Category Archives: Resources

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.

The April Playlist

The fatal mistake we have been making is to sacrifice every other form of transportation to the private motorcar—and to offer, as the only long-distance alternative, the airplane. But the fact is that each type of transportation has its special use; and a good transportation policy must seek to improve each type and make the most of it. This cannot be achieved by aiming at high speed or continuous flow alone. If you wish casual opportunities for meeting you neighbors, and for profiting by chance contacts with acquaintances and colleagues, a stroll at two miles an hour in a concentrated area, free from vehicles, will alone meet your need.

(Lewis Mumford, The Highway and the City. 1956. p. 247)

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.

 

 

Journalismus und Digitalisierung

Ich unterrichte im Wintersemester ein Einführungsseminar zu “Journalismus und Digitalisierung” am Institut für Publizistik und Kommunikationswissenschaft der FU Berlin.

Nachdem nun lange genug von einer Krise die Rede war, zeigen neueste Entwicklungen die Innovationsfähigkeit und nach wie vor hohe Relevanz des Journalismus: twitternde Chefredakteure, data-driven journalism oder hyperlokale journalistische Produkte um nur einige zu nennen. Dieses Seminar gibt einen Überblick zu den neuesten Entwicklungen im Journalismus, vor allem in Deutschland.

Themen des Seminars sind unter anderem die Veränderung der Produktionsbedingungen von Nachrichten (z.B. newsrooms, structured journalism), die Beziehungen zwischen journalistischen Akteuren und ihrem Publikum, neue Modelle der Finanzierung journalistischer Produkte (z.B. durch crowdfunding), die Pluralisierung von Nutzungs- und Verbreitungsformen, wie auch gänzlich neue Formen journalistischer Expertise (data-driven journalism, social curation, citizen journalism).

Themen (en detail)

  • Digitalisierung und Innovation im Journalismus
  • Journalistische Arbeitsumgebungen: Von der Redaktion zum Newsroom
  • Partizipation am und im Journalismus
  • Bürgerjournalismus online
  • Journalismus und Soziale Medien – Persönliche Öffentlichkeiten
  • Datenjournalismus und Structured Journalism
  • Multimedia-Journalismus
  • Wikileaks und die JournalistInnen
  • Crowdfunding und Journalismus
  • Hyperlokaler Journalismus
  • Perspektiven der Journalismusforschung

Follow and contribute via Twitter #ifpukdj.


Knight-Mozilla Fellowships in OpenNews: call open till August 21, 2015

The Knight Foundation and Mozilla have launched Open News, a program to explore new ways of doing journalism through software coding, data exploration and presentation. For 2016, there are stupendously generous fellowships available for interested scholars, programmers and/or journalists to work with selected partners:

Source and further info: The Knight-Mozilla Fellowships: How to Apply