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Wednesday, October 10 • 9:00am - 5:30pm
Digital Methods

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This full-day preconference workshop introduces participants to digital methods and their applications in media, cultural and internet studies via a series of short talks, masterclasses, and hands-on methods sessions. The sessions will cover critical topics in Internet Research and related fields, from social media analytics to app studies, fake news and visual social media research. Participants will be supplied ahead of time with learning resources including tutorials, readings and rich media examples. The schedule will also provide opportunities for discussion and practical experimentation. The workshop is designed for internet researchers at all stages of their careers, and will have particular relevance for PhD and early-career scholars. The session will be limited to 50 participants.

Proposed Schedule

Morning sessions (including a break)

Welcome + provocations for Digital Methods and Digital Media

Session 1: Analysing Social Media Data with Tableau

Session 2: The walkthrough method


Afternoon sessions (including a break)

Session 3: Fake News Detection and Network Discovery

Session 4: Instagrammatics and visual social media

Wrap-up discussion

Short abstracts for sessions

Welcome and Provocations for Digital Methods and Digital Media

This introduction sets out the state of play around digital methods and digital media. While some popular platforms, like Twitter, have been extensively studied by internet researchers and offer established methodologies, other platforms create their own ethical, methodological, and conceptual challenges – from Instagram’s changing API access to the prevalence of visual media within digital media communication. The introduction provides provocations for internet researchers, for approaches to digital media research that engage with critical elements of everyday digital media from users to big data to platforms to algorithms.

1. Analysing Social Media Data with Tableau

Especially when working with large social media datasets, visual data analysis is now an indispensable part of the scholarly research and publication process. Data visualisation is able to provide a rapid overview of patterns in the dataset, and to pinpoint specific events and areas that should be selected for further in-depth analysis. The social media data analytics workshop will focus on a key emerging tool for large-scale analysis, Tableau, for processing and visualising large datasets.

2. The walkthrough method for studying apps

Most discussion around digital methods focuses on the analysis of ‘big data’ from social media platforms, but how can we study the platforms themselves? To do so we need to take into account not only their ‘content’ or user ‘behaviors’, but also their socio-technical features, cultures of use, and business models, especially as they co-evolve. However, while 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 they pose methodological challenges for digital media research. In this session, participants will be introduced to the App Walkthrough, which borrows from digital media culture, User Experience research and STS to undertake an ‘ethnography of affordances’, as part of a broader platform studies approach to mobile dating and hook-up applications. 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.

3. Fake News Detection and Network Discovery

The workshop discusses how to study cookies, trackers and third-party elements (using the Tracker Tracker tool) to compare mainstream and so-called fake news sites, thereby detecting differences. It subsequently introduces techniques to reverse lookup Google Analytics and AdSense IDs so as to discover and map fake news websites that are related to each other through ownership. The workshop frames the digital methods for fake news detection and network discovery as contributions to the study and practice of data journalism.  

4. Instagrammatics and visual social media

This workshop’s exploration of visual social media uses Instagram as a focus but with applications beyond this specific platform. Making use of shared elements of social media content, such as hashtags, memes, and formal and informal conventions of communication, the methods used in this workshop position visual social media within the wider social media ecosystem. The workshop provides a hands-on means for approaching visual social media, giving participants the opportunity to interrogate what they might do with such data and what visual media and methods might contribute to research. Critical considerations around coding visual data, dynamic data, archival questions, and ethical issues, including privacy, will guide the workshop discussion.

Wrap-up: Challenges and Futures for Digital Methods

This final session will bring facilitators and participants together to reflect upon the methods introduced in the workshop, and to address challenges and needs for digital methods going forward. This discussion will offer participants additional opportunities to discuss issues and questions relevant to digital methods in their own individual research projects.

avatar for Axel Bruns

Axel Bruns

Professor, QUT
Dr Axel Bruns is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow and Professor in the Creative Industries Faculty at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. He leads the QUT Social Media Research Group and is the author of Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life and Beyond... Read More →
avatar for Jean Burgess

Jean Burgess

Professor and Director, Digital Media Research Centre, QUT

Wednesday October 10, 2018 9:00am - 5:30pm EDT
Sheraton - Drummond West