With generous contributions from the Social Media Collective extended family, I have put together a list that brings together academic and popular writing on metaphors of data, along with pieces that approach questions of data and commercial/political power. The goal in assembling this list was to catalog resources that are helpful in unpacking and critiquing different metaphors, ranging from the hype around big data as the new oil to less common (and perhaps more curious) formulations, such as data as sweat or toxic waste.
These resources were originally compiled to support a workshop on data and power (organized at the Mobile Life Centre in Stockholm, Sweden). Sara Watson’s insightful DIS piece on the Industrial Metaphors of Big Data and Maciej Cegłowski’s brilliant talk Haunted By Data turned out to be particularly helpful for provoking conversation among scholars and practitioners. The hope is that the list could be useful also for others in having critical conversations about data.
The list is best seen as an unfinished, non-exhaustive document. We welcome comments and, in particular, recommendations of further work to include. Please use the comment space at the bottom of the page to offer suggestions, and we will try to update the list in light of them.
(This post is a slightly-tweaked version of a talk I gave as a respondant to Gabriella Coleman’s recent talk at the University of Pennsylvania. I’m grateful to DCC for inviting me, and to Biella Coleman for provoking these ideas.)
There is something both over and under-determined about the word “hacker.” On the one hand, “hacker” has come to encompass a broad sweep of practices far beyond those most narrowly associated with an entity like Anonymous, a collective that leverages computing technology to engage in pranks and protests, memes and civil disobedience. Hacking also encompasses (with varying degrees of earnestness) DIY home repair, highly-commercialized software maintenance and non-code-based trickery and mischief on any number of platforms, from newspaper comment forums to Amazon reviews. Even in this brief cataloging, hacking bears the weight of a diverse range of references. On the other hand, and perhaps a key cause of the aforementioned definitional blurriness, hacking defies concrete conceptual confinement, a vague, residual category of practices, mostly those practices that actively resist the very stability required for classification.
A number of internet and media studies scholars have made important contributions that both draw from and clarify this ambiguity, recuperating the political capacity of hacker praxis (not unlike Heller-Roazen’s work on pirates), reorienting previously dominant stereotypes of hackers as loaner, criminals and/or perverts. Starting from the premise that hacker communities can do important political work, I’m interested in using community as a lens for imagining what hackers have done and might do in terms of activist projects. In particular, I want to set up a comparison between the political actions of hackers and that of in-person direct action. Hacking is (or can be) deeply political. But in what ways is it activist?
Once again we faced an embarrassment of riches in selecting postdoctoral researchers. It is exciting to see the diversity and quality of research coming up and gives us great optimism as we think about the future of research about social dimensions of technology.
We are delighted to introduce two new Postdocs who will join us in July 2016.
Dan Greene, University of Maryland
Dan Greene is currently a PhD candidate in American Studies at the University of Maryland, a University Flagship Fellow, and a researcher in the Ethics & Values in Design Lab. A former social worker, Dan’s research focuses on the technologies and institutions that teach us how, why, and where to work in the information economy. His dissertation draws on extensive ethnographic fieldwork to explore the reproduction of the digital divide and how urban institutions like startups, charter schools, and public libraries make the problem of poverty a problem of technology and remake themselves in the process. As a post-doctoral researcher, Dan will be researching the automation of human resources management, particularly the development of technologies for hiring and firing. His work has been published in TripleC, Surveillance & Society, and the International Journal of Communication, and can be found at dmgreene.net
Dylan Mulvin, McGill University
Dylan Mulvin joins the Social Media Collective at Microsoft Research from McGill University, where he is completing a PhD in Communication Studies. He researches the history of technology and the cultural politics of media. His dissertation considers the media practices of engineers, scientists, and bureaucrats in the crafting of measurement standards. His work on the history of video, television, and standards, has appeared in Television & New Media, The Journal of Visual Culture, and The International Journal of Communication. He is co-editor, with Jonathan Sterne, of a special section of the IJOC on temperature and media studies. At MSRNE Dylan will begin a history of the Year 2000 Problem, better known as the Y2K bug (no, he did not lose a bet). This history attempts to recuperate the Y2K bug as a major repair event, an often overlooked milestone in public computer pedagogy, and one of the greatest recent efforts to train individuals, community groups, and policy makers in the management of precarious technological systems.
Well, it was another exciting season of reviewing a rich batch of applications for our 2016 PhD Internship Program. We love reading about all the great work out there but really, really, really hate that we have just a few seats for our intern program. Please spread the word about this program and throw your hat into the ring next year! We’ll put the call out for interns again in mid-October, 2016.
For this year, we are pleased to announce that the following emerging scholars will join us as our 2016 Microsoft Research SMC PhD intern cohort:
At Microsoft Research, New England
Ming Yin is a computer science Ph.D. student at Harvard University, supervised by Professor Yiling Chen. Her research interests lie in the emerging area of human computation and crowdsourcing, and her goal is to better understand crowdsourcing as both a new form of production and an exciting opportunity for online experimentation. Her work is published in top venues like AAAI, IJCAI and WWW, and she has received Best Paper Honorable Mention at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI’16). Before graduate school, Ming obtained a bachelor degree from Tsinghua University, Beijing, China.
Stefanie Duguay is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Digital Media Research Centre at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and holds an M.Sc. in Social Science of the Internet from the Oxford Internet Institute. She has also worked professionally as a Strategic Advisor in Digital Services for the Canadian federal government. Her research focuses on the everyday identity performances and interactions of people with diverse sexual and gender identities on social media. Her doctoral thesis examines the way that same-sex attracted women’s identities are constructed, shaped, and received across platforms, such as Instagram, Vine, and Tinder, with attention to the influence of both user and platform dynamics. Stefanie is the recipient of a QUT Postgraduate Research Award and her work has been published in New Media & Society, the International Journal of Communication, Disability & Society, and the Canadian Review of Sociology. She will be working with Mary L. Gray, Nancy Baym, and Tarleton Gillespie to examine the off label uses and user-led economies of mobile apps.
Caroline Jack is a Ph.D. Candidate in Communication at Cornell University and an Exchange Scholar in Comparative Media Studies/Writing at MIT. She also holds an M.B.A. and an M.A. from Saint Louis University. Caroline’s scholarly work focuses on: the public communication of economics and capitalism in the American past and present; social imaginaries of the American economy; and understandings of the economic self in networked culture. Her research on the public communication of science and economics in the United States during the Cold War era has been published in Enterprise & Society and The Appendix. Caroline will be working with Mary L. Gray, investigating social imaginaries of self, market, place and property that emerge in and around peer economy platforms.
Shannon McGregor (M.A. University of Florida) is a third-year doctoral student (soon to be doctoral candidate!) in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas – Austin. Her research interests center on political communication, social media, gender, and public opinion. She has presented her work at International Communication Association (ICA), the American Political Science Association (APSA), the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), and the Midwest Association for Public Opinion Research (MAPOR). Her work has been published in the Journal of Communication, International Journal of Communication, Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, and Journal of Media Ethics. Twitter @shannimcg
At Microsoft Research, New York City
Aaron Plasek works at the intersection of the historyof science, new media, and computation, and is writing a history of machine learning that examines the ways in which algorithms have been deployed in (ethical) arguments. He is currently a doctoral student in History at Columbia University and an MA candidate in the Draper Interdisciplinary Masters Program at NYU, and holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and undergraduate degrees from Drake University in physics, astronomy, and writing.
Contributors focus on a range of topics—some obvious, some delightfully unexpected—from the legacy of Matthew Shepard, to how heterosexuality is reproduced at the 4-H Club, to a look at sexual encounters at a truck stop, to a queer reading of TheWizard of Oz.