CFP – Compromised Data? New Paradigms in Social Media Theory and Methods

October 28 and 29, 2013 – Ryerson University. Organizers: Greg Elmer (Ryerson University), Ganaele Langlois (U. of Ontario Institute of Technology), & Joanna Redden (Ryerson University)

Proposals for papers (750-1000 words) are due August 1st, 2013. Decisions will be communicated by August 15. Partial funding for travel and hotel expenses will be available for this event. Please direct questions and proposals to Greg Elmer, Bell Globemedia Research Chair and Director, Infoscape Centre for the Study of Social Media, Ryerson University <>.

Confirmed speakers: Jean Burgess (Queensland University of Technology), Axel Bruns (Queensland University of Technology), Daniel Paré (U. of Ottawa), Mary Francoli (Carleton U.), Anatoliy Gruzd (Dalhousie U.)

There has been a data rush in the past decade – one brought about by the ubiquity of online communication, social media in particular (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc.), and by the adoption within the Social Science and Humanities of analytical software-based tools. Such practices, tools, and data sets seemingly promise a new digital enlightenment, where social roles, patterns of communication, political and economic debates and controversies are thrown open to the public, researchers, and users. Yet, scholarly and public research into social media is notoriously difficult because of the proprietary nature of most social media platforms and the consequent difficulty of extracting data from these platforms. Furthermore, data mining and analysis raise crucial issues concerning about the ethics of social media research. Finally, the digital research paradigm itself is not without limitations: can all aspects of life, including emotions and affective ties be translated into data without losing something essential about the fluidity of social life and the complexity of communication?

This colloquium focuses on the critical juncture between the birth of new research paradigms, methods and tools, and the increasingly complex politics of social media as contested global platforms, data repositories, and sources of rich revenue streams. Key to this juncture is the question of data, from the nature of data itself to its privatization and monetization; from the accessibility of data to understanding how it can both represent and betray social phenomena.

This colloquium seeks position papers that interrogate the theoretical and methodological challenges presented by the availability, formatting, and ownership of socially mediated data-objects, meta-data, and so-called “big” data. The aim of the colloquium is to develop new paradigms for critical social media research that seek to understand how social media data impact our understanding of the broader social, political and economic implications of social media platforms and their users/communities.

The colloquium will focus on four areas of research: the politics of social media interfaces, tracking media objects, big data pitfalls, and transformative practices within social media. Examples of possible topics follow below.

1. The politics of the interface between social media and users– social media

– data-mining, data-collecting, user labour and work

– governance and regulation of users and data: legal, political and aesthetics

– history of social media interfaces and functions

– APIs and programmable data

2. Tracking and mapping media objects, stories, debates, and controversies

– Tracking stories through data-objects

– cross-platform analysis and methods

– new paradigms of social network analysis

3. Rethinking Big Data in social media research

-administrative and critical perspectives

– the limits of sentiment and other automated analyses

-human/machine produced (meta)data

– live or real-time research with big data

– small, thick, or streamed data

4. Transformative platforms, collaborative agendas, and new data-publics

– the promise and sustainability of activist platforms

– governance, transparency and accountability

– the potential of open-data projects

– radical publicities, hacks and events

– Academic and public social media research vs. research for surveillance or commercial purposes

Funding for this event is made available by the Social Science and Humanities Research
Council of Canada (SSHRC).


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