Digital Methods Summer School 2016
Only Connect? A Critical Appraisal of Connecting Practices in the Age of Social Media
27 June - 8 July 2016
Digital Methods Initiative
New Media & Digital Culture
University of Amsterdam
1012 XT Amsterdam
The Summer School is pleased to have Lance Bennett give the opening keynote on Monday, 27 June. Bennett, together with Alexandra Segerberg, coined the notion of 'connective action', contrasting it with 'collective action’.
SUMMER SCHOOL THEME AND CALL FOR PARTICIPATION
‘Connective action’ researchers (broadly conceived) recently have been confronted with the question of the value of the new connection types and connecting practices, that is, the likes, hearts, followings, friendings and other social media gestures. These are no longer ’ties’ that bind (strong or weak), or even ‘links’ such as those hand-crafted hrefs by the dedicated webmaster, to use a dated term. Rather, with all the liking and hearting spilling forth, for the advocacy and other political work to be done, the connection types seem turgidly emotional and affective, soaked with emoticons and held together by youth apps and group messaging. Such a description makes the question ‘only connect?’ refer despairingly to E.M. Forster, when in fact the enervating social media gestures (and aesthetics) are still being put to use with gravitas. ‘Like’ an Amnesty posting concerning a jailed dissident in order not to express fondness, but to show solidarity. Follow a politician not to add to his Klout score, but to actually read his populist tweets. Join the digital labor advocacy group not to ‘upcount’ the group on the platform, but to find an outlet for the worker stories you source.
Platform-readiness (to use a term by Anne Helmond) concerns how social buttons format online activity as data to be commodified by platforms. It also could refer to specific transmedia practices of choosing platforms and actions that give connections meaning, be they for the purposes of mobilisation, organisation, narrative-building and the like but also for culture jamming, counter-mapping, counter-counting and stat-activism. How to locate the connecting practices that matter? How to map and count connections that are not principally serving commodified data regimes and markets?
The Summer School is dedicated to the inspection of connective action online, where the effort is to step behind the interface gestures, and describe in some detail connecting practices that show platform-readiness. We explore particular transmedia and cross-platform strategies of action, making use of data extraction and rendering tools by the Digital Methods Initiative and colleagues at the MediaLab, Sciences Po (Paris) and Density Design (Milan).
The second week of the Summer School is dedicated to the study of ‘data activism.’ Like ‘stat activism’, which critiques particular applications of statistics for their ultimate re-appropriation, data activism similarly puts data not only in service of causes but also re-does data and data critique so as to build in an ethos to its collecting, analysis and outputs.
ABOUT THE SUMMER SCHOOL
The Digital Methods Summer School, founded in 2007 together with the Digital Methods Initiative, is directed by Professor Richard Rogers, Chair in New Media & Digital Culture and Department Chair at Media Studies, University of Amsterdam. The Summer School is one training opportunity provided by the Digital Methods Initiative (DMI). DMI also has a Winter School, which includes a mini-conference, where papers are presented and responded to. Winter School papers are often the result of Summer School projects. The Summer School is coordinated by two PhD candidates in New Media at the University of Amsterdam, or affiliates. This year the coordinators are to be announced. The Summer School has a technical staff as well as a design staff, drawn from the ranks of Density Design in Milan. The Summer School also relies on a technical infrastructure of some nine servers hosting tools and storing data, which recently (and intrepidly) moved to the cloud. In a culture of experimentation and skill-sharing, participants bring their laptops, learn method, undertake research projects, make reports, tools and graphics and write them up on the Digital Methods wiki. The Summer School concludes with final presentations. Often there are subject matter experts from non-governmental or other organizations who present their analytical needs and issues at the outset and the projects seek to meet those needs, however indirectly. For instance, Women on Waves came along during the 2010, Fair Phone to the 2012 Summer School and Greenpeace and their Gezi Park project in 2013 as well as the COPS21 Lima project in 2015. We have worked on the issue of rewilding eco-spaces with NGOs in the 2014 Summer School. More recently we have sought to repopulate city dashboards.
Digital Methods people are currently interning at major NGOs and international organizations.
Please see previous Digital Methods Summer Schools, 2007-2015, https://wiki.digitalmethods.net/Dmi/DmiSummerSchool. See also previous Digital Methods Winter Schools, 2009-2015, https://wiki.digitalmethods.net/Dmi/WinterSchool.
What's it like? Digital Methods Summer School flickr stream 2012 and flickr stream 2013. There is also a 2015 flickr collection. Most recently we have created Summer and Winter school shorts (thanks to Lisa Meier):
- Summer School in 2015 (tip!);
The Digital Methods Initiative was founded with a grant from the Mondriaan Foundation, and the Summer School has been supported by the Center for Creation, Content and Technology (CCCT), University of Amsterdam, organized by the Faculty of Science with sponsorship from Platform Beta. It also receives support from the Citizen Data Lab, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. The Digital Methods Summer School is self-sustaining.
To apply for the Digital Methods Summer School 2016, please use the University of Amsterdam Summer School form. Or, please send a one-page letter explaining how digital methods training would benefit your current work, and also enclose a CV (with full postal address), a copy of your passport (details page only), a headshot photo as well as a 100-word bio. Mark your application "DMI Training Certificate Program," and send to summerschool [at] digitalmethods.net.
The deadline for applications for the Summer School is 5 May 2016. Notifications will be sent on 8 May. Any questions may be addressed to the Summer School coordinators, summerschool [at] digitalmethods.net. Informal queries may be sent to the email address as well. The Summer School costs EUR 795. Accepted applicants will be informed of the bank transfer details upon notice of acceptance to the Summer School on 8 May. The fee must be paid by 6 June. University of Amsterdam students are exempt from tuition and should state on the application form that they wish to apply for a fee waiver.
SUMMER SCHOOL PHILOSOPHY
The Digital Methods Summer School is exploratory and experimental. It is not a setting for ‘just’ tool training or for principally tool-driven research. Substantive research projects are conceived and carried out. Participants are encouraged to ‘span time with their issue’ and the materials. In other words, we heed Alexander Galloway’s admonition about data and tool-driven work: “Those who were formerly scholars or experts in a certain area are now recast as mere tool users beholden to the affordances of the tool — while students spend ever more time mastering menus and buttons, becoming literate in a digital device rather than a literary corpus.” We encourage device and corpus literacy! The device training we ask you to do prior to the Summer School through online tutorials, and at the Summer School itself, in a kind of flipped learning environment (if you'll excuse the overused phrase), we would like to believe that you have familiarised yourself already with the tools (and are driven, to complete the thought). During the Summer School we will discuss and tinker with the nitty-gritty, aim to invent new methods, techniques and heuristics and create the first iterations of compelling work to be shared.
 Alexander Galloway (2014)." The Cybernetic Hypothesis," Differences. 25(1):107-131. See page 127.
ABOUT "DIGITAL METHODS" AS CONCEPT
Digital methods is a term coined as a counter-point to virtual methods, which typically digitize existing methods and port them onto the Web. Digital methods, contrariwise, seek to learn from the methods built into the dominant devices online, and repurpose them for social and cultural research. That is, the challenge is to study both the info-web as well as the social web with the tools that organize them. There is a general protocol to digital methods. At the outset stock is taken of the natively digital objects that are available (links, tags, threads, etc.) and how devices such as search engines make use of them. Can the device techniques be repurposed, for example by remixing the digital objects they take as inputs? Once findings are made with online data, where to ground them? Is the baseline still the offline, or are findings to be grounded in more online data? Taking up these questions more theoretically (but also practically) there is also a Digital Methods book (MIT Press, 2013) as well as a complementary Issue Mapping book (Amsterdam University Press, 2015).
The Digital Methods Summer School is part of the University of Amsterdam Summer School programme, which has a video giving a flavor of the Summer School experience. Students from universities in the LERU and U21 networks (outside of the Netherlands) are eligible for a scholarship to help cover the cost for tuition and housing for the DMI Summer School. Please consult their websites in order to see whether you are eligible for a scholarship. Students from the University of Leiden or the University of Utrecht should contact their own university's LERU representative and inquire about a scholarship.
ACCOMODATION AND CATERING
The Summer School is self-catered, and there are abundant cafes and a university mensa nearby. For a map we made of nearby lunch (and coffee) places, see http://bit.ly/lunchandcoffee.
Apply as early as possible to the reasonably priced Student Hotel and mention that you are attending the Digital Methods Summer School 2016. For those who prefer other accommodations, we suggest airbnb or similar. For shorter stay, there is Hotel Le Coin, where you may request a university discount.
SUCCESSFUL COMPLETION AND CERTIFICATES (including 6 ECTS when necessary)
To successfully complete the Summer School and receive a Completion Certificate (and 6 ECTS when necessary), you must complete a significant contribution to two Summer School projects (one in week one and the other in week two), evidenced by co-authorship of the project reports as well as final (joint) presentations. Templates for the project report as well as for the presentation slides are supplied.
The Summer School meets every weekday. Please bring your laptop. (An iPad is not enough.) We will provide abundant connectivity. We start generally at 9:30 in the morning, and end around 5:30. There are morning talks one to two days per week. All other time is devoted to project work with occasional collective and individual feedback sessions. On the last Friday we have a boat trip on the canals of Amsterdam.
PREPARATIONS: ONLINE TUTORIALS
For your Summer School to be especially successful we would recommend highly that you watch (or listen to) the Digital Methods tutorials. The Digital Methods Initiative's YouTube channel has copious materials, and we would very much like for you to watch the social media tool tutorials.
SOCIAL MEDIA AND PARTICIPANT FACEBOOK
Twitter hashtag #dmi16