Category Archives: Articles

New Paper: Weaving Seams with data and the Role of Cityapis

Infrastructures are conspicuous for their opacity. They merge into the fabric of the built environment and seem to disappear once they work reliably. They become visible only to experts who build and maintain them, or when they break down. For the rest of us, an infrastructure is embedded in our daily practices, enabling us to do other things. As Geoffrey Bowker and colleagues phrased it, infrastructures are “pervasive enabling resources in network form” (2010: 98). The obscurity of infrastructure is especially worthy of attention and analysis when we talk about networks that are not as easy to identify as roads, water pipes or electric cables. In the context of datafication and smart cities, we also need to look at infrastructures that shape our understanding and potentials to interact with the social, political and economic world around us.

In a paper recently published open access in Big Data & Society, I collaborated with Gabriel Pereira, Lasse Verstergaard and Martin Brynskov from Aarhus University to conceptualize one particular element of network infrastructures in smart cities – application programming interfaces or APIs. In what we term ‘CityAPIs’, different strands of research and criticism are merged to highlight that an object such as an API is far from stable and is subject to different kinds of contestations.

Most basically, an API simply regulates what kind of data or function is available from a host (e.g. a server). It defines data types and ways to query them. An API is mostly not visible to an end user but regulates traffic between computers or applications. Our interest in APIs is connected to the idea that datafication in smart cities creates new ways of ‘seamless integration’ between different data sources. But beyond the buzzword, this seamlessness is the result of massive integration efforts on the social, technological and political levels of cities. Defining how an API makes certain data available is thus a political question that drives the design and implementation of new infrastructures – from traffic and weather monitoring to social and mobile media applications.

In the article we particularly discuss three perspectives on City APIs, which cover the fields of criticism, design and implementation.

  1. Criticism of Proprietary APIs such as social media APIs has foregrounded how certain business models are hardwired into the design and governance of APIs. Using the Twitter Streaming API for research purposes, for example, is possible with some constraint, but not intended by the providers of the API. In this perspective, APIs appear as ‘protocological objects’, to quote Bucher (2013), that regulate data exchanges but also practices of programmers and users.
  2. The design challenges for APIs are addressed in the second part, highlighting that affordances of APIs are negotiated between API producers and API consumers. Creating an API needs to take into account what resources a computer system can offer to an API consumer, and how these are understood. Revealing the ‘intent’ of an API needs to anticipate use cases and disclose in a consistent fashion how particular kinds of data can be queried.
  3. How APIs intersect with urban innovation initiatives, local governance structures and use-based challenges is the subject of the third part. We present analyses of two projects, City SDK and OrganiCity, to highlight that the technological challenge of designing APIs is overshadowed by political and economic considerations about the future uses of social urban data, their governance and transparency, and the potential for citizens to interact with such new infrastructures.

Although this discussion of CityAPIs may seem to be a fairly technical matter, the article highlights that such elements reveal the social, political and economical contestations about digital urban transitions. APIs can be envisioned and designed for many different kinds of seams, their weaving of data into the urban fabric is not limited to improved public service delivery or proprietary business models for big data analytics. They rather challenge us to acknowledge and interrogate the pervasive influence of certain infrastructures on the way we understand and interact with the world around us.

Because an API operates at the level of defining and providing data access that serves as a prerequisite and condition for user-focused applications, its definition and implementation embeds crucial socio-political assumptions in a technological framework that has far-reaching consequences for citizens, city administrators, and developers of applications using social urban data. (p. 5)

Cite As

Raetzsch, Christoph; Pereira, Gabriel; Vestergaard, Lasse S; Brynskov, Martin (2019). “Weaving Seams with Data: Conceptualizing City APIs as Elements of Infrastructures.” Big Data & Society 6(1). https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/2053951719827619.

Video Abstract

See our video abstract on the Big Data & Society blog. https://youtu.be/AojKojNdSN0

Additional Readings

API Criticism, Social Media and Infrastructures

  • Preparing the Ground for Infrastructure Studies: Star, Susan Leigh; Ruhleder, Karen (1996). “Steps Toward an Ecology of Infrastructure: Design and Access for Large Information Spaces.” Information Systems Research 7(1): 111-134. https://dx.doi.org/10.1287/isre.7.1.111.
  • Bowker, Geoffrey C.; Baker, Karen; Millerand, Florence; Ribes, David. (2010). “Toward Information Infrastructure Studies: Ways of Knowing in a Networked Environment.” International Handbook of Internet Research, edited by Jeremy Hunsinger; Lisbeth Klastrup; Matthew Allen, 97-117. Dordrecht: Springer. https://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-9789-8_5.
  • APIs as Protocological Objects: Bucher, Taina (2013). “Objects of Intense Feeling: The Case of the Twitter API.” Computational Culture. A Journal of Software Studies 3. http://computationalculture.net/objects-of-intense-feeling-the-case-of-the-twitter-api/.
  • Mapping the data economy: Bechmann, Anja (2013). “Internet Profiling: The Economy of Data Intraoperability on Facebook and Google.” MedieKultur 29(55): 72-91. https://dx.doi.org/10.7146/mediekultur.v29i55.8070.
  • Platforms as Infrastructures (and vice versa): Plantin, Jean-Christophe; Lagoze, Carl; Edwards, Paul N; Sandvig, Christian (2018). “Infrastructure Studies Meet Platform Studies in the Age of Google and Facebook.” New Media & Society 20(1): 293-310. https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1461444816661553.
  • Platform Instances and the Mobile Ecosystem: Nieborg, David B; Helmond, Anne (2018). “The Political Economy of Facebook’s Platformization in the Mobile Ecosystem: Facebook Messenger as a Platform Instance.” Media, Culture & Society 41(2): 196-218. https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0163443718818384.
  • Learning with APIs: Mackenzie, Adrian (2018). “From API to AI: Platforms and Their Opacities.” Information, Communication & Society (online first). https://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2018.1476569.
  • API Deconstruct as Critical Practice: Snodgrass, Eric; Soon, Winnie (2019). “API Practices and Paradigms: Exploring the Protocological Parameters of APIs as Key Facilitators of Sociotechnical Forms of Exchange.” First Monday 24(2). https://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/9553.

Urban Informatics

  • What’s Urban Informatics? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_informatics
  • From Street Computing to Intervention: Robinson, Ricky; Rittenbruch, Markus; Foth, Marcus; Filonik, Daniel; Viller, Stephen (2012). “Street Computing: Towards an Integrated Open Data Application Programming Interface (API) for Cities.” Journal of Urban Technology 19(2): 1-23. https://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10630732.2012.698064.
  • The Citizen in the Digital City: Foth, Marcus; Brynskov, Martin; Ojala, Timo (eds.) (2015). Citizen’s Right to the Digital City: Urban Interfaces, Activism, and Placemaking. Wiesbaden: Springer.
  • Methods for Participating in the Digital City: Dezuanni, Michael; Foth, Marcus; Mallan, Kerry; Hughes, Hilary (eds.) (2018). Digital Participation Through Social Living Labs: Valuing Local Knowledge, Enhancing Engagement. Amsterdam: Chandos Publishing.

Visualizing and Controlling Data

Urban Data Spaces

  • Data and Space: Dalton, Craig M; Taylor, Linnet; Thatcher (alphabetical), Jim (2016). “Critical Data Studies: A Dialog on Data and Space.” Big Data & Society 3(1). https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/2053951716648346.
  • Imaginaries of the Urban Data Space: Hoelzl, Ingrid; Marie, Rémi (2016). “Brave New City: The Image in the Urban Data-Space.” Visual Communication 15(3): 371-391. https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1470357216642638.
  • Command of the Land is Command of Data: Graham, Stephen D.N. (2016). “Software-Sorted Geographies.” Progress in Human Geography 29(5): 562-580. https://dx.doi.org/10.1191/0309132505ph568oa.
  • Governing the Pulse of the City: Coletta, Claudio; Kitchin, Rob (2017). “Algorhythmic Governance: Regulating the ‘Heartbeat’ of a City Using the Internet of Things.” Big Data & Society 4(2). https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/2053951717742418.
  • Study on Urban Data Spaces, Governance, Use Potentials [on Germany, in German]: Schieferdecker, Ina; Bruns, Lina; Cuno, Silke; Flügge, Matthias; Isakovic, Karsten Klessmann, Jens; Kraft, Volker; Lämmel, Philipp; Stadtkewitz, Dustin Tcholtchev, Nikolay; Lange, Christoph; Imbusch, Benedikt I.; Strauß, Leonie; Vastag, Alex; Flocke, Florian (2018). Urbane Datenräume – Möglichkeiten von Datenaustausch und Zusammenarbeit im Urbanen Raum. Fraunhofer FOKUS, IAIS, IML. https://www.fokus.fraunhofer.de/de/fokus/presse/urbaneDatenraeume-Studie-Datenmanagement_2018_06
  • Summary of the above study in English: Cuno, Silke; Bruns, Lina; Tcholtchev, Nikolay; Lämmel, Philipp; Schieferdecker, Ina (2019). “Data Governance and Sovereignty in Urban Data Spaces Based on Standardized ICT Reference Architectures.” Data 4(1): 16. https://dx.doi.org/10.3390/data4010016.

Experimentation at Scale: Towards Urban Capacity Building for Citizen-Centric Innovation

Cities may be the most complex systems to manage because everyone has an opinion on how to do it best. And many options are always on the table. Instead of dismissing the ones and favoring the others, experimentation promises to provide a structured method of innovation where a large part of stakeholders can get their say, reveal their perception of a problem and commonly work towards a solution. The motto is to experiment locally, involve as many and see where the journey can link you up to other cities and their best practices. But you need to have a set of engagement principles in place to build trust in the process.

This paper presents findings from two projects where experimentation was developed into a viable method of citizen-centric innovation – Dampbusters using the Bristol approach and OrganiCity in Aarhus, London and Santander, building an Experimentation-as-a-Service platform across cities through co-creation. As a central outcome, the paper concludes that experimentation as an approach to innovation is most sustainable, when it has lateral effects: Besides the gains and insights of individual projects, experimentation-as-a-service needs to contribute to an institutional framework within city governance to support new forms of civic and technological capacity building. Start with the OrganiCity playbook and sketch your journey.

The article was part of a special issue on “Urban Informatics: Decoding Urban Complexities Through Data-Sciences”, edited by Nimish Biloria for Smart and Sustainable Built Environment and appeared in 2018.

Core Message

The scalability of urban innovation processes crucially depends on developing systemic capabilities to experiment within cities and in collaborations between cities to establish best practices, standards and ecosystems between actors and institutions.This is an ongoing process in which very different ecologies of actors and approaches for experimentation will likely emerge. A core area of future research and intervention lies in revealing the relation between translocal standards and infrastructures and their individual adoption in cities, their role in shaping actors’ practices around IoT data and community engagement as well as the larger digital transition that affects governance structures across city spaces.(p.160)

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to discuss how experimentation with open Internet of Things data can be institutionalised in an inclusive manner at scale.

Design/methodology/approach

The approach is conceptual, addressing key challenges discussed in the literature on experimental cities. This exposition of the problem of scaling experimentation is anchored in findings from two projects (Dampbusters and OrganiCity), which seek to implement experimentation as a practice of sustainable digital urban development.

Findings

One central finding is that local interventions need transferable frameworks and mechanisms to achieve scaling effects of experimentation as a practice. In addition, experimentation must embed common engagement principles, structures of data and interfaces, and governance principles across use cases to be scaled.

Originality/value

The authors outline how and why experimentation can be a useful approach to address challenges of implementing urban informatics into concrete uses and procedures for co-creation. Based on reports from two projects, the authors develop recommendations for experimentation at scale that reflect the need for engagement principles, the need for common data structures and interfaces, as well as governance principles.

Cite

Brynskov, Martin; Heijnen, Adriënne; Balestrini, Mara; Raetzsch, Christoph (2018). “Experimentation at Scale: Challenges for Making Urban Informatics Work.” Special Issue on “Urban Informatics: Decoding Urban Complexities Through Data-Sciences” (edited by Nimish Biloria). Smart and Sustainable Built Environment 7(1): 150-163. https://dx.doi.org/10.1108/SASBE-10-2017-0054.

The Bike-friendly City as a Communicative Object

In December 2017, Martin Brynskov and me published a collaborative and exploratory piece on communicative objects. The prompt was a special issue of the Brazilian open access journal Parágrafo, managed and edited by Rafael Grohmann, on “Boundaries of Journalism” (including – inter alia – contributions by Alice Mattoni, Nikki Usher and Rodney Benson). In our article, we address the complexity of a public issue like the bike-friendly city and the various sources of data and media we, as journalism and media scholars, can access to understand processes of public contention. Based on the case study of #Radentscheid in Berlin, we offer a basic contextual framing of communicative objects and develop a typology of such objects. A cornerstone of our article is a discussion of the methodological challenges when investigating public issues through communicative objects, which transgress established disciplinary boundaries and explanatory schemes because they are situated in overlapping social, medial and political contexts.

Abstract

This paper addresses the boundaries of journalism through a perspective of communicative objects. Introduced as a heuristic concept, communicative objects focus attention on the processes and practices of meaning-making inside and outside publics as much as addressing the materiality of these processes that take place in digital and networked media. As more and more platforms and services are developed to involve actors in different socio-cultural settings in forms of public communication, the concept of the communicative object accentuates the materiality and epistemologies of these settings. The article builds on the case study of a citizen’s initiative for a bike-friendly city in Berlin (Germany) to outline methodological inroads and theoretical implications of the communicative object. The aim is to problematize rather than resolve tensions between everyday usage of media technologies, journalistic professional expertise and the practices of meaning-making that exist and evolve outside of journalism. Through the concept we also address new epistemological challenges of analyzing digital media, which emerge as a result of new interaction potentials of communicative objects which we cannot capture in a document-oriented research methodology.

Here you go

Challenging the Boundaries of Journalism through Communicative Objects: Berlin as a Bike-friendly City and #Radentscheid

Cite as

The article was originally published in Portuguese. Please refer to the original source as Raetzsch, Christoph; Brynskov, Martin (2017). “Desafiando as Fronteiras Do Jornalismo Por Meio de Objetos Comunicativos: Berlim Como Uma Cidade Bike-Friendly E #radentscheid [Challenging the Boundaries of Journalism Through Communicative Objects: Berlin as a Bike-Friendly City and #radentscheid].” Parágrafo: Revista Científica de Comunicação Social da FIAM-FAAM 5(2): 110-127. http://revistaseletronicas.fiamfaam.br/index.php/recicofi/article/view/681. Published in English at https://futuremaking.space/blog/challenging-boundaries-journalism-communicative-objects-berlin-bike-friendly-city-radentscheid/

Media Practice and Performative Publics

Quotidian digital media have fundamentally transformed the ways in which public protest is articulated today. Think of movements like Occupy and the Arab Spring, the protests in Gezi Park in Istanbul and the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Protest is nowadays voiced on the street and online at the same time. Or it originates online and stretches further and further, assuming all kinds of material and collaborative forms. Think of #metoo.

Together with Margreth Lünenborg (FU Berlin) and Susanne Foellmer (Coventry), I have edited “Media Practices, Social Movements, and Performativity: Transdisciplinary Approaches” (Routledge). It is  a collaboration between media and communication studies with dance and theater studies. The case studies cover a wide cultural and geographical terrain – from Mexico to Japan, from German to Greece. A common interest is to develop the notion of media practice and performativity and employ it analytically to these divergent settings.

Media Practices, Social Movements, and Performativity: Transdisciplinary Approaches (Hardback) book cover

The volume presents international case studies on the new dynamics of protest, articulation and community along with two programmatic articles on the role and legacies of performativity.  On the basis of these approaches the contributors show the specific local embeddedness of new forms of publicness that emerge in protest movements. As a tribute to Randy Martin, we reprint his programmatic article “A precarious dance, a derivative sociality“, which originally appeared in The Drama Review (2012; 56(4)).

In our article “From Public Sphere to Performative Publics” Margreth Lünenborg and me argue that

the new public modalities in which performative publics emerge need to be understood in terms of a relinking of materialities, competences and meanings, that are nowadays often transposed from the domain of quotidian user practice to the articulation of communal or collective interests. (p. 28)

What interested us in our article (apart from a critique of public sphere concepts) was the perspective of practice, paying attention to how minute shifts in media, knowledge and meaning over time allow for new public articulations to emerge. THE PUBLIC is no longer there. It’s created. Every day. By everyone. And we need to become more aware of how this happens because the usual suspects (journalists) are no longer the first or only to make it happen. What is now far more common is that speaker and audience positions alternate.

We need to ask, what kinds of discursive positions can become articulated in performative publics and how do these publics emerge and are sustained over time. Nowadays, the structures in which publics emerge are by and large communicative structures, which can be mobilised, adopted and transposed to new contexts as new issues emerge and new actors stand up to speak on their behalf. (p. 29)

See the full list of Contributions

Introduction: Media Practices, Social Movements, and Performativity: Transdisciplinary Approaches (Susanne Foellmer, Margreth Lünenborg, Christoph Raetzsch)

Part I: Framing Media Practices: Theoretical Perspectives

1. From Public Sphere to Performative Publics: Developing Media Practice as an Analytic Model (Margreth Lünenborg/ Christoph Raetzsch)

2. Reframing Modes of Resistance: Performing and Choreographing Protest Through Media Practices (Susanne Foellmer/ Matthias Warstat)

Part II: Approaching Media Practices: Mobilities – Movements – Interventions

3. Mobilising the homeless? A proposal for the concept of banal mobilisation (Maren Hartmann)

4. Gezi Uprising: Performative Democracy and Politics of the Body in an Extended Space of Appearance (Gurur Ertem)

5.Mobilise, justify, accuse – the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood strategies in the context of changing media practices (Carola Richter)

6. The Mechanics of Signification – Making the Story of Embros (Gigu Argyropoulou/ Natascha Siouzouli)

7. “Narco Culture” and Media Practices: Negotiating Gender Identities in Contexts of Violence (Teresa Orozco Martínez/ Martha Zapata Galindo)

8. Performing fragmented realities: Interventionist media practice by LIGNA, Rimini Protokoll and plan b (Patrick Primavesi)

9. Succession or Cessation: The Challenge of New Media for the Japan-Korea Solidarity Movement (Misook Lee)

Afterword: A precarious dance, a derivative sociality (†Randy Martin)

 

  • See more about the book and its contributors
  • Order your review copy  or download the flyer
  • Full reference [Article]: Lünenborg, Margreth; Raetzsch, Christoph. (2018). “From Public Sphere to Performative Publics: Developing Media Practice as an Analytic Model.” Media Practices, Social Movements, and Performativity: Transdisciplinary Approaches, edited by Susanne Foellmer; Margreth Lünenborg; Christoph Raetzsch, 13-35. Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Full Reference [Introduction]: Foellmer, Susanne; Lünenborg, Margreth; Raetzsch, Christoph. (2018). “Introduction: Media Practices, Social Movements and Performativity: Transdisciplinary Approaches.” Media Practices, Social Movements, and Performativity: Transdisciplinary Approaches, edited by Susanne Foellmer; Margreth Lünenborg; Christoph Raetzsch, 1-10. Abingdon: Routledge.

 

Journalism Studies beyond Journalism

In 2014, I joined a conference in honor of Michael Schudson at the University of Groningen (NL).  Some of the contributions to that conference are now published in a special issue of Journalism Studies titled “The Unlovable Press? Conversations with Michael Schudson” (edited by Marcel Broersma and Chris Peters).

This is what my article is about:

This article discusses the work of Michael Schudson and encourages research in journalism studies that addresses the formation of publics rather than only journalistic institutions. Reviewing Schudson’s work on the cultural history of modern journalism, the article focuses especially on the relation of journalism to culture and technology.

The first part argues that Schudson’s proficiency in cultural history distinguishes his writings as both profound, witty and appealing for expert and non-expert readers alike. His early works vividly explore the historical contingencies that defined modern journalism as an important site for cultural negotiation over what it means to live in the present.

The second part critically points out Schudson’s reluctance to theorise the relation of journalism to technology, even though he has implicitly interrogated the “content of the form” of modern journalism throughout.

The last part is a plea for an extension of journalism studies to understand processes in which publics are forming today. In regard of a radically pluralised field of public contestation in social media and other online platforms, Schudson’s insistence on the relevance (and privilege) of journalistic institutions should be amended by a methodological renewal to investigate new modes of public articulation—beyond journalism.

Article link: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1461670X.2017.1338151

See the response by Michael Schudson on all articles in the Special Issue: “Second Thoughts: Schudson on Schudson” (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1461670X.2017.1343931). Republished in Schudson, Michael (2018) Why Journalism Still Matters. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Image taken from The People’s Almanac, 1834. New York: David Felt. Double page spread and detail enlargement “Aspects, Holidays, Weather, Remarks, &c.” . Courtesy American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, MA.

The November Playlist

The monthly update on smash hits and rare tunes in media and communication studies. A personal collection.

Of Note

Academia’s Magic and Dread Nature has a special issue on Young Scientists and Career Prospects (h/t ZEIT.de)

Books

The Who’s Who in Journalism Studies Today – Thinking: Chris Peters,  Marcel Broersma (eds.). Rethinking Journalism Again: Societal role and public relevance in a digital age. Abingdon: Routledge.

Rewiring the Digital Mind: Douglas Coupland (2016). Bit Rot. London: William Heinemann (h/t M.Lange). In parallel and extension of the exhibition at Witte de Witt in Rotterdam until 3 January.

The Making of Collective Memory in/thru the Media: Sonnevend, Julia (2016). Stories Without Borders: The Berlin Wall and the Making of a Global Iconic Event. New York: Oxford University Press.

Embedding the Mobile Me: Adriana de Souza e Silva (ed.) (2016). Dialogues on Mobile Communication. Abingdon: Routledge.

In production – high expectations: Mirko Schäfer & Karin van Es (eds.). Datafied Society – Studying Culture Through Data. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

Linked: Starosielski, Nicole (2015). The Undersea Network. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

Processing Links of Networks: Parks, Lisa; Starosielski, Nicole (eds.) (2015). Signal Traffic: Critical Studies of Media Infrastructures. Chicago IL.: University of Illinois Press.

The Idioms and Pathologies of Networks: Bollmer, Grant (2016). Inhuman Networks: Social Media and the Archaeology of Connection. New York: Bloomsbury.

Articles

“[T]he ‘collective’ is experienced through the ‘individual’ and the group is the means of collective action”: Milan, Stefania (2015). “From Social Movements to Cloud Protesting: The Evolution of Collective Identity.” Information, Communication & Society 18(8): 887-900. https://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2015.1043135

Personal Politics: Thomas Poell & José van Dijck (2016). Constructing Public Space: Global Perspectives on Social Media and Popular Contestation. International Journal of Communication, 10, 226-234. http://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/4984/1535

Meet-up

It’s ECREA again. In Prague. 9-12 November. Make sure to connect to the Digital Culture and Communication Section.

In December:Infrastructures of Publics – Publics of Infrastructures” University of Siegen. Hosted by SFB 1187 Media of Cooperation

Loud and Live: Autechre Live Europe–Onesix in Berlin 19 Nov @Kraftwerk [and sold out]. At home/In the Studio: Reissue of Autechre Classics Amber, Incunabula & Tri Repetae. Start of sale for repress vinyl bundle November 11.

Why does everyone think that sampling started modern electronic music? It started with sequencing analog synths.  Benge explains creating a sequence on a modular syntheziser.

Want to stay tuned for the next playlist? Follow me on Twitter. Want to add tunes? Comment.

Disclaimer: The research, literature or events listed here are recommended based on my own interests, and are not sponsored. Pictures are my own. Trees too.

The September Playlist

The monthly update on smash hits and rare tunes in media and communication studies. A personal collection.

Articles

The mobile bone: Zhang, Yanqing; Juhlin, Oskar (2016). “The “Life and Death” of Great Finnish Fashion Phones: A Periodization of Changing Styles in Nokia Phone Design between 1992 and 2013.” Mobile Media & Communication 4(3): 385-404. https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/2050157916654510

Give and take: Holton, Avery E.; Coddington, Mark; Lewis, Seth C.; Zuniga, Homero Gil de (2015). “Reciprocity and the News: The Role of Personal and Social Media Reciprocity in News Creation and Consumption.” International Journal of Communication 9: 2526-2547.

High Expectations: Borger, Merel; van Hoof, Anita; Sanders, José (2016). “Expecting Reciprocity: Towards a Model of the Participants Perspective on Participatory Journalism.” New Media & Society 18(5): 708-725. https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1461444814545842

The 4A Matrix of Media Change: Westlund, Oscar; Lewis, Seth C. (2014). “Agents of Media Innovations: Actors, Actants, and Audiences.” The Journal of Media Innovations 1(2): 10-35. To be reissued in Steensen, S., Ahva, L. (eds.) (2017). “Theories of Journalism in a Digital Age“. Abingdon: Routledge.

Books

Forget about contingency: Harman, Graham (2016). Immaterialism: Objects and Social Theory. Basingstoke: Polity Press.

Mixed Feelings: Broadbent, Stefana (2016). Intimacy at Work: How Digital Media Bring Private Life to the Workplace. Walnut Creek, CA.: Left Coast Press.

Back in Paperback: Hermida, Alfred (2014). Tell Everyone: Why We Share and Why it Matters. Toronto: Doubleday Canada.

The Spectre Haunting Modern Media: Natale, Simone (2016). Supernatural Entertainments: Victorian Spiritualism and the Rise of Modern Media Culture. University Park, PA.: The Pennsylvania State University Press.

Miscellany

Dataism vs. Humanism: Yuval Noah Harari on big data, Google and the end of free will. Financial Times, 26 August 2016

Symphonic Blast: Christian Fennesz to play in Japan, two dates with Kyoto Symphonic Orchestra at Miyako Messe

Use Cases for Web Archives: Submissions of abstracts opens for RESAW – Research Infrastructure for the Study of Archived Web Materials – to be held in London 14–15 June 2017. See page or call for papers.

Notes and Quotes

Unruly rules: Gearing up for the annual conference of the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR) in Berlin. 5-8 October. What a line-up.

The public sphere as space of signs?
“The public sphere is thus a generic term denoting all virtual or real spaces, the contents of which obtain general visibility or audibility. These spaces are public spaces—space meaning any container of signs that can be sensorily accessed with or without mediation.”

Adut, Ari. 2012. “A Theory of the Public Sphere.” Sociological Theory 30(4): 238-262. https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0735275112467012 (see p.243)

Want to stay tuned for the next playlist? Follow me on Twitter. Want to add tunes? Comment.

Disclaimer: The research, literature or events listed here are recommended based on my own interests, and are not sponsored. Pictures are my own. Trees too.

 

 

Is Data the New Coal? – Four Issues with Christian Fuchs on Social Media

Following up on my initial review of Christian Fuchs’ Social Media – A Critical Introduction (Sage 2014) in German, I have expanded the main arguments and published a review essay this summer. Coming to terms with an author as prolific as Fuchs is not easy, especially as he seems to be publishing more and more books and articles by the minute. But reading through some of his most recent publications, I couldn’t help but see the same argumentative patterns emerge, and the same examples being mustered in support of his theses on exploitation and the political economy of social media. With some due reflection and sympathy for a critique of social media, I have tried to review the book on its own terms and delineate four main issues that seem important for the current scholarly and public debate about the connections of social media, publics and users.

Here are the main points:

  • Is Social Media an introduction, a theory, or a critique of social media? The book outlines basic elements of Fuchs’ Marxist framework. But the abridged, didactic format of an introduction leads to a very troubling and peculiar form of ‘theoretical sampling’, which fails to elucidate the relevance of Karl Marx’s work in relation to social media. One consequence is that the role and status of data in the analysis remains unclear and one-dimensional.
  • What kind of social media does Fuchs have in mind? There is an ambiguous tension in his argument that social media are primarily defined as “applications” by large global players, such as Google, Facebook, Twitter or Weibo, while he acknowledges that Wikipedia, Wikileaks or similar open-source platforms are embodying positive and beneficial social principles of collaboration and cooperation. The unresolved opposition of social media® as trademarked applications and social media as technologies of collaboration remains a blind spot in Fuchs’ argument.
  • What is the status of free labour and exploitation in Fuchs’s view of social media? A cornerstone of his theorising of social media is that social media usage is exploitative just as mining for rare sands in Sub-Saharan Africa or working in Foxconn’s electronics sweatshops is. But his argument on the creation of the ‘audience commodity’ through data is far from convincing and needs to be discussed in context.
  • What kind of concept does Fuchs have of users? He typically emphasises the structurally exploitative nature of social media platforms because the sheer volume of user activity is an infinite source of surplus value on the side of owners and shareholders. By associating power primarily with questions of ownership, Fuchs deliberately avoids considering the dimensions of user agency, not to say of individual creativity or rational judgement in theorising social media.

The article was published in Networking Knowlegde, the open access journal of the Media, Communication and Cultural Studies Association. Cite as: Christoph  Raetzsch (2016). “Is Data the New Coal? – Four Issues with Christian Fuchs on Social Media.” Networking Knowledge. Journal for the MeCCSA Postgraduate Network. 9(5).

The Network Celebrity

Fred Turner and Christine Larson, both researchers at Stanford University, have just published an article in Public Culture on a new type of celebrity – the network intellectuals. Discussing the examples of Norbert Wiener, Stuart Brand and Tim O’Reily, the authors present a compelling account of how opinion leadership is both outcome of network effects and entrepreneurial zest to create those networks and opportunities in the first place.

In their historical and iconographic review of Wiener, O’Reilly and Brand, the authors find that the network intellectual is both a spokesperson, who condenses interests not yet formulated as an agenda, as someone who is actively pursuing to build a community to support his (or her) interests and who is committed to spreading a worldview beyond those circles.

Their power and their celebrity no longer come from the ability to express ideas in words or the ability of mass media technologies to broadcast images around the world. Rather, they come from the ability to build new social networks, to generate new ideas, new language, and new identities within them and, ultimately, to promulgate these networks’ labors—all in such a way that entrepreneurs can come to stand before the public as emblems of the worlds they have helped create. Celebrities in this model are hardly empty vessels. Rather, they are full to the brim with the cultural assumptions and social aspirations of the communities they represent (p. 80)

Turner, Fred, & Larson, Christine. (2015). “Network Celebrity: Entrepreneurship and The New Public Intellectuals.” Public Culture 27(1): 53-84. doi:10.1215/08992363-2798343

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