SMC news: two new articles from Desmond Patton and his SafeLab team

We’re thrilled that Desmond Patton, associate professor in the School of Social Work at Columbia University, is visiting us for the first half of 2020. He’s a rare bird in our field, able both to explain the importance of cultural contexts in data science techniques to technical experts, and to do the important ethnographic work necessary to take account of those contexts. His research “uses qualitative and computational data collection methods to examine the relationship between youth and gang violence and social media; how and why violence, grief, and identity are expressed on social media; and the real-world impact these expressions have on well-being for low-income youth of color.”

By way of getting to know his work, if you’re in the Boston/Cambridge area, you have an excellent opportunity to hear him speak tomorrow (Thurs Feb 20, 5-6:30pm) as pat of the MIT Comparative Media Studies / Writing colloquium series. Beyond that, we wanted to share two new papers from him and his colleagues that may be of interest. The first describes a collaborative, critical methodology for extracting context in social media posts for natural language processing tasks. The second paper describes a new web-based annotation system (VATAS) designed to help social workers and social scientists conduct social media analysis.

Desmond U. Patton, William R. Frey, Kyle A. McGregor, Fei-Tzin Lee, Kathleen McKeown, Emanuel Moss (2020) “Contextual Analysis of Social Media: The Promise and Challenge of Eliciting Context in Social Media Posts with Natural Language Processing” AIES ’20: Proceedings of the AAAI/ACM Conference on AI, Ethics, and Society. 337-342. 

Desmond U. Patton, Philipp Blandfort, William R. Frey, Rossano Schifanella, Kyle A. McGregor, Shih-GFu Chang (2020) “VATAS: An Open-Source Web Platform for Visual and Textual Analysis of Social MediaJournal of the Society of Social Work and Research.

SMC news: an essay in the new Fake News collection, and a podcast interview

A new edited collection from Melissa Zimdars and Kembrew McLeod called Fake News: Understanding Media and Misinformation in the Digital Age (published by MIT Press, with a clever cover) includes an essay from me called “Platforms Throw Content Moderation at Every Problem.” It’s just one of many excellent essays, I recommend you check out the entire volume.

And while I have you, I had the pleasure of talking with Michael Bossetta for his podcast Social Media and Politics. Our discussion, which dove back to my early arguments about platforms, through the issues of content moderation I deal with in Custodians of the Internet, and into possible futures for platforms, moderation, and their role in the democratic process, is now available. Give it a listen, and then dive back into his archives, so excellent interviewees in there.

announcing The Digital City – a new book from Germaine Halegoua

We’re happy to announce the publication of Germaine Halegoua’s new book from NYU Press, The Digital City: Media and the Social Production of Urban Place. (You can read an excerpt published by Flaunt Magazine, or an interview with Germaine about the book.)

Five case studies from global and mid-sized cities around the world illustrate the concept of “re-placeing” by showing how different populations employ urban broadband networks, social and locative media platforms, digital navigation practices, smart cities, and creative placemaking initiatives to re-produce abstract urban spaces as inhabited places with deep meanings and emotional attachments.

“Maybe it’s not that the nature of place is changing, but what place means now within the digital era is changing… Part of the way that it’s changing is because place is not necessarily about static pause, or even an exact location, but it’s more of an event. It’s more of a performance. So place itself is becoming a little bit more mutable, more changeable, more fluid in the sense that its meaning is becoming more changeable, mutable and fluid through the use of digital technologies.”

Halegoua argues that a sense of place is integral to understanding contemporary relationships with digital media while highlighting our own awareness of the places where we find ourselves and where our technologies find and place us. This book expands practical and theoretical understandings of how urban planners envision and plan connected cities, the role of urban communities in shaping and interpreting digital architectures, and the tales of the city produced through mobile and web-based platforms. Digital connectivity is reshaping the city as well as the ways we navigate through it and belong within it. How this happens and the types of places we produce within these networked environments is what this book addresses.

An Internet for the People – First Chapter Preview

I’m delighted to share that my new book, An Internet for the People: The Politics and Promise of craigslist, is out now from Princeton University Press. This book considers the vision of a single platform as instructive for thinking about the future of the web: craigslist. Over its 22 year history, craigslist has grown into a multi-faceted website for local exchanges, which can include buying, selling, hiring, apartment seeking, dating or simply ranting about the neighborhood. At once outdated and highly relevant, easy to use and easy to overlook, craigslist has mostly stayed the same while the web around it has changed, becoming less open and more profit driven. The design decisions and user policies governing craigslist give shape to particular a form of politics, and examining these rules and norms reveals what we stand to lose if the web continues to become less open, more homogenous and geared towards sleek professionalism over messy serendipity.

cover

Here’s the introduction (thanks to the folks at Princeton University Press for letting me share this new work) and here’s a fun video with highlights from the book (thanks to the communications team at Annenberg for their help!).

pdf is from AN INTERNET FOR THE PEOPLE: The Politics and Promise of craigslist by Jessa Lingel. Copyright © 2019 by Princeton University Press. Reprinted here by permission of the publisher