Advanced Social Media Analytics – Axel Bruns 
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 
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 the walkthrough method approach, 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, as well as to identify traces of its data flows and algorithmic logics.

Ethnographic methods and the ethics of understanding children’s digital media use – Michael Dezuanni 
Children’s digital lives are complex, varied, controversial and largely under-researched. Two significant challenges confront researchers wanting to better understand children’s digital media experiences – methodology and ethics. Children make difficult research subjects because a number of traditional research methodologies are less reliable than they are in research with adults. It is difficult to survey children, interviews need to be conducted with care and it is challenging to conduct ethnographic research with children. For these reasons and others, children are often the subject of research in schools, but seldom in homes. Most studies about children’s digital media use rely at least partly on adults’ reports of children’s activities. Children are typically considered to be a ‘special case’ for the ethical conduct of research, with implications for the kinds of data researchers may be able to access. During this workshop, I will share my experiences using ethnographic methods to understand children’s Minecraft and YouTube practices in home, school and community settings. Participants will be provided with some research scenarios involving children’s use of digital media and will work through associated ethical and data production dilemmas.

Introduction to Social Network Analysis in R – Tim Graham (joining QUT in 2019)
The increased availability of online digital data has coincided with a surge of interest in social network analysis (SNA). SNA offers a powerful range of tools, methods and theory that enables researchers to map, visualise, and analyse sociocultural phenomena as complex networks. In particular, SNA has a natural alignment with the analysis of social media data. For example, ‘nodes’ can represent user accounts and the links or ‘edges’ between nodes represent relationships between users, such as retweeting on Twitter or replying on Reddit. This workshop introduces participants to analysing digital data using the R statistical software. The focus is on applying core SNA techniques to social media data, and highlight how these kinds of methods are used in social science research. Participants will learn some foundational programming skills in the R language, along with the ability to construct networks from social media data (datasets will be provided, but participants are encouraged to bring their own), perform descriptive node-level and network-level analysis, export networks to disk for visualisation in Gephi, and, if time permits, we will also cover more advanced topics such as community detection and two-mode network projection.

The Bodies We Never Leave Behind – Brendan Keogh
Digital media is more than what is happening on the screen. Fingers tap at keyboards and smear across touchscreens; eyes are strained and backs are bent out of shape; gender, race, and class all make themselves known in everyday online interactions. Peter Steiner’s 1993 cartoon for the New Yorker famously noted that on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog. As digital media researchers, it’s just as important for us to remember that on the internet, you never actually stop being a dog. In this workshop, we will consider ways to account for embodiment and identity when conducting research on virtual spaces. In the first half of the workshop I will discuss the various authors and disciplines that helped me articulate a focus on the embodied in my own research on videogame play. In the second half, participants will be encouraged to consider the potential corporeal blindspots of their own research projects.

Doing Critical Media Industries Research – Amanda Lotz (joining QUT in January 2019)
Digital media come from somewhere. The social media, internet-distributed video, and many other apps increasingly common in daily life are built by industries, most commonly for commercial ends. This workshop offers a framework for investigating digital media industries and companies and common methodological tools for analysis. From the macro level of political economy analysis to the particular level of individual agents, this workshop explores the types of questions that inform analysis and understanding of the “encoding” of digital media and methods best suited for answering them.

Algorithms by Design – Monique Mann, Peta Mitchell and Marcus Foth
We live in a mediated world that is increasingly governed, judged, and served back to us by computer code, algorithms, and data. The emergence of this new data-driven “algorithmic culture” (Striphas, 2015) presents a challenge to the promises of “participatory culture” (Jenkins, 2006) that could be enabled by a thriving democratic internet. Although consumers contribute much of the data that algorithmic systems operate upon, those systems remain opaque black boxes (Pasquale, 2015) closed off to public understanding, scrutiny and control: algorithms are, as Diakopoulos puts it, “the new power brokers in society” (2014, p. 2). Design-led approaches offer creative and collaborative ways to explore and identify hidden algorithmic constraints, and in this workshop we explore a range of practical, design-led approaches that work to embed privacy-by-design and autonomy-by-design principles in the algorithms of the future.

Multiplatform Issue Mapping and the platform-specificity of controversies – Ariadna Matamoros Fernandez
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 contextualise 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 YouTube as an object of research. We will use the YouTube Data Tools (Rieder, 2015) to gather data and explore different analytical possibilities (for example, video and channel networks, YouTube search results, and the examination of YouTube vernaculars and its impact on the platform’s algorithms). 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 
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) 
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.

Applying Discourse Analysis to Digital Objects – David Myles
For Internet scholars, applying ‘discourse analysis’ to digital research objects can generate significant challenges, specifically if they wish to consider the notion of materiality, may it be physical, digital, or hybrid in nature. Furthermore, while widespread, discourse analysis is a highly polysemic term. When researchers refer to discourse analysis, they can mean very different things or even fail to identify the tradition from which they draw altogether. In this session, we will give a brief overview of the main approaches to discourse analysis (their origins, their concepts, and their methods) and underline some of their implications for Internet scholars. Participants will learn to identify the benefits and limitations of each approach by applying discourse analysis to a real-life example on digital activism.

Exploring Media Histories – Benjamin Nicoll (joining QUT in 2019)
All media have histories. While your research may not explicitly deal with questions of history and historiography, it is likely that you will be making historical assumptions in your analyses of media objects, industries, practices, and practitioners. In this workshop, participants will be asked to discuss the histories of the media they are researching, and describe the archives and voices that inform these histories. We will then look at several techniques, methods, and resources for ‘thinking’ these histories anew. As a group, we will evaluate the merits of approaches that derive history from the ‘black boxes’ of media technologies, as against those that focus on the discursive formations that surround media. Ultimately, we will attempt to come up with historical insights that reveal what Laine Nooney (2013: n.p.) calls the ‘ghostly realities of privilege, access, affect, and identity that constitute the dirt from which we “excavate” media [history’s] objects’.

Conducting online focus groups via Facebook — Kim Osman 
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. It focuses particularly on issues of participant recruitment and will examine commercially available digital tools like Facebook Messenger for engaging participants with our research along with the risks and ethics of using such methods in academic research.

Introduction to Photogrammetry – T.J. Thomson and Keith Armstrong
Photogrammetry is the technique of automatically extracting measurements from large numbers of overlapping photographic images to build a 2D or 3D representation — from the smallest object to the broadest landscape. Surveying and mapping processes use images taken in automated patterns from an aerial craft which could be either an aircraft, drone or satellite. By taking a large number of overlapping images, and through automated software processes, the still images can be used to create high resolution orthographic (top-down) maps, 3D models for VR flythroughs and more, with a range of applications ranging from ecological surveying, disaster management and journalism. In this workshop, we’ll show you how to plot an area to be surveyed, deploy a drone to perform the surveying task automatically, and then render and interact with the resulting digital output. In addition to learning about relevant mapping and flight planning software and safe and ethical drone use, the workshop will also include a group debrief session where implications for research will be brainstormed and discussed.

Introducing Instagrab – A tool for collecting and presenting Instagram posts – Patrik Wikström

Instagrab is a research tool developed at the DMRC for collecting and processing Instagram posts and media files without access to the Instagram Web API. Note that it is necessary for you to attend the tech setup session on Monday morning in order for you to participate in the Instagrab workshop. During the tech setup session, you will set up your laptop to run Instagrab and we will make sure that everything works as it should for you to collect “real-world” data from Instagram. In the workshop you will experiment with the Instagrab software, and collect data from Instagram (and generate output) that is useful for your own research projects,  and we will also have a critical discussion about issues and risks related to using a research 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).