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Workshop [clear filter]
Wednesday, October 10

9:00am EDT

Digital Research Ethics Collaboratory for Networked Intimate Publics
In The Broken Earth trilogy, science fiction author N.K. Jemisin (2015, 2016, 2017) imagines a subterranean community called Castrima, a hidden place that is built and sustained by the energies and skills of the most powerful, reviled and thus most endangered specimens of humanity: the Oregens. From the surface, Castrima is invisible, buried below ruins. And underground, from the inside, Castrima looks cluttered, chaotic, disorienting: “as if someone found an architect, made her build a city out of the most beautiful materials available, then threw those buildings into a box and jumbled them up for laughs” (2015: 338). Ykka, Castrima’s Head Woman, explains, "This is what we're trying to do here in Castrima: survive. Same as anyone. We're just willing to innovate a little" (2015: 342). Jemisin’s speculative design of Castrima is a place made by and for minoritized subjects to protect their lives, to preserve their knowledge and cultural materials, and ensure their cultural survivance (Vizenor 2008; Tuck 2009).

This workshop will be led by former co-facilitators of the Feminist Technology Network (FemTechNet), collaborators in the Center for Solution to Online Violence (CSOV) and lead investigators of the Digital Research Ethics Collaboratory (DREC). We use the term “minoritized” from the scholarly fields of Indigenous, Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, Queer, Sexuality, Trans-, Gender and Feminist Studies, to speak of populations who may not be in the minority at all – indeed, statistically form the majority population in most cases – but whose knowledges, cultural practices, histories and socialities have been consistently undermined, dismissed and rendered insignificant or troubling to the imagined majority (Sedgwick 1990, 2003; Ferguson 2004; Gopinath 2005; Smith 2010; Soto 2010). The infrastructures and networks of intimacy and distributed publicity are central technologies for the sustenance, support, thriving and survivance of minoritized people, knowledges, cultural materials, and chosen communities. These network technologies are too often situated in academic literature and popular discourse as naïvely pre-digital or non-digital, naturally occurring or innate, rather than carefully and strategically constituted, tended-to and transformed with and as new media and communication infrastructures. In this workshop we invite participants to share stories and practices for the ethical research and engagement with minoritized materials and the networked intimate publics that create them. Workshop participants will take turns leading discussions from their own research experiences in attending to the innovations in labour, arts, organizing and research through which technologies for minoritized survivance manifest and mutate.

Like so many researchers we have been caught by the fever to (digitally) archive precarious, precious, minoritized, invisibilized, intimate, forgotten knowledges, scenes, resistance cultures, materials and alternative futures. Bound by their beauty (Siberry 1989), we are also, however, bound by the institutional and platform logics that we hope these archives can transform, and by accountability to the “the people whose belongings have become [our] ‘collections’” (Nowviski 2016). Conventionalised research practices reflect longstanding and ongoing acquisitional, abductive, possessive, extractive practices that bolster these structures, especially the imperialist, settler colonial model of dehumanization, occupation, control, theft, and non-reciprocity (Tuhiwai Smith 2012; Kovach 2009; Moreton-Robinson 2015; Murphy 2014).

This workshop comes from the perspectives that all research structures--not only those primarily oriented within or towards Indigenous communities--need to be reshaped in order to decolonize and unsettle the imperialist university and to dismantle the domination habits of academic knowledge production. Starting with the important work that AoIR collaborators have already contributed to the field of Digital Research Ethics (AoIR 2002; Markham and Buchanan 2012; Zimmer & Kinder-Kurlanda 2017), we invite AoIR-affiliated scholars--especially those of digital culture and researchers building online repositories, exhibitions and other forms of publication of minoritized materials--who are trying to break the habits of extractive and possessive research and publication logics and build-while-we-work-within epistemic infrastructures that acknowledge and jumble existing hiearchives of compensation, credit, value, precarity, security and exposure. Following Jemison’s fictional Castrima, the challenge might be to defend against openness and exposure even in opposition to the institutional logics of our disciplines. This workshop will gather researchers who attend to, and attempt to translate into online information practice, the carefully cultivated tactics and cultures of privacy and counter-surveillance which were, and continue to be, necessary to the survival, and survivance, of minoritized people and cultures.

Wednesday October 10, 2018 9:00am - 12:30pm EDT
Sheraton - Salon 7

9:00am EDT

Exploring the Shifting Sands: Accounting for Evolution during Analysis of Data from Social Media Platforms

The goal of this half-day workshop is to explore the problems of studying social media platforms and social media data, while accounting for their evolution. For example, how should research conducted on a single platform account for differences generated over time, particularly when changes may impact observed results? We focus on how reliance on historical social media data raises questions about the reproducibility of science, the applicability of findings across changing platforms, and issues when applying methods developed for one era of social media to another. We explore how to alleviate data discrepancies by accounting for platform evolution; contextualizing changes to qualify their impact on future research; and evaluating prior research with the appropriate lenses.


Researchers are drawn to the magnitude of social media data available today. Hundreds of studies have been published using Twitter data (Zimmer & Proferes, 2014), as a result of it’s popularity Tufecki (2014) calls Twitter the “model organism” for social media analysis. Yet, Twitter is not a static platform, undergoing numerous changes to its user interface, default settings, affordances for engagement, and algorithms over time. Its API changed each time new data structures were added, and its Terms of Service, Community Rules, and Privacy Policies were collectively revised more than a dozen times.

Twitter data from a decade ago is different than today, and analysis on such data may be inappropriate for current studies. To ignore changes in platform evolution is to compare dissimilar data constructs over time. These questions extend outside of Twitter, for example, Instagram added stories, allowing users to share all posts across a single day. Snapchat added mapping features, later allowing users to access them both inside and outside the mobile application. Rigorous inferences on historical data require an account of platform/data evolution, and a transparent awareness of how this evolution impacts conclusions that we draw from such data.

While social media data used for scientific research opened new opportunities in machine learning and artificial intelligence, allowing for new techniques for investigating large-scale trends, researchers do not systematically address the rapid shifting of the research space. Changing platforms and data restrict conclusions to one point in time, yet researchers do not account for shifts in orientation. How do we account for this amalgamation of data, its evolution and the impact platform and design changes have on the the kinds of data sets produced, analyzed, and the conclusions drawn?

Unfortunately, information about the evolution of these platforms is only available in part. Data such as public tweets, public changes to policy, and visible UI enhancements are disparately available. In contrast, most API, underlying platform performance mechanisms and internal policies that drive system design are private. The lack of systemic information about these changes prevents accurate change comparison. Ultimately, research evolves based on assumptions about the actual state of the data. We will ask participants to tackle the following questions:
- How have changes to social media platforms influenced user behavior and vice versa? That is, can we quantify the effect platform evolution has on its users’ perceptions?
- How have researchers using social media data contextualized or integrated historical research/citations? How can we develop a theoretical basis or methodology to account for historical data?
- How do researchers describe/document the current state of a social media platform under investigation?
- What types of documentation are necessary to account for platform changes over time?
- Are social media platforms comparable at different points in time?

Workshop Structure:

This workshop is structured to facilitate open discussion of the challenges faced by researchers working with social media archives and knowledge produced about social media that has since aged. The workshop will include brainstorming grand challenges to data analysis on shifting platforms; discussions on case studies and hypothetical methodologies for addressing the issues identified; and identifying ideas to contextualize social media data sets.

The workshop will consist of three main parts:
- First, the workshop will open with brief introductory remarks from the workshop organizers and selected participants, laying out what we see as the scope of the problem. (30 minutes)
- We will next conduct a fishbowl session to brainstorm the grand challenges of this area. -

What are the dangers of relying on outdated historical data and how do we address this methodologically? (60 minutes)
- For the third session, we will split participants up into small groups for an interactive session to develop hypothetical approaches to address the grand challenges. (60 minutes)
- Lastly, groups will report back to the audience, identifying the kinds of resources required to make these projects or approaches actually happen. (30 minutes).
- The desired output includes the publication of a prioritized roadmap for future research in this area.

Tufekci, Z. (2014). Big Data: Pitfalls, Methods and Concepts for an Emergent Field. In Proceedings of the AAAI International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media (ICWSM).

Zimmer, M., & Proferes, N. J. (2014). A Topology of Twitter Research: Disciplines, Methods, and Ethics. Aslib Journal of Information Management, 66(3), 250–261.

Wednesday October 10, 2018 9:00am - 12:30pm EDT
Sheraton - Salon 8

9:00am EDT

Media Cloud: Open Source Tools for Researching Digital News Ecosystems

Half-Day Workshop

Max 20 Participants


Anushka Shah and Emily Ndulue

Workshop Goals:

· Introduce participants to news media analysis methods with Media Cloud tools

· Guide researchers through the development of research questions that can be investigated using Media Cloud tools

· Highlight the added value of open source tools for exploring media ecosystems

· Provide participants with the opportunity to join Media Cloud’s network of researchers

In recent years, the abundance of digital data available and the creation of new tools to conduct digital research has transformed media research. Scholars can now easily monitor media coverage about key topics and events, understand public opinion dynamics overtime, and map digital communication networks. However, most of the data and tools available are proprietary and designed for commercial purposes. This workshop highlights the importance of open tools designed for academic and non-commercial researchers, and provides them with the opportunity to learn and use Media Cloud’s open source digital media analytics tools.

Media Cloud, a global archive of more than 760 million news stories - collecting content from 60,000 digital publications daily - is an open source platform developed by Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society and MIT Media Lab’s Center for Civic Media. It currently supports three main tools:
- -Explorer: A tool for querying the database, generate visualizations, and analize attention overtime, language, and geographies.
- -Topics: A tool for sophisticated influence and language analyses that crawls the web to find all relevant content produce hyperlink and language maps.
- -Sources: A tool to manage and understand news sources and collections in the database.

Originally created to evaluate the media’s framing of issues online and to map the information source networks publishing about particular topics, Media Cloud tools are now being used to answer research questions about: how information travels through media networks overtime, which sources are considered to be information authorities and influencers, what is the language used to cover an issue, and how media narratives evolve overtime.

This workshop may be of interest to researchers in the field of media representation and news analysis, digital journalism researchers, and anyone interested in learning more about new metrics for understanding media influence and impact. Media Cloud’s open source tools combine text analytics, entity detection, topic modelling, and network analysis. Researchers are also able to access our data through the public API.

The workshop will consist of four parts:

1. An introduction to digital news media analysis, and the importance of media analytics tools that are open source and available to any interested researcher

2. An introduction to Media Cloud tools, with an overview of our research methodology, the metrics we use, and demonstrations of the capabilities of Media Cloud tools

3. Group collaboration towards the development of relevant research questions that can be explored using Media Cloud tools

4. Guided use of Media Cloud tools to begin answering those research questions

Workshop participants will leave the session with skills needed to examine the Media Cloud source collections, to develop relevant and meaningful queries using the Media Cloud Explorer tool, and to begin running their own experiments using the Topic Mapper tools.

For context, here are some examples of research publications and popular press coverage using Media Cloud tools:

· Harvard Berkman Klein Center, Columbia Journalism Review: Partisanship, Propaganda and Disinformation: Online Media and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

· PRI’s The World: Millions say #MeToo, But Not Everyone Is Heard Equally

· Washington Post: The mainstream media didn’t care about Puerto Rico until it became a Trump Story

· Journal of Health Communications: Digital Health Communication and Global Public Influence, A Study of the Ebola Epidemic

· First Monday: The Battle for Trayvon Martin, Mapping a Media Controversy On- and Offline

Wednesday October 10, 2018 9:00am - 12:30pm EDT
Sheraton - Salon 6

9:00am EDT

The Medium as Message and Messenger
*Overview and Rationale*

As AoIR was taking shape nearly two decades ago, many of the emerging areas of research clustered around people’s interactions with one another online: how people communicated through the computer; how people formed communities in cyberspace; how people saw themselves through their virtual representations. Many of these core questions regarding new technologies have not changed even as technology has: We still want to know about people’s interactions with one another, the communities they form, and the self they perform. A key part in this research then and now has been the materiality of technology: its affordances, its biases, its (infra)structures, but also its status as human constructed and constantly evolving.

However, within the past few years a significant shift has been taking place within AoIR and across the many fields represented here. Scholars are no longer only interested in how people communicate through technology; they are increasingly taking up questions of how people interact with technology, specifically devices and applications designed to be social and intelligent: algorithms, artificial intelligence, socialbots, robots, and other related technologies. When McLuhan (1994) famously stated that the “medium is the message,” he was making a statement as to the importance of the materiality of the medium. But the medium that McLuhan envisioned was one that carried messages between and among people.

What does it mean for scholars of technology that the medium is now the message and messenger? How do we unfold layers of ontologies in the technologies and how do we account for them? How do we shift our focus from studying interactions through technology to with technology? How do we study the individual, social, and cultural implications of emerging technologies that are made to look and act more-and-more human? What theories do we draw upon to inform our research when so much of our scholarship, even that focused directly on the medium, evolved in a world where humans exclusively communicated? What methodologies are suitable to empirically investigate this shift? What does the future of AoIR look like as research in these areas increase? These are just some of the questions driving this half-day preconference in human-machine communication, or HMC. HMC is an area of communication research focused on people’s direct interactions with technology and the implications thereof. Within HMC the technology is theorized as more than a medium: it is a distinct entity either by design or in the mind of those interacting with it. Scholars of other closely related disciplinary, theoretical, or methodological backgrounds also share an interest in answering these questions.


1. To bring together scholars in this area to discuss shared issues.

2. To raise the salience of the growing importance of this research at AoIR.

3. To provide connections for students and scholars new to this area.


We anticipate the audience will be scholars studying technologies that are designed to interact with people and/or have a degree of agency, including algorithms, chatbots, robots, socialbots, automated news-writing programs, and artificial intelligence. The preconference is intended to enable an interdisciplinary conversation among Internet scholars, across the social sciences, humanities, and technical disciplines. Thus, all disciplines and backgrounds are welcome.


We will have three sessions that serve as a way of orienting people to the event, providing space for people to connect with one another, and creating a dialogue about the future of this work at AoIR.

*Session 1: Chair lightning talks.* Each of the preconference chairs has been active in HMC and related areas of research and is an expert in a particular area. Each chair will give a 2-minute overview of the questions driving their research and how they are attempting to answer them and end their talk with a related provocation.

*Session 2: Birds-of-a-feather breakout:* Participants will be divided into groups based on their area of focus (e.g., algorithms, chatbots, next generation internet infrastructures, social robots, automated journalism, AI as well as related issues, such as ethics or privacy) so that they can discuss shared aspects of their research. Each small group will have a conference chair as a facilitator and will be encouraged to take up the provocations from the lightning talks.

*Session 3: Community Discussion:* During the last session, the entire group will come together to discuss the overarching questions that served as the foundation for this workshop along with any emerging questions or issues that may come up during the breakout sessions.

*Sponsors:* We have secured sponsorships for food and to cover the cost AoIR charges for attendees. Sponsors include EU Next Generation Internet (www.ngi.eu); the Communication and Social Robotics Labs, (www.combotlab.org); Shirley Papé Chair in Emerging Media, School of Journalism and Communication, University of Oregon.

avatar for Steve Jones

Steve Jones

Professor, University of Illinois Chicago
University of Illinois at Chicago - Communication & Computer Science

Wednesday October 10, 2018 9:00am - 12:30pm EDT
Sheraton - Drummond East

9:00am EDT

Digital Methods
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

9:00am EDT

Doctoral Colloquium
Wednesday October 10, 2018 9:00am - 5:30pm EDT
Sheraton - Ballroom East

9:00am EDT

Going live: Exploring live digital technologies and live streaming practices
Preconference Objectives

This preconference workshop, Going Live, will bring together game studies scholars and social media researchers to discuss the increasing popularity of live digital technologies. These technologies include features on social media sites such as Facebook Live, standalone smartphone apps (e.g., Periscope), and websites dedicated to live streaming, such as the gaming platform Twitch.tv.

Although live streaming has been possible for more than a decade (e.g. Senft, 2008), the evolution of recording devices, data transfer speeds, mobile apps, and other digital technologies has contributed to a recent proliferation of live media. Social media plug-ins, such as Facebook Live, encourage spontaneous sharing, but controversial incidents raise questions about what should be shared in a live context. Live streaming game platforms showcase modes of self-presentation and promotion (Consalvo, forthcoming; Consalvo & Altizer, 2017; Consalvo & Sugiarto, 2016), which social media influencers also adopt when broadcasting content to adoring fans (Abidin, 2016; Duguay, forthcoming). Gamers and influencers alike benefit from the commercialisation of these practices, generating revenue from brand promotion and boosting attention to advertisements. It is clear that live streaming and live digital technologies have social, political, economic, and cultural impacts. However, research into these areas is still developing and there have been few opportunities for interdisciplinary dialogue among scholars researching live streaming. This event will consolidate current research and develop future directions.

This full day workshop will consist of paper presentations and a keynote speaker. Via a Call for Proposals, scholars can submit “works in progress” and present these during the workshop followed by detailed feedback sessions. We have confirmed Dr. TL Taylor, Professor of Comparative Media Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as our keynote speaker. Dr. Taylor is an internationally recognized scholar in game studies, having written field-defining books about online games, the rise of competitive esports, and the business of live streaming. Her participation and all workshop expenses will be covered by our own research funds and confirmed funding from Concordia’s Department of Communications Studies. We have sufficient funding to run the event as described, and have applied for funding from Concordia University and will apply for funds from the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) to expand the event further, bringing in a plenary panel of experts.

Since this event aims to showcase local research expertise and resources while engaging graduate students, early career researchers, and established scholars in these interdisciplinary fields, we will be holding the workshop offsite at Concordia’s Milieux Institute for Arts, Culture and Technology. Milieux houses the Technoculture, Art and Games (TAG) centre, which is at the forefront of research and creation in games studies, digital culture, and interactive art.


8:30-9:00 Registration

9:00-9:30 Welcome

9:30-11:00 Keynote: Dr. T.L. Taylor

11:00-11:15 Coffee

11:15-12:30 Paper Session 1

12:30-1:30 Lunch

1:30-3:15 Paper Session 2

3:15-3:30 Coffee

3:30-4:30 Plenary panel (budget allowing) or additional paper session

4:30-5:00 Wrap up

5:00-7:00 Networking reception

Lunch, reception, and refreshments will be provided through secured funding. If there is an AoIR event in the evening, we will shorten the networking reception and adjust our schedule accordingly.


Abidin, C. (2016). “Aren’t these just young, rich women doing vain things online?”: Influencer selfies as subversive frivolity. Social Media + Society, 2(2), 1-17.

Consalvo, M. (forthcoming). Kaceytron and transgressive play on Twitch.tv. Chapter in Transgressions in games and play, K. Jørgensen and F. Karlsen, Eds, MIT Press.

Consalvo, M. & Altizer, R. (2017). Livestreaming and disability: Reconfiguring play on Twitch.tv. Paper presented at the Association of Internet Researchers annual conference, Tartu, Estonia, October 2017.

Consalvo, M. & Sugiarto, M. (2016). Game over? Not really: Spectating failure on Twitch.tv. Paper presented at the Association of Internet Researchers annual conference, Berlin, Germany, October 2016.

Duguay, S. (forthcoming). “The more I look like Justin Bieber in the pictures, the better”: Queer women’s self-representation on Instagram. In Z. Papacharissi (Ed.), A Networked Self: Platforms, Stories, Connections, Routledge.

Senft, T. M. (2008). Camgirls: Celebrity and community in the age of social networks. New York: Peter Lang.

avatar for Mia Consalvo

Mia Consalvo

Concordia University
I research game studies and design at Concordia University in Montreal. Currently I'm finishing a book about Japan and it's role in the videogame industry and videogame culture. I'm also studying social games, and have been developing a game called Eksa: Isle of the Wisekind on Facebook... Read More →

Wednesday October 10, 2018 9:00am - 5:30pm EDT
Milieux Institute for Arts, Culture and Technology 1496, rue Saint-Denis, Montréal

9:00am EDT

The Cultural Life of Machine Learning: An Incursion into Critical AI Studies
Machine learning (ML), deep neural networks, differential programming and related contemporary novelties in artificial intelligence (AI) are all leading to the development of an ambiguous yet efficient narrative promoting the dominance of a scientific field—as well as a ubiquitous business model. Indeed, AI is very much in full hype mode. For its advocates, it represents a ‘tsunami’ (Manning, 2015) or ‘revolution’ (Sejnowski, 2018)—terms indicative of a very performative and promotional, if not self-fulfilling, discourse. The question, then, is: how are the social sciences and humanities to dissect such a discourse and make sense of all its practical implications? So far, the literature on algorithms and algorithmic cultures has been keen to explore both their broad socio-economic, political and cultural repercussions, and the ways they relate to different disciplines, from sociology to communication and Internet studies. The crucial task ahead is understanding the specific ways by which the new challenges raised by ML and AI technologies affect this wider framework. This would imply not only closer collaboration among disciplines—including those of STS for instance—but also the development of new critical insights and perspectives. Thus a helpful and precise pre-conference workshop question could be: what is the best way to develop a fine-grained yet encompassing field under the name of Critical AI Studies? We propose to explore three regimes in which ML and 21st-century AI crystallize and come to justify their existence: (1) epistemology, (2) agency, and (3) governmentality—each of which generates new challenges as well as new directions for inquiries.

In terms of epistemology, it is important to recognize that ML and AI are situated forms of knowledge production, and thus worthy of empirical examination (Pinch and Bijker, 1987). At present, we only have internal accounts of the historical development of the machine learning field, which increasingly reproduce a teleological story of its rise (Rosenblatt, 1958) and fall (Minsky and Papert 1968; Vapnik 1998) and rise (Hinton 2006), concluding with the diverse if as-yet unproven applications of deep learning. Especially problematic in this regard is our understanding of how these techniques are increasingly hybridized with large-scale training datasets, specialized graphics-processing hardware, and algorithmic calculus. The rationale behind contemporary ML finds its expression in a very specific laboratory culture (Forsythe 1993), with a specific ethos or model of “open science”. Models trained on the largest datasets of private corporations are thus made freely available, and subsequently détourned for the new AI’s semiotic environs of image, speech, and text—promising to make the epistemically recalcitrant landscapes of unruly and ‘unstructured’ data newly “manageable”.

As the knowledge-production techniques of ML and AI move further into the fabric of everyday life, it creates a particularly new form of agency. Unlike the static, rule-based systems critiqued in a previous generation by Dreyfus (1972), modern AI models pragmatically unfold as a temporal flow of decontextualized classifications. What then does agency mean for machine learners (Mackenzie, 2017)? Performance in this particular case relates to the power of inferring and predicting outcomes (Burell, 2016); new kinds of algorithmic control thus emerge at the junction of meaning-making and decision-making. The implications of this question are tangible, particularly as ML becomes more unsupervised and begins to impact on numerous aspects of daily life. Social media, for instance, are undergoing radical change, as insightful new actants come to populate the world: Echo translates your desires into Amazon purchases, and Facebook is now able to detect suicidal behaviours. In the general domain of work, too, these actants leave permanent traces—not only on repetitive tasks, but on the broader intellectual responsibility.

Last but not least, the final regime to explore in this preconference workshop is governmentality. The politics of ML and AI are still largely to be outlined, and the question of power for these techniques remains largely unexplored. Governmentality refers specifically to how a field is organised—by whom, for what purposes, and through which means and discourses (Foucault, 1991). As stated above, ML and AI are based on a model of open science and innovation, in which public actors—such as governments and universities—are deeply implicated (Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff, 2000). One problem, however, is that while the algorithms themselves may be openly available, the datasets on which they rely for implementation are not—hence the massive advantages for private actors such as Google or Facebook who control the data, as well as the economical resources to attract the brightest students in the field. But there is more: this same open innovation model makes possible the manufacture of military AI with little regulatory oversight, as is the case for China, whose government is currently helping to fuel an AI arms race (Simonite 2017). What alternatives or counter-powers could be imagined in these circumstances? Could ethical considerations stand alone without a proper and fully developed critical approach to ML and AI? This workshop will try to address these pressing and interconnected issues.

We welcome all submissions which might profitably connect with one or more of these three categories of epistemology, agency, and governmentality; but we welcome other theoretically and/or empirically rich contributions—spanning qualitative and quantitative, from the ethnographic to the (digital-)historical—to the emergent critical study of contemporary machine learning and AI.

Wednesday October 10, 2018 9:00am - 5:30pm EDT
Non-Sheraton Based Program

9:00am EDT

The Museum of Random Memory: A Critical Data Literacy Workshop + Exhibition
This workshop is the first of a two-part event showcasing a social research experiment in citizen engagement in data literacy, called "Museum of Random Memory" (MoRM). MoRM is an interactive exhibition performed by (in this case) a team of researchers, students, activists, artists, computer scientists, and other “uncurators.” MoRM exemplifies the meeting point of digital and material culture with a particular focus on activism through critical pedagogy.

MoRM facilitates media, data, and digital literacy by engaging citizens about the topic of memory in the digital era. The exhibition itself can be large or small, in museums, libraries, classrooms, or at festivals. On the surface, the interactive event is a playful engagement where visitors are encouraged to donate memories to the museum’s collection and view their memories alongside other donations. Below the surface, MoRM generates critical consciousness about multiple aspects of datafication, data collection, management, and storage, big data, and corporate colonization of our personal data and memories through the seamlessness of apps and platforms on our digital devices.

At this half-day preconference, we introduce MoRM as an arts-based public effort for critical data literacy; discuss the pedagogical and conceptual underpinnings of MoRM, describe how previous exhibitions were conducted (Barcelona, Aarhus Festival of Research, Counterplay Festival in Denmark, and Il Berneto in Italy); and invite/train workshop participants to be “uncurators” with us at an exhibition later in the AoIR conference (as an experimental session). The last stage of the preconference workshop will be to visit the exhibition site and walk through last minute logistics.

MoRM has been, to date, a successful public engagement project. Organized by both longtime and new AoIR members, it is driven by the ambition to reach beyond the academy as activists and public educators. The theoretical foundations of MoRM have been formed by a confluence of multiple disciplines/areas of study, from critical pedagogy/popular education (e.g. Paulo Freire) and media literacy (e.g. Sonia Livingstone); to theories of affordances (e.g., Anne Helmond, Taina Bucher), articulation and assemblages (e.g., Jennifer Slack & Greg Wise); and platform infrastructures (e.g., Jose van Dijck). The point of MoRM is not to collect empirical data about digital culture but to disseminate the findings of the past twenty years of internet research, promoting data literacy among the public.

Let’s talk about the interactive exhibition itself: MoRM is targeted to a general audience. Using many different visual displays, verbal prompts, and the lure of ‘something is happening here,’ we engage citizens/visitors in conversation about how the use of digital media platforms and technologies impacts the shape of our future memories and cultural heritages.

The focus on 'memory' allows us to engage people in thinking about larger and more complex sociotechnical relations. The idea of ‘random memory’ gives visitors an easy access point, since the phrase is playful, sparks curiosity. As we draw visitors further into the exhibition, we get them to explore their devices to find a memory to donate. As they do so, we engage them in conversation about how they are generating and storing huge quantities of data.

The exact way that MoRM operates depends on location, scale, and target group, but the following description is representative of what happens: We tell visitors we’re collecting memories to add to our museum and invite them to participate. As they’re looking for some object, idea, or image to donate, we encourage them to sign our 30-meter Terms Of Service agreement (a long scroll hangs from the ceiling. In 4point font, it’s nearly impossible to read). Laughing alongside participants, we invite them to reflect on how we sign impossibly long and unreadable TOS. Continuing, we invite them to tell the story behind the donation, either on paper or through our online interface. They are invited to talk further with ‘uninterpreters.’

In previous iterations of MoRM, we have found that digital, media, or data literacy emerges as we involve participants in conversation, asking questions such as: What is the process of remembering and forgetting in the digital age? How are memories archived for us by digital platforms like Facebook and Google? Could we be more critical and conscious of how our future heritage is being created, not only by us but by many automated features of new tech? 100 years from now, what will archaeologists find to teach them about what happened back in 2017? What would we like them to find? How can we use everyday memory-making practices to consider possible socio-technical futures?

MoRM is part of a Danish Research Foundation funded grant led by Annette Markham. The central team includes social media researchers, artists, museum curators, filmmakers, and activists.

FYI: We will execute the necessary logistics for the exhibition in advance of AoIR, with the help of AoIR members at Concordia University and elsewhere. We are working to secure an exhibition space nearby the conference location that will host the AoIR attendees. We would like to offer the interactive exhibition as an evening event for AoIR, separate from the conference dinner or opening reception, possibly prior to or after one of the keynotes.

Wednesday October 10, 2018 9:00am - 5:30pm EDT
Sheraton - Salon 4

2:00pm EDT

A Learning Expedition Through Montreal's Third Places
Learning expeditions and collaborative knowledge research are but a few of the terms used to describe open walked event-based experimentations (OWEEs). Born out of a desire to transcend traditional practices of academic writing and conference attendance, OWEEs seek to create, through action-oriented work and collaborative methods, innovative learning times and novel sharing spaces. In short, to try to "think otherwise" by changing the way we learn. Combining ethnography with more transformative research designs, learning expeditions contribute to the understanding of knowledge production and sharing through a three-pronged conceptual approach (de Vaujany, 2018): 1) corporeal engagement and embodiment through walking and moving within a space, 2) performativity and visuality of public space-time and, 3) assemblage of narratives and engaged texts. Within this theoretical framework, learning becomes a constructed relationship, a process of "making" rather than "imparting." Learning is based on shared practices and supported through web-enabled networked productions and texts. A learning expedition brings together people of different scholarly communities through the exploration of third places (spaces and times that are separate from home and work) and creative workspaces (co-working spaces, makerspaces, fab labs). Bricolages, improvisations and guided visits coexist within a set time and are linked together through the act of walking to, discussing while and sharing online.

It is in the context of this new form of research culture and knowledge production that the Laboratory on Computer-Mediated Communication (LabCMO in French) proposes an AoIR preconference workshop. LabCMO is a research and sociotechnical experimentation space gathering scholars (students and professors) from diverse disciplines and interests (participatory culture, social computing, civic engagement, free software and citizen science…) around the broadly defined field of computer-mediated communication.

Within the AoIR 2018 theme of Transnational Materialities, LabCMO proposes an immersive half-day walked afternoon event focusing on the study of third places whose mandates intersect art, technology, and emerging digital practices. Through walking and talking, our learning expedition will cut across many of Montreal's iconic quarters, allowing the participants to follow the cultural and social evolution of the city, from the early immigrant neighborhoods to the technological and artistic centres that characterize it today. Our first stop will be Montreal's original fab lab, échoFab, located in the heart of the Innovation District of Montreal, Griffintown. échoFab is a community-based digital workshop experimenting with various digital manufacturing approaches. Our second stop will bring us to NOMAD Nation, a creative co-working production studio situated by the railroad tracks of the Mile End District. Led by Moment Factory founder Jason Rodi, NOMAD Nation houses a creative community specializing in live streaming and digital broadcasts. Our expedition will end at a makerspace, Eastern Bloc, located in the heart of Montreal's Little Italy. Eastern Bloc explores new modes of production centred on audience participation, technological democratization, and the utilization of urban space. For those who wish to stay on longer, two additional preconference workshops will be joining our group for a "synergistic happy hour" (5 pm to 7 pm) where all participants will be invited to continue the conversation by sharing, reflecting, discussing and analyzing their days learning experiences.

Learning expeditions are also meant to encourage natural knowledge production, and accordingly include an unstructured documenting feature that will flow out of the collective experience. Participants will be invited to share what they are experiencing, seeing and learning throughout the expedition. OWEE events are "happenings," therefore social media will be used to document the event in real time. Participants will create "metatexts," allowing other participants as well as viewers to share the experience in real time. These online traces will also allow all to revisit the day and the events afterward.

The core expedition team will be composed of Nina Duque and Rémi Toupin, respectively PhD candidates in Communication Studies and Science and Technology Studies at University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM), along with the two LabCMO codirectors, Florence Millerand, full professor in Communication Studies at UQAM, and Guillaume Latzko-Toth, associate professor in Communication Studies at Laval University. A team of volunteer students will accompany the group to help curate the event.

Attendance is limited to 15 participants and registration is mandatory. Please send your requests to info@labcmo.ca with the subject header: Learning Expedition Registration.

avatar for Florence Millerand

Florence Millerand

Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada

Wednesday October 10, 2018 2:00pm - 5:30pm EDT
Non-Sheraton Based Program

2:00pm EDT

A primer in automating visual social media
Proposal for a half-day Pre-Conference workshop for up to 30 participants

Workshop Title: "A primer in automating visual social media analysis with deep learning techniques"

Organisers: Fabrizio Poltronieri & Max Hänska

Workshop Description:

With contemporary online communications increasingly generating large volumes of visual data, scholars face the challenge of retrieving, wrangling, and analysing visual social media content at scale. Indeed, visual social media is attracting increasing attention in the field (Highfield & Leaver, 2016; Svensson & Russmann, 2017). While 'big data' techniques for analysing textual content (e.g. topic modelling) are already wide-spread, and quite advanced, similar techniques for analysing visual social media content (e.g. memes, images, videos) are nascent, and have not yet been widely deployed. How can we analyse visual social media content, given that the sheer volume of visual material requiring our consideration vastly exceed the strictures manual analysis impose on the amount of material that can realistically be analysed? This workshop offers an introduction and overview to available deep learning techniques for automating visual analysis, an introduction to tools for retrieving social media images, and the opportunity to plan an image retrieval, processing, and analysis pipeline. The workshop will focus on the following:
- Tools and techniques for image retrieval, ingestion, and processing:

The workshop will introduce participants to the parameters of the Twitter, Instagram, and Flickr APIs for image collection and retrieval. The workshop will also introduce online tools and software packages for retrieving images from these various APIs, including Echosec (https://www.echosec.net), Netlytic (https://netlytic.org), Nvivo, and Boston University BU-TCAT.
- Deep Learning techniques for image classification:

The workshop will Introduce the basic principles of using machine learning algorithms to train Convolutional Neural Networks (CNN) for image classification, the requirement of training data sets (including recommended parameters for the training data), and machine learning libraries (e.g. TensorFlow and Nvidia Digits). These techniques are particularly useful for researchers who want to train their own neural network to perform basic image classifications at scale, who have specific classification needs, and who have access to appropriate training data.
- Cloud-based visual analysis tools:

Researchers who want to avoid training their own Neural Network, and require standard descriptions of visual material (including images and videos) can also rely on a set of cloud-based computer-vision toolkits for image analysis. These typically perform, inter alia, object recognition (does visual material depict people or animals, men or women, does it contain obscenities, etc.). The advantage of these services is that they generally offer much greater level of granularity than can be achieved through a self-trained CNN, though they are mostly not designed for highly specific classification needs. We will focus in particular on the operation, and output of following APIs: Amazon Rekognition, Google Vision, IBM Vision Recognition, and Microsoft Azure.

Organiser Bios:

Fabrizio Poltronieri is an award-winning computer artist (some of his works are included in the collection of London's Victoria & Albert Museum). His artistic practice applies machine and deep learning techniques to the production and design of narratives, moving images and objects. He is has extensive programming experience, and has worked with computer vision techniques for over a decade. Currently Fabrizio is a Lecturer in the Institute of Creative Technologies at De Montfort University, he holds a PhD in Semiotics and a BSc in Mathematics.

Max Hänska is a Senior Lecturer in Digital Journalism at De Montfort University, and has extensive experience working with Twitter data on European politics (including the use of geocoding toolkits), the Brexit referendum, and other political events. He also has a longstanding interest in the way visual social media content is used in newsrooms to report breaking stories. He holds a PhD in Media and Communications from the LSE. Max and Fabrizio are collaborating on a project that automates the analysis of visual social media content.

Wednesday October 10, 2018 2:00pm - 5:30pm EDT
Sheraton - Salon 8

2:00pm EDT

Early Career Scholars
This half-day workshop brings early career scholars together to address unique issues they face, develop strategies to achieve career goals, and foster a professional network. We define early career scholars as people who have finished the requirements for their terminal degree but have not advanced to the next level in their field or industry (i.e. post-docs, non-tenured faculty, junior industry researchers). AoIR’s strength is its communication. Now in its third year, this workshop acts as a way to foster community among emerging scholars and to create bridges between junior and senior scholars. We aim to continue working toward making this community as inclusive and representative as possible.

The workshop addresses both challenges and opportunities unique to early-career researchers in the many fields and forms of scholarship represented at AoIR. First, we have to negotiate the transition from graduate student to early career professional that requires a higher level of autonomy and the challenge of figuring out the pragmatic and social aspects of a new work environment. Second, we must work quickly to establish ourselves in our fields and, often, secure funding. Third, we have increased service responsibilities. Fourth, after being guided by our advisors and committees for several years, we quickly move from mentee to mentor for our own students. Fifth, we must learn to navigate moving to the next level of our careers while ensuring time with family and friends. Being a junior scholar also comes with unique opportunities that we also will explore. While recognition of internet scholarship has come a long way since AoIR’s inception, junior scholars still may find themselves facing certain hurdles in gaining recognition for their research (i.e. subject, method, etc) in terms of promotion. In fact, some of the challenges we face also are opportunities to work towards changing the ways in which internet scholarship is perceived and valued within the academic structure.

The issues we will cover depends greatly on the participants. AoIR is an international and diverse organization, and we know that our experiences as scholars and educators vary by country, institution type, and field and are framed by our own identities (race, gender, etc). Our goal is to discuss shared challenges and opportunities while understanding differences so that we can build our own professional networks at the same time that we create a diverse and inclusive community of scholars who will eventually become future career mentors within AoIR.


Based on feedback from the 2017 workshop, we will maintain last year’s three-session format while making important adjustments to the content of those sessions. We will open with an activity for generating questions/concerns/issues relevant to junior scholars that participants would like addressed during the first session. That first session will consist of a fish-bowl discussion for workshop participants. This discussion is intended as a get-to-know others event as well as an opportunity to discuss the issues and opportunities we face collectively. The second session will be a panel of established scholars (equivalent of associate or full professors in the U.S.) who can share their insight and experiences.

Our goal in recruiting panelists this year is to be responsive to the needs of the different types of junior scholars participating in the workshop. We hope to engage more industry and humanities scholars this year. The organizers will start the panel with questions drawn from the first session. In the final session, participants will form small groups with a senior scholar to address topics relevant to them (type of institution, academic system, etc). Time will be left for follow-up questions and group discussion. We also are planning an informal social activity following the workshop.


This workshop is geared toward early career scholars who have their terminal degree.


1) Provide a space for the next generation of AoIR scholars to start building strong ties with each other, more established researchers, and the AoIR community.

2) Promote understanding of the breadth of academic work, including our shared experiences and differences.

3) Connect with established academics to build a stronger communities of support for our careers.

4) Develop strategies to build and maintain a junior scholar community outside of the annual conference.

Wednesday October 10, 2018 2:00pm - 5:30pm EDT
Sheraton - Drummond East