Oct 052016
 

If you’ve been following my blog today you will know that I’m in Berlin for the Association of Internet Researchers AoIR 2016 (#aoir2016) Conference, at Humboldt University. As this first day has mainly been about workshops – and I’ve been in a full day long Digital Methods workshop – we do have our first conference keynote this evening. And as it looks a bit different to my workshop blog, I thought a new post was in order.

As usual, this is a live blog post so corrections, comments, etc. are all welcomed. This session is also being videoed so you will probably want to refer to that once it becomes available as the authoritative record of the session. 

Keynote: The Platform Society – José van Dijck (University of Amsterdam) with Session Chair: Jennifer Stromer-Galley

We are having an introduction from Wolfgang (?) from Humboldt University, welcoming us and noting that AoIR 2016 has made the front page of a Berlin newspaper today! He also notes the hunger for internet governance information, understanding, etc. from German government and from Europe.

Wolfgang: The theme of “Internet Rules!” provides lots of opportunities for keynotes, discussions, etc. and it allows us to connect the ideas of internet and society without deterministic structures. I will now hand over to the session chair Cornelius Puschmann.

Cornelius: It falls to me to do the logistical stuff… But first we have 570 people registered for AoIR 2016  so we have a really big conference. And now the boring details… which I won’t blog in detail here, other than to note the hashtag list:

  • Official: #aoir2016
  • Rebel: #aoir16
  • Retro: #ir17
  • Tim Highfield: #itisthesevebeenthassociationofinternetresearchersconferenceanditishappeningin2016

And with that, and a reminder of some of the more experimental parts of the programme to come.

Jennifer: Huge thanks to all of my colleagues here for turning this crazy idea into this huge event with a record number of attendees! Thank you to Cornelius, our programme chair.

Now to introduce our speaker… Jose van Dijck, professor at the University of Amsterdam as well as visiting work across the world. She is the first woman to hold the Presidency of the Royal Academy of Arts, Science and Research in The Netherlands. Her most recent book is the Culture of Connectivity: A History of Social Media. It takes a critical look back at social media and social networking, not only as social spaces but as business spaces. And her lecture tonight will give a preview of her forthcoming work on the Public Values in a Platform Society.

Jose: It is lovely to be here, particularly on this rather strange day…. I became President of the Royal Academy this year and today my colleague won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry – so instead of preparing for my keynote today I was dealing with press inquiries, so it is nice to focus back on my real job…

So a few years ago Thomas Poell wrote an article on the politics of social platforms. His work on platforms inspired my work on networked platforms being interwoven into an ecology economically and socially. Since I wrote that book, the last chapter is on platforms, many of which have now become the main players… I talked about Google (now Alphabet), Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, LinkedIn (now owned by Microsoft), Apple… And since then we’ve seen other players coming in and creating change – like Uber, AirBnB, Coursera. These platforms have become the gateways to our social life… And they have consolidated and expanded…

So a Platform is an online site that deploys automated technologies and business models to organise data streams, economic interactions, and social exchanges between users of the internet. That’s the core of the social theory I am using. Platforms ARE NOT simple facilitators, and they are not stand alone systems – they are interconnected.

And a Platform Ecosystem is an assemblage of networked platforms, governed by its own dynamics and operating on a set of mechanisms…

Now a couple of years ago Thomas and I wrote about platform mechanisms and the very important idea of “Datafication”. Commodification – a platform’s business model and governance defines the way in which datafied information is transformed into (economic, societal) value. There are many business models and many governance models – they vary but governance models are maybe more important than business models, and they can be hard to pin down. Selection are about data flows filtered by algorithms and bots, allowing for automated selection such as personalisation, rankings, reputation. Those mechanisms are not visible right now, and we need to make those explicit so that we can talk about them and their implications. Can we hold Facebook accountable for Newsfeed in the ways that traditional media are accountable? That’s an important question for us to consider…

The platform ecosystem is not a level playing field. They are gaining traction not through money but through the number of users. And network effects mean that user numbers are the way we understand the size of the network. There is Platformisation (thanks Anna?) across sectors… And that power is gained through cross ownership and cross platform, but also through true architecture and shared platforms. In our book we’ll give both private and public sectors and how they are penetrated by platform ecosystems. We used to have big oil companies, or big manufacturing companies… But now big companies operate across sectors.

So transport for instance… Uber is huge, partly financed by Google and also in competition with Google. If we look at News as a sector we have Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, etc. they are also used as content distribution and aggregators for Google, Facebook, etc.

In health – a second becoming most proliferated – we see fitness and health apps, with Google and Apple major players here. And in your neighbourhood there are apps available, some of these are global apps localised to your neighbourhoods, sitting alongside massive players.

In Education we’ve seen the rise of Massive Online Open Courses, with Microsoft and Google investing heavily alongside players like EdX, Coursera, Udacity, FutureLearn, etc.

All of the sectors are undergoing platformisation… And if you look across them all, all areas of private and public life the activity is revolving around the big five: Google, Facebook. Apple, Amazon, with LinkedIn and Twitter also important. And take, for example, AirBnB

Platform society is a society which social, economic and interpersonal traffic is largely channeled by an (overwhelmingly corporate) global online platform ecosystem that is driven by algorithms and fuelled by data. That’s not a revolution, it’s something we are part of and see every day.

Now we have promises of “participatory culture” and the euphoria of the idea of web 2.0, and of individuals contributing. More recently that idea has shifted to the idea of the “sharing economy”… But sharing has shifted in it’s meaning too. It is about sharing resources or services for some sort of fee, that’s a transaction based idea. And from 2015 we see awareness of the negative sides of the sharing economy. So a Feb 2015 Time cover read: “Strangers crashed my car, ate my food and wore my pants. Tales from the sharing economy” – about the personal discomfort of the downsides. And we see Technology Quarterly writing about “When it’s not so good to share” – from the perspective of securing the property we share here. But there is more at stake than personal discomfort…

We have started to see disruptive protest against private platforms, like posters against AirBnB. City Councils have to hire more inspectors to regulate AirBnB hosts for safety reasons – a huge debate in Amsterdam now, and the public values changing as a consequence of so many AirBnB hosts in this city. And there are more protests about changing values… Saying people are citizens not entrepreneurs, that the city is not for sale…

In another sector we see Uber protests, by various stakeholders. We see these from licenced taxi drivers, accusing them of safety issues and social values; but also protests by drivers. Uber do not call themselves a “transportation” company, instead calling themselves a connectivity company. Now Uber drivers have complained that Uber don’t pay insurance or pensions…

So, AirBnB and Uber are changing public values, they haven’t anchored existing values in their own design and development. There are platform promises and paradoxes here… They offer personalised services whilst contributing to the public good… The idea is that they are better at providing services than existing players. They promote community and connectedness whilst bypassing cumbersome institutions – based on the idea that we can do without big government or institutions, and without those values. These platforms also emphasize public values, whilst obscuring private gain. These are promises claiming that they are in the public interest… But that’s a paradox with hidden private gains.

And so how do we anchor collective, public values in a platform society and how do we govern this. ? has the idea of governance of platforms as opposed to governance by platforms. Our government is mainly concerned with governing platforms – regulations, privacy etc. and that is appropriate but there are public values like fairness, like accuracy, like safety, like privacy, like transparency, like democracy… Those values are increasingly being governed by platforms, and that governance is hidden from us in the algorithms and design decisions…

Who rules the platform society? Who are the stakeholders here? There are many platform societies of course, but who can be held accountable? Well it is an intense ideological battleground… With private stakeholders like (global) corporations, businesses, (micro-)entrepreneurs; consumer groups; consumers. And public stakeholders like citizens; co-ops and collectives, NGOs, public institutions, governments, supra-national bodies… And matching those needs up is never going to happen really…

Who uses health apps here? (many do) In 2015 there were 165,000 health apps in the Google Play store. Most of them promise personalised health and, whilst that is in the future, they track data… They take data right from individual to companies, bi-passing other actors and health providers… They manage a wide variety of data flows (patients, doctors, companies). There is a variety of business models, particularly unclear. There is a site called “Patients like me” which says that it is “not just for profit” – so it is for profit, but not just for profit… Data has become currency in our health economy. And that private gain is hiding behind the public good arguement. A few months ago in Holland we started to have insurance discounts (5%) if you send FitBit scores… But I thin the next step will be paying more if you do not send your scores… That’s how public values change…

Finally we have regulation – government should be regulating security, safety, accuracy, and privacy. It takes the Dutch FDA 6 months to check the safety and accuracy of one app – and if it is updated, you have to start again! In the US the US Dept of Health and Human Services, Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a guide called “Developing a mobile health app?” providing guidance on which federal laws need to be followed. And we see not just insurance using apps, but insurance and healthcare providers having to buy data services from providers and that changing the impact of these apps. You have things like 23 and Me, and those are global – and raises global regulation issues – so hard to govern around that issue. But our platform ecosystem is transnational, and governments are national. We also see platforms coming from technology companies – Phillips was building physical kit, MRI machines, but it now models itself as a data company. What you see here is that the big five internet and technology players are also big players in this field – Google Health and 23 and Me (financed by Sergei Brin, run by his ex-wife), Apple HealthKit, etc. And even then you have small independent apps like mPower but they are distributed via the app stores, led by big players and again, hard to govern.

 

We used to build trust in society through institutions and institutional norms and codes, which were subject to democratic controls. But these are increasingly bi-passed… And that may be subtle but it is going uncontrolled. So, how can we build trust in a platformed world? Well, we have to understand who rules the platform ecosystem, and by understanding how it is governed. And when you look at this globally you see competing ideological hemispheres… You see the US model of commercial values, and those are literally imposed on others. And you have Yandex and the Chinese model, and that that’s an interesting model…

I think coming back to my main question: what do we do here to help? We can make visible how this platformised society works… So I did a presentation a few weeks ago and shared recommendations there for users:

  • Require transparency in platforms
  • Do not trade convenience for public values
  • Be vigilant, be informed

But can you expect individuals to understand how each app works and what its implications are? I think government have a key role to protect citizens rights here.

In terms of owners and developers my recommendations are:

  • Put long-term trust over short-term gain
  • Be transparent about data flows, business models, and governance structure
  • Help encode public values in platform architecture (e.g. privacy by design)

A few weeks back the New York Times ran an article on holding algorithms accountable, and I think that that is a useful idea.

I think my biggest recommendations are for governments, and they are:

  • Defend public values and common good; negotiate public interests with platforms. What it could also do is to, for instance, legislate to manage demands and needs in how platforms work.
  • Upgrade regulatory institutions to deal with the digital constellations we are facing.
  • Develop (inter)national blueprint for a democratic platform society.

And we, as researchers, we can help expose and share the platform society so that it is understaood and engaged with in a more knowledgeable way. Governments have a special responsibility to govern the networked society – right now it is a Wild West. We are struggling to resolve these issues, so how can we help govern the platforms to shape society, when the platforms themselves are so enormous and powerful. In Europe we see platforms that are mainly US-based private sector spaces, and they are threatening public sector organisations.. It is important to think about how we build trust in that platform society…

Q&A

Q1) You talked about private interests being concealed by public values, but you didn’t talk about private interests of incumbents…

A1) That is important of course. Those protests that I mentioned do raise some of those issues – undercutting prices by not paying for insurance, pensions etc. of taxi drivers. In Europe those costs can be up to 50% of costs, so what do we do with those public values, how do we pay for this? We’ll pay for it one way or the other. The incumbents do have their own vested interests… But there are also social values there… If we want to retain those values though we need to find a model for that… European economic values have had collective values inscribed in… If that is outmoded, than fine, but how do we build those in in other ways…

Q2) I think in my context in Australia at least the Government is in cahoots with private companies, with public-private partnerships and security arms of government heavily benefitting from data collection and surveillance… I think that government regulating these platforms is possible, I’m not sure that they will.

A2) A lot of governments are heavily invested in private industries… I am not anti-companies or anti-government… My first goal is to make them aware of how this works… I am always surprised how little governments are aware of what runs underneath the promises and paradoxes… There is reluctance to work with companies from regulators but there is also exhaustion and a lack of understanding about how to update regulations and processes. How can you update health regulations with 165k health apps out there? I probably am an optimist… But I want to ensure governments are aware and understand how this is transforming society. There is so much ignorance in the field, and there is nievete about how this will play out. Yes, I’m an optimist. But no, there is something we can do to shape the direction that the platform society will develop.

Q3) You have great faith in regulation, but there are real challenges and issues… There are many cases where governments have colluded with industry to inflate the costs of delivery. There is the idea of regulatory capture. Why should we expect regulators to act in public interest when historically they act in the interest of private companies.

A3) It’s not that I put all my trust there… But I’m looking for a dialogue with whoever is involved in this space, in the contested play of where we start… It is one of many actors in this whole contested battlefield. I don’t think we have the answers, but it is our job to explain the underlying mechanisms… And I’m pretty shocked by how little they know about the platforms and the underlying mechanisms there. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start… But you have to make a start somewhere…

Oct 052016
 

After a few weeks of leave I’m now back and spending most of this week at the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR) Conference 2016. I’m hugely excited to be here as the programme looks excellent with a really wide range of internet research being presented and discussed. I’ll be liveblogging throughout the week starting with today’s workshops.

This is a liveblog so all corrections, updates, links, etc. are very much welcomed – just leave me a comment, drop me an email or similar to flag them up!

I am booked into the Digital Methods in Internet Research: A Sampling Menu workshop, although I may be switching session at lunchtime to attend the Internet rules… for Higher Education workshop this afternoon.

The Digital Methods workshop is being chaired by Patrik Wikstrom (Digital Media Research Centre, Queensland University of Technology, Australia) and the speakers are:

  • Erik Borra (Digital Methods Initiative, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands),
  • Axel Bruns (Digital Media Research Centre, Queensland University of Technology, Australia),
  • Jean Burgess (Digital Media Research Centre, Queensland University of Technology, Australia),
  • Carolin Gerlitz (University of Siegen, Germany),
  • Anne Helmond (Digital Methods Initiative, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands),
  • Ariadna Matamoros Fernandez (Digital Media Research Centre, Queensland University of Technology, Australia),
  • Peta Mitchell (Digital Media Research Centre, Queensland University of Technology, Australia),
  • Richard Rogers (Digital Methods Initiative, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands),
  • Fernando N. van der Vlist (Digital Methods Initiative, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands),
  • Esther Weltevrede (Digital Methods Initiative, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands).

I’ll be taking notes throughout but the session materials are also available here: http://tinyurl.com/aoir2016-digmethods/.

Patrik: We are in for a long and exciting day! I won’t introduce all the speakers as we won’t have time!

Conceptual Introduction: Situating Digital Methods (Richard Rogers)

My name is Richard Rogers, I’m professor of new media and digital culture at the University of Amsterdam and I have the pleasure of introducing today’s session. So I’m going to do two things, I’ll be situating digital methods in internet-related research, and then taking you through some digital methods.

I would like to situate digital methods as a third era of internet research… I think all of these eras thrive and overlap but they are differentiated.

  1. Web of Cyberspace (1994-2000): Cyberstudies was an effort to see difference in the internet, the virtual as distinct from the real. I’d situate this largely in the 90’s and the work of Steve Jones and Steve (?).
  2. Web as Virtual Society? (2000-2007) saw virtual as part of the real. Offline as baseline and “virtual methods” with work around the digital economy, the digital divide…
  3. Web as societal data (2007-) is about “virtual as indication of the real. Online as baseline.

Right now we use online data about society and culture to make “grounded” claims.

So, if we look at Allrecipes.com Thanksgiving recipe searches on a map we get some idea of regional preference, or we look at Google data in more depth, we get this idea of internet data as grounding for understanding culture, society, tastes.

So, we had this turn in around 2008 to “web as data” as a concept. When this idea was first introduced not all were comfortable with the concept. Mike Thelwell et al (2005) talked about the importance of grounding the data from the internet. So, for instance, Google’s flu trends can be compared to Wikipedia traffic etc. And with these trends we also get the idea of “the internet knows first”, with the web predicting other sources of data.

Now I do want to talk about digital methods in the context of digital humanities data and methods. Lev Manovich talks about Cultural Analytics. It is concerned with digitised cultural materials with materials clusterable in a sort of art historical way – by hue, style, etc. And so this is a sort of big data approach that substitutes “continuous change” for periodisation and categorisation for continuation. So, this approach can, for instance, be applied to Instagram (Selfiexploration), looking at mood, aesthetics, etc. And then we have Culturenomics, mainly through the Google Ngram Viewer. A lot of linguists use this to understand subtle differences as part of distance reading of large corpuses.

And I also want to talk about e-social sciences data and method. Here we have Webometrics (Thelwell et al) with links as reputational markers. The other tradition here is Altmetrics (Priem et al), which uses online data to do citation analysis, with social media data.

So, at least initially, the idea behind digital methods was to be in a different space. The study of online digital objects, and also natively online method – methods developed for the medium. And natively digital is meant in a computing sense here. In computing software has a native mode when it is written for a specific processor, so these are methods specifically created for the digital medium. We also have digitized methods, those which have been imported and migrated methods adapted slightly to the online.

Generally speaking there is a sort of protocol for digital methods: Which objects and data are available? (links, tags, timestamps); how do dominant devices handle them? etc.

I will talk about some methods here:

1. Hyperlink

For the hyperlink analysis there are several methods. The Issue Crawler software, still running and working, enable you to see links between pages, direction of linking, aspirational linking… For example a visualisation of an Armenian NGO shows the dynamics of an issue network showing politics of association.

The other method that can be used here takes a list of sensitive sites, using Issue Crawler, then parse it through an internet censorship service. And variations on this that indicate how successful attempts at internet censorship are. We do work on Iran and China and I should say that we are always quite thoughtful about how we publish these results because of their sensitivity.

2. The website as archived object

We have the Internet Archive and we have individual archived web sites. Both are useful but researcher use is not terribly signficant so we have been doing work on this. See also a YouTube video called “Google and the politics of tabs” – a technique to create a movie of the evolution of a webpage in the style of timelapse photography. I will be publishing soon about this technique.

But we have also been looking at historical hyperlink analysis – giving you that context that you won’t see represented in archives directly. This shows the connections between sites at a previous point in time. We also discovered that the “Ghostery” plugin can also be used with archived websites – for trackers and for code. So you can see the evolution and use of trackers on any website/set of websites.

6. Wikipedia as cultural reference

Note: the numbering is from a headline list of 10, hence the odd numbering… 

We have been looking at the evolution of Wikipedia pages, understanding how they change. It seems that pages shift from neutral to national points of view… So we looked at Srebenica and how that is represented. The pages here have different names, indicating difference in the politics of memory and reconciliation. We have developed a triangulation tool that grabs links and references and compares them across different pages. We also developed comparative image analysis that lets you see which images are shared across articles.

7. Facebook and other social networking sites

Facebook is, as you probably well know, is a social media platform that is relatively difficult to pin down at a moment in time. Trying to pin down the history of Facebook find that very hard – it hasn’t been in the Internet Archive for four years, the site changes all the time. We have developed two approaches: one for social media profiles and interest data as means of stufying cultural taste ad political preference or “Postdemographics”; And “Networked content analysis” which uses social media activity data as means of studying “most engaged with content” – that helps with the fact that profiles are no longer available via the API. To some extend the API drives the research, but then taking a digital methods approach we need to work with the medium, find which possibilities are there for research.

So, one of the projects undertaken with in this space was elFriendo, a MySpace-based project which looked at the cultural tastes of “friends” of Obama and McCain during their presidential race. For instance Obama’s friends best liked Lost and The Daily Show on TV, McCain’s liked Desperate Housewives, America’s Next Top Model, etc. Very different cultures and interests.

Now the Networked Content Analysis approach, where you quantify and then analyse, works well with Facebook. You can look at pages and use data from the API to understand the pages and groups that liked each other, to compare memberships of groups etc. (at the time you were able to do this). In this process you could see specific administrator names, and we did this with right wing data working with a group called Hope not Hate, who recognised many of the names that emerged here. Looking at most liked content from groups you also see the shared values, cultural issues, etc.

So, you could see two areas of Facebook Studies, Facebook I (2006-2011) about presentation of self: profiles and interests studies (with ethics); Facebook II (2011-) which is more about social movements. I think many social media platforms are following this shift – or would like to. So in Instagram Studies the Instagram I (2010-2014) was about selfie culture, but has shifed to Instagram II (2014-) concerned with antagonistic hashtag use for instance.

Twitter has done this and gone further… Twitter I (2006-2009) was about urban lifestyle tool (origins) and “banal” lunch tweets – their own tagline of “what are you doing?”, a connectivist space; Twitter II (2009-2012) has moved to elections, disasters and revolutions. The tagline is “what’s happening?” and we have metrics “trending topics”; Twitter III (2012-) sees this as a generic resource tool with commodification of data, stock market predictions, elections, etc.

So, I want to finish by talking about work on Twitter as a storytelling machine for remote event analysis. This is an approach we developed some years ago around the Iran event crisis. We made a tweet collection around a single Twitter hashtag – which is no longer done – and then ordered by most retweeted (top 3 for each day) and presented in chronological (not reverse) order. And we then showed those in huge displays around the world…

To take you back to June 2009… Mousavi holds an emergency press conference. Voter turn out is 80%. SMS is down. Mousavi’s website and Facebook are blocked. Police use pepper spray… The first 20 days of most popular tweets is a good succinct summary of the events.

So, I’ve taken you on a whistle stop tour of methods. I don’t know if we are coming to the end of this. I was having a conversation the other day that the Web 2.0 days are over really, the idea that the web is readily accessible, that APIs and data is there to be scraped… That’s really changing. This is one of the reasons the app space is so hard to research. We are moving again to user studies to an extent. What the Chinese researchers are doing involves convoluted processes to getting the data for instance. But there are so many areas of research that can still be done. Issue Crawler is still out there and other tools are available at tools.digitalmethods.net.

Twitter studies with DMI-TCAT (Fernando van der Vlist and Emile den Tex)

Fernando: I’m going to be talking about how we can use the DMI-TCAT tool to do Twitter Studies. I am here with Emile den Tex, one of the original developers of this tool, alongside Eric Borra.

So, what is DMI-TCAT? It is the Digital Methods Initiative Twitter Capture and Analysis Toolset, a server side tool which tries to capture robust and reproducible data capture and analysis. The design is based on two ideas: that captured datasets can be refined in different ways; and that the datasets can be analysed in different ways. Although we developed this tool, it is also in use elsewhere, particularly in the US and Australia.

So, how do we actually capture Twitter data? Some of you will have some experience of trying to do this. As researchers we don’t just want the data, we also want to look at the platform in itself. If you are in industry you get Twitter data through a “data partner”, the biggest of which by far is GNIP – owned by Twitter as of the last two years – then you just pay for it. But it is pricey. If you are a researcher you can go to an academic data partner – DiscoverText or Hexagon – and they are also resellers but they are less costly. And then the third route is the publicly available data – REST APIs, Search API, Streaming APIs. These are, to an extent, the authentic user perspective as most people use these… We have built around these but the available data and APIs shape and constrain the design and the data.

For instance the “Search API” prioritises “relevance” over “completeness” – but as academics we don’t know how “relevance” is being defined here. If you want to do representative research then completeness may be most important. If you want to look at how Twitter prioritises the data, then that Search API may be most relevant. You also have to understand rate limits… This can constrain research, as different data has different rate limits.

So there are many layers of technical mediation here, across three big actors: Twitter platform – and the APIs and technical data interfaces; DMI-TCAT (extraction); Output types. And those APIs and technical data interfaces are significant mediators here, and important to understand their implications in our work as researchers.

So, onto the DMI-TCAT tool itself – more on this in Borra & Reider (2014) (doi:10.1108/AJIM-09-2013-0094). They talk about “programmed method” and the idea of the methodological implications of the technical architecture.

What can one learn if one looks at Twitter through this “programmed method”? Well (1) Twitter users can change their Twitter handle, but their ids will remain identical – sounds basic but its important to understand when collecting data. (2) the length of a Tweet may vary beyond maximum of 140 characters (mentions and urls); (3) native retweets may have their top level text property stortened. (4) Unexpected limitations  support for new emoji characters can be problematic. (5) It is possible to retrieve a deleted tweet.

So, for example, a tweet can vary beyond 140 characters. The Retweet of an original post may be abbreviated… Now we don’t want that, we want it to look as it would to a user. So, we capture it in our tool in the non-truncated version.

And, on the issue of deletion and witholding. There are tweets deleted by users, and their are tweets which are withheld by the platform – and the withholding is a country by country issue. But you can see tweets only available in some countries. A project that uses this information is “Politwoops” (http://politwoops.sunlightfoundation.com/) which captures tweets deleted by US politicians, that lets you filter to specific states, party, position. Now there is an ethical discussion to be had here… We don’t know why tweets are deleted… We could at least talk about it.

So, the tool captures Twitter data in two ways. Firstly there is the direct capture capabilities (via web front-end) which allows tracking of users and capture of public tweets posted by these users; tracking particular terms or keywords, including hashtags; get a small random (approx 1%) of all public statuses. Secondary capture capabilities (via scripts) allows further exploration, including user ids, deleted tweets etc.

Twitter as a platform has a very formalised idea of sociality, the types of connections, parameters, etc. When we use the term “user” we mean it in the platform defined object meaning of the word.

Secondary analytical capabilities, via script, also allows further work:

  1. support for geographical polygons to delineate geographical regions for tracking particular terms or keywords, including hashtags.
  2. Built-in URL expander, following shortened URLs to their destination. Allowing further analysis, including of which statuses are pointing to the same URLs.
  3. Download media (e.g. videos and images (attached to particular Tweets).

So, we have this tool but what sort of studies might we do with Twitter? Some ideas to get you thinking:

  1. Hashtag analysis – users, devices etc. Why? They are often embedded in social issues.
  2. Mentions analysis – users mentioned in contexts, associations, etc. allowing you to e.g. identify expertise.
  3. Retweet analysis – most retweeted per day.
  4. URL analysis – the content that is most referenced.

So Emile will now go through the tool and how you’d use it in this way…

Emile: I’m going to walk through some main features of the DMI TCAT tool. We are going to use a demo site (http://tcatdemo.emiledentex.nl/analysis/) and look at some Trump tweets…

Note: I won’t blog everything here as it is a walkthrough, but we are playing with timestamps (the tool uses UTC), search terms etc. We are exploring hashtag frequency… In that list you can see Bengazi, tpp, etc. Now, once you see a common hashtag, you can go back and query the dataset again for that hashtag/search terms… And you can filter down… And look at “identical tweets” to found the most retweeted content. 

Emile: Eric called this a list making tool – it sounds dull but it is so useful… And you can then put the data through other tools. You can put tweets into Gephi. Or you can do exploration… We looked at Getty Parks project, scraped images, reverse Google image searched those images to find the originals, checked the metadata for the camera used, and investigated whether the cost of a camera was related to the success in distributing an image…

Richard: It was a critique of user generated content.

Analysing Social Media Data with TCAT and Tableau (Axel Bruns)

My talk should be a good follow on from the previous presentation as I’ll be looking at what you can do with TCAT data outside and beyond the tool. Before I start I should say that both Amsterdam and QUT are holding summer schools – and we have different summers! – so do have a look at those.

You’ve already heard about TCAT so I won’t talk more about that except to talk about the parts of TCAT I have been using.

TCAT Data Export allows you to export all tweets from selection – containing all of the tweets and information about them. You can also export a table of hashtags – tweet ids from your selection and hashtags; and mentions – tweet ids from your selection with mentions and mention type. You can export other things as well – known users (politicians, celebrities, etc); URLs; etc. And the structure that emerges are the Main TCAT export file (“full export”) and associating Hashtags; Mentions; Any other additional data. If you are familiar with SQL you are essentially joining databases here. If not then that’s fine, Tableau does this for you.

In terms of processing the data there are a number of tools here. Excel just isn’t good enough at scale – limited to 100,000 rows and that Trump dataset was 2.8 M already. So a tool that I and many others have been working with is Tableau. It’s a tool that copes with scale, it’s user-friendly, intuitive, all-purpose data analytics tool, but the downside is that it is not free (unless you are a student or are using it in teaching). Alongside that, for network visualisation, Gephi is the main tool at the moment. That’s open source and free and a new version came out in December.

So, into Tableau and an idea of what we can do with the data… Tableau enables you to work with data sources of any form, databases, spreadsheets, etc. So I have connected the full export I’ve gotten from TCAT… I have linked the main file to hashtag and mention files. Then I have also generated an additional file that expands the URLs in that data source (you can now do this in TCAT too). This is a left join – one main table that other tables are connected to. I’ve connected based on (tweet) id. And the dataset I’m showing here is from the Paris 2015 UN Climate Change. And all the steps I’m going through today are in a PDF guidebook that is available in that session resources link (http://tinyurl.com/aoir2016-digmethods/).

Tableau then tries to make sense of the data… Dimensions are the datasets which have been brought in, clicking on those reveals columns in the data, and then you see Measures – countable features in the data. Tableau makes sense of the file itself, although it won’t always guess correctly.

Now, we’ve joined the data here so that can mean we get repetition… If a tweet has 6 hashtags, it might seem to be 6 tweets. So I’m going to use the unique tweet ids as a measure. And I’ll also right click to ensure this is a distinct count.

Having done that I can begin to visualise my data and see a count of tweets in my dataset… And I can see when they were created – using Created at but also then finessing that to Hour (rather than default of Year). Now when I look at that dataset I see a peak at 10pm… That seems unlikely… And it’s because TCAT is running on Brisbane time, so I need to shift to CET time as these tweets were concerned with events in Paris. So I create a new Formula called CET, and I’ll set it to be “DateAdd (‘hour’, -9, [Created at])” – which simply allows us to take 9 hours off the time to bring it to the correct timezone. Having done that the spike is 3.40pm, and that makes a lot more sense!

Having generated that graph I can click on, say, the peak activity and see the number of tweets and the tweets that appeared. You can see some spam there – of course – but also widely retweeted tweet from the White House, tweets showing that Twitter has created a new emoji for the summit, a tweet from the Space Station. This gives you a first quick visual inspection of what is taking place… And you can also identify moments to drill down to in further depth.

I might want to compare Twitter activity with number of participating users, comparing the unique number of counts (synchronising axes for scale). Doing that we do see that there are more tweets when more users are active… But there is also a spike that is independent of that. And that spike seems to be generated by Twitter users tweeting more – around something significant perhaps – that triggers attention and activity.

So, this tool enables quantitative data analysis as a starting point or related route into qualitative analysis, the approaches are really inter-related. Quickly assessing this data enables more investigation and exploration.

Now I’m going to look at hashtags, seeing the volume against activity. By default the hashtags are ordered alphabetically, but that isn’t that useful, so I’m going to reorder by use. When I do that you can see that by far COP21 – the official hashtag – is by far the most popular. These tweets were generated from that hashtags but also from several search terms for the conference – official abbreviations for the event. And indeed some tweets have “Null” hashtags – no hashtags, just the search terms. You also see variance in spelling and capitalisation. Unlike Twitter Tableau is case sensitive so I would need to use some sort of Formula to resolve this – combining terms to one hashtag. A quick way to do that is to use “LOWER(‘Hashtag’)” which converts all data in the hashtag fields to lower case. That clustering shows COP21 as an even bigger hashtag, but also identifies other popular terms. We do see spikes in a given hashtag – often very brief – and these are often related to one very popular and heavily retweeted tweet has emerged. So, e.g. a prominent actor/figure has tweeted – e.g. in this data set Cara Delevingne (a British supermodel) triggers a short sharp spike in tweets/retweets.

And we can see these hashtags here, their relative popularity. But remember that my dataset is just based on what I asked TCAT to collect… TCOT might be a really big hashtag but maybe they don’t usually mention my search terms, hence being smaller in my data set. So, don’t be fooled into assuming some of the hashtags are small/low use just because they may not be prominent in a collected dataset.

Turning now to Mentions… We can see several Mention Types: original/null (no mentions); mentions; retweet. You also see that mentions and retweets spikes at particular moments – tweets going viral, key figures getting involved in the event or the tweeting, it all gives you a sense of the choreography of the event…

So, we can now look at who is being mentioned. I’m going to take all Twitter users in my dataset… I’ll see how many tweets mention them. I have a huge Null group here – no mentions – so I’ll start by removing that. The most mentioned accounts we see COP21 being the biggest mentioned account, and others such as Narendra Modi (chair of event?), POTUS, UNFCCC, Francois Hollande, the UN, Mashi Rafael, COP21en – the English language event account; EPN – Justin Trudeau; StationCDRKelly; C Figueres; India4Climate; Barack Obama’s personal account, etc. And I can also see what kind of mention they get. And you see that POTUS gets mentions but no retweets, whilst Barack Obama has a few retweets but mainly mentions. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t get retweets, but not in this dataset/search terms. By contrast Station Commander Kelly gets almost exclusively retweets… The balance of mentions, how people are mentioned, what gets retweeting etc… That is all a starting point for closer reading and qualitative analysis.

And now I want to look at who tweets the most… And you’ll see that there is very little overlap between the people who tweet the most, and the people who are mentioned and retweeted. The one account there that appears in both is COP21 – the event itself. Now some of the most active users are spammers and bots… But others will be obsessive, super-active users… Further analysis lets you dig further. Having looked at this list, I can look at what sort of tweets these users are sending… And that may look a bit different… This uses the Mention type and it may be that one tweet mentions multiple users, so get counted multiple times… So, for instance, DiploMix puts out 372 tweets… But when re-looked at for mentions and retweets we see a count of 636. That’s an issue you have to get your head around a bit… And the same issue occurs with hashtags. Looking at the types of tweets put out show some who post only or mainly original tweets, some who do mention others, some only or mainly retweet – perhaps bots or automated accounts. For instance DiploMix retweets diplomats and politicians. RelaxinParis is a bot retweeting everything on Paris – not useful for analysis, but part of lived experience of Twitter of course.

So, I have lots of views of data, and sheets saved here. You can export tables and graphs for publications too, which is very helpful.

I’m going to finish by looking at URLs mentioned… I’ve expanded these myself, and I’ve got the domain/path as well as the domain captured. I remove the NULL group here. And the most popular linked to domain is Twitter – I’m going to combine http and https versions in Tableau – but Youtube, UN, Leader of Iran, etc. are most popular. If I dig further into the Twitter domains, looking at Path, I can see whose accounts/profiles etc. are most linked to. If I dig into Station Commander Kelly you see that the most shared of these URLs are images… And we can look at that… And that’s a tweet we had already seen all day – a very widely shared image of a view of earth.

My time is up but I’m hoping this has been useful… This is the sort of approach I would take – exploring the data, using this as an entry point for more qualitative data analysis.

Analysing Network Dynamics with Agent Based Models (Patrik Wikström)

I will be talking about network dynamics and how we can understand some of the theory of network dynamics. And before I start a reminder that you can access and download all these materials at the URL for the session.

So, what are network dynamics? Well we’ve already seen graphs and visualisations of things that change over time. Network dynamics are very much about things that change and develop over time… So when we look at a corpus of tweets they are not all simultaneous, there is a dimension of time… And we have people responding to each other, to what they see around them, etc. So, how can we understand what goes on? We are interested in human behaviour, social behaviour, the emergence of norms and institutions, information diffusion patterns across multiple networks, etc. And these are complex and related to time, we have to take time into account. We also have to understand how macro level patterns emerge from local interactions between heterogenous agents, and how macro level patterns influence and impact upon those interactions. But this is hard…

It is difficult to capture complexity of such dynamic phenomena with verbal or conceptual models (or with static statistical models). And we can be seduced by big data. So I will be talking about using particular models, agent-based models. But what is that? Well it’s essentially a computer program, or a computer program for each agent… That allows it to be heterogeneous, autonomous and to interact with the environment and with other agents; that means they can interact in a (physical) space or as nodes in a network; and we can allow them to have (limited) perception, memory and cognition, etc. That’s something it is very hard for us to do and imagine with our own human brains when we look at large data sets.

The fundamental goal of this model is to develop a model that represents theoretical constructs, logics and assumptions and we want to be able to replicate the observed real-world behaviour. This is the same kind of approach that we use in most of our work.

So, a simple example…

Let’s assume that we start with some inductive idea. So we want to explain the emergence of the different social media network structures we observe. We might want some macro-level observations of Structure – clusters, path lengths, degree distributions, size; Time – growth, decline, cyclic; Behaviours – contagion, diffusion. So we want to build some kind of model to transfer or take our assumptions of what is going on, and translate that into a computer model…

So, what are our assumptions?

Well lets say we think people use different strategies when they decide which accounts to follow, with factors such as familiarity, similarity, activity, popularity, random… They may all be different explanations of why I connect with one person rather than another…  And lets also assume that when a user joins Twitter they immediately start following a set of accounts, and once part of the network they add more. And lets also assume that people are different – that’s really important! People are interested in different things – they have different passions, topics that interest them, some are more active, some are more passive. And that’s something we want to capture.

So, to do this I’m going to use something called NetLogo – which some of you may have already played with – it is a tool developed maybe 25 years back at Northwestern University. You can download it – or use a limited browser-based version -from: http://ccl.northwestern.edu/netlogo/.

In NetLogo we start with a 3 node network… I initialise the network and get three new nodes. Then I can add a new node… In this model I have a slider for “randomness” – if I set it to less random, it picks existing popular nodes, in the middle it combines popularity with randomness, and at most random it just adds nodes randomly…

So, I can run a simulation with about 200 nodes with randomness set to maximum… You can see how many nodes are present, how many friends the most popular node has, and how many nodes have very few friends (with 3 which is minimum connections in this model). If I now change the formation strategy here to set randomness to zero… then we see the nodes connecting back to the same most popular nodes… A more broadcast-like network. This is a totally different kind of network.

Now, another simulation here toggles the size of nodes to represent number of followers… Larger blobs represent really popular nodes… So if I run this in random mode again, you’ll see it looks very different…

So, why am I showing you this? Well I live to show a really simple model. This is maybe 50 lines of code – you could build it in a few hours. The first message is that it is easy to build this kind of model. And even though we have a simple model we have at least 200 agents… We normally work with thousands or much greater scale, but you can still learn something here. You can see how to replicate the structure of a network. Maybe it is a starting point that requires more data to be added, but it is a place to start and explore. Even though a simple model you can use this to build theory, to guide data collection and so forth.

So, having developed a model you can set up a simulation to run hundreds of times, to analyse with your data analytics tools… So I’ve run my 200 node network, 5000 simulations, comparing randomness and maximum links to a nodes – helping understand that different formation strategy creates different structures. And that’s interesting but it doesn’t take us all the way. So I’d like to show you a different model that takes this a little bit further…

This model is an extension of the previous model – with all the previous assumptions – so you have two formation strategies, but also other assumptions we were talking about… That I am more likely to connect to accounts with shared interests, more inclines to connect with accounts with shared interests, and with that we generate a simulation which is perhaps a better representation of the kinds of network we might see. And this accommodates the idea that this network has content, sharing, and other aspects that inform what is going on in the formation of that network. This visualisation looks pretty but the useful part is the output you can get at an aggregate level… We are looking at population level, seeing how local interactions at local levels, influence macro level patterns and behaviours… We can look at in-degree distribution, we can look at out-degree… We can look at local clustering coefficients, longest/shortest path, etc. And my assumptions might be plausible and reasonable…

So you can build models that give a much deeper understanding of real world dynamics… We are building an artificial network BUT you can combine this with real world data – load a real world network structure into the model and look at diffusion within that network, and understand what happens when one node posts something, what impact would that have, what information diffusion would that have…

So I’ve shown you NetLogo to play with these models. If you want to play around, that’s a great first step. It’s easy to get started with and it has been developed for use in educational settings. There is a big community and lots of models to use. And if you download NetLogo you can download that library of models. Pretty soon, however, I think you’ll find it too limited. There are many other tools you can use… But in general you can use any programming language that you want… Repast and Mason are very common tools. And they are based on Java or C++. You can also use an ABM Python module.

In the folder for this session there are some papers that give a good introduction to agent-based modelling… If we think about agent-based modelling and network theory there are some books I would recommend: Natatame & Chen: Agent-based modelling and Network dynamics. ABM look at Miller & Scott; Gilbert and Troitzsch; Epstein. Network theory – look at Jackson, Watts (& Strogatz), Barabasi.

So, three things:

Simplify! – You don’t need millions of agents. A simple model can be more powerful than a realistic one

Iterate! – Start simple and, as needed, build up complexity, add more features, but only if necessary.

Validate? – You can build models in a speculative way to guide research, to inform data collection… You don’t always have to validate that model as it may be a tool for your thinking. But validation is important if you want to be able to replicate and ensure relevance in the real world.

We started talking about data collection, analysis, and how we build theory based on the data we collect. After lunch we will continue with Carolin, Anne and Fernando on Tracking the Trackers. At the end of the day we’ll have a full panel Q&A for any questions.

And we are back after lunch and a little exposure to the Berlin rain!

Tracking the Trackers (Anne Helmond, Carolin Gerlitz, Esther Weltevrede and Fernando van der Vlist)

Carolin: Having talked about tracking users and behaviours this morning, we are going to talk about studying the media themselves, and of tracking the trackers across these platforms. So what are we tracking? Berry (2011) says:

“For every explicit action of a user, there are probably 100+ implicit data points from usage; whether that is a page visit, a scroll etc.”

Whenever a user makes an action on the web, a series of tracking features are enabled, things like cookies, widgets, advertising trackers, analytics, beacons etc. Cookies are small pieces of text that are placed on the user’s computer indicating that they have visited a site before. These are 1st party trackers and can be accessed by the platforms and webmasters. There are now many third party trackers such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, and many websites now place third party cookies on the devices of users. And there are widgets that enable this functionality with third party trackers – e.g. Disquus.

So we have first party tracker files – text files that remember, e.g. what you put in a shopping cart; third party tracker files used by marketers and data-gathering companies to track your actions across the web; you have beacons; and you have flash cookies.

The purpose of tracking varies, from functionality that is useful (e.g. the shopping basket example) but increasingly prevelant for use in profiling users and behaviours. The increasing use of trackers has resulted in them becoming more visible. There is lots of research looking at the prevalence of tracking across the web, from the Continuum project and the Guardian’s Tracking the Trackers project. One of the most famous plugins that allows you to see the trackers in your own browser is Ghostery – a browser plugin that you can install and immediately detects different kinds of trackers, widgets, cookies, analytics tracking on the sites that you browse to… It shows these in a pop up. It allows you to see the trackers and to block trackers, or selectively block trackers. You may want to selectively block trackers as whole parts of websites disappear when you switch off trackers.

Ghostery detects via tracker library/code snippets (regular expressions). It currently detects around 2295 trackers – across many different varieties. The tool is not uncontroversial. It started as an NGO but was bought by analytics company Evidon in 2010, using the data for marketing and advertising.

So, we thought that if we, as researchers, want to look at trackers and there are existing tools, lets repurpose existing tools. So we did that, creating a Tracker tracker tool based on Ghostery. It takes up a logic of Digital Methods, working with lists of websites. So the Tracker Tracker tool has been created by the Digital Methods Initiative (2012). It allows us to detect which tracers are present on lists of wevsites and create a network view. And we are “repurposing analytical capabilities”. So, what sort of project can we use this with?

One of our first project was on the Like Economy. Our starting point was the fact that social media widgets place cookies (Gerlitz and Helmond 2013), where are they present. These cookies track both platform users and website users. We wanted to see how pervasive these cookies were on the web, and on the most used sites on the web.

We started by using Alexa to identify a collection of 1000 most-visited websites. We inputted it into the Tracking Tracker tool (it’s only one button so options are limited!). Then we visualised the results with Gephi. And what did we get? Well, in 2012 only 18% of top websites had Facebook trackers – if we did it again today it would probably be different. This data may be connected to personal user profiles – when a user has been previously logged in and has a profile – but it is also being collected for non-users of Facebook, they create anonymous profiles but if they subsequently join Facebook that tracking data can be fed into their account/profile.

Since we did this work we have used this method on other projects. Now I’ll hand over to Anne to do a methods walkthrough.

Anne: Now you’ve had a sense of the method I’m going to do a dangerous walkthrough thing… And then we’ll look at some other projects here.

So, a quick methodological summary:

  1. Research question: type of tracker and sites
  2. Website (URL) collection making: existing expert list.
  3. Input list for Tracker Tracker
  4. Run Tracker Tracker
  5. Analyse in Gephi

So we always start with a research question… Perhaps we start with websites we wouldn’t want to find trackers on – where privacy issues are heightened e.g. childrens’ websites, porn websites, etc. So, homework here – work through some research question ideas.

Today we’ll walk through what we will call “adult sites”. So, we will go to Alexa – which is great for locating top sites in categories, in specific countries, etc. We take that list, we put it into Tracker Tracker – choosing whether or not to look at the first level of subpages – and press the button. The tool looks at the Ghostery database, which now scans those websites for the possible 2600 trackers that may exist.

Carolyn: Maybe some of you are wondering if it’s ok to do this with Ghostery? Well, yes, we developed Tracker Tracker in collaboration with Ghostery when it was an NGO, with one of their developers visiting us in Amsterdam. One other note here: if you use Ghostery on your machine, it may be different to your neighbours trackers. Trackers vary by machine, by location, by context. That’s something we have to take into account when requesting data. So for news websites you may, for instance, have more and more trackers generated the longer the site is open – this tool only captures a short window of time so may not gather all of the trackers.

Anne: Also in Europe you may encounter a so-called cookie walls. You have to press OK to accept cookies… And the tool can’t emulate user experience in clicking beyond the cookie walls… So zero trackers may indicate that issue, rather than no trackers.

Q: Is it server side or client side?

A: It is server side.

Q: And do you cache the tracker data?

A: Once you run the tool you can save the CSV and Gephi files, but we don’t otherwise cache.

Anne: Ghostery updates very frequently so that makes it most useful to always use the most up to date list of trackers to check against.

So, once we’ve run the Tracker Tracker tool you get outputs that can be used in a variety of flexible formats. We will download the “exhaustive” CSV – which has all of the data we’ve found here.

If I open that CSV (in Excel) we can see the site, the scheme, the patterns that was used to find the tracker, the name of the tracker… This is very detailed information. So for these adult sites we see things like Google Analytics, the Porn Ad network, Facebook Connect. So, already, there is analysis you could do with this data. But you could also do further analysis using Gephi.

Now, we have steps of this procedure in the tutorial that goes with today’s session. So here we’ve coloured the sites in grey, and we’ve highlighted the trackers in different colours. The purple lines/nodes are advertising trackers for instance.

If you want to create this tracker at home, you have all the steps here. And doing this work we’ve found trackers we’d never seen before – for instance the porn industry ad network DoublePimp (a play on DoubleClick) – and to see regional and geographic difference between trackers, which of course has interesting implications.

So, some more examples… We have taken this approach looking at Jihadi websites, working with e.g. governments to identify the trackers. And found that they are financially dependent on advertising included SkimLinks, DoubleClick, Google AdSense.

Carolyn: And in almost all networks we encounter DoubleClick, AdSense, etc. And it’s important to know that webmasters enable these trackers, they have picked these services. But there is an issue of who selects you as a client – something journalists collaborating on this work raised with Google.

Anne: The other usage of these trackers has been in historical tracking analysis using the internet archive. This enables you to see the website in the context in a techno-commercial configuration, and to analyse it in that context. So for instance looking at New York Times trackers and the wevsite as an ecosystem embedded in the wider context – in this case trackers decreased but that was commercial concentration, from companies buying each other therefore reducing the range of trackers.

Carolyn: We did some work called the Trackers Guide. We wanted to look not only at trackers, but also look at Content Delivery Networks, to visualise on a website how websites are not single items, but collections of data with inflows and outflows. The result became part artwork, part biological fieldguide. We imagined content and trackers as little biological cell-like clumps on the site, creating a whole booklet of this guide. So the image here shows the content from other spaces, content flowing in and connected…

Anne: We were also interested in what kind of data is being collected by these trackers. And also who owns these trackers. And also the countries these trackers are located in. So, we used this method with Ghostery. And then we dug further into those trackers. For Ghostery you can click on a tracker and see what kind of data it collects. We then looked at privacy policies of trackers to see what it claims to collect… And then we manually looked up ownership – and nationality – of the trackers to understand rules, regulations, etc. – and seeing where your data actually ends up.

Carolyn: Working with Ghostery, and repurposing their technology, was helpful but their database is not complete. And it is biased to the English-speaking world – so it is particularly lacking in Chinese contexts for instance. So there are limits here. It is not always clear what data is actually being collected. BUT this work allows us to study invisible participation in data flows – that cannot be found in other ways; to study media concentration and the emergence of specific tracking ecologies. And in doing so it allows us to imagine alternative spatialities of the web – tracker origins and national ecologies. And it provides insights into the invisible infrastructures of the web.

Slides for this presentation: http://www.slideshare.net/cgrltz/aoir-2016-digital-methods-workshop-tracking-the-trackers-66765013

Multiplatform Issue Mapping (Jean Burgess & Ariadna Matamoros Fernandez)

Jean: I’m Jean Burgess and I’m Professor of Digital Media and Director of the DRMC at QUT. Ariadna is one of our excellent PhD students at QUT but she was previously at DMI so she’s a bridge to both organisations. And I wanted to say how lovely it is to have the DRMC and DMI connected like this today.

So we are going to talk about issue mapping, and the idea of using issue mapping to teach digital research methods, particularly with people who may not be interested in social media outside of their specific research area. And about issue mapping as an approach that is outside the dominant “influencers” narrative that is dominant in the marketing side of social media.

We are in the room with people who have been working in this space for a long time but I just want to raise that we are making connections to AMT and cultural and social studies. So, a few ontological things… Our approach combines digital methods and controversy analysis. We understand there to be Controversies which are discreet, acute, often temporality that are sites of intersectionality, bringing together different issues in new combination. And drawing on Latour, Callon etc. we see controversies as generative. They can reveal the dynamics of issues, bring them together in new combinations, trasform them and mode them forward. And we undertake network and content analysis to understand relations among stakeholders, arguments and objects.

There are both very practical applications and more critical-reflexive possibilities of issue mapping. And we bring our own media studies viewpoint to that, with an interest in the vernacular of the space.

So, issue mapping with social media frequently starts with topical Twitter hashtags/hashtag communities. We then have iteractive “issue inventories” – actors, hashtags, media objects from one dataset used as seeds on their own. We then undertake some hybrid network/thematic analysis – e.g. associations among hashtags; thematic network clusters And we inevitably meet the issue of multi-platform/cross-platform engagement. And we’ll talk more about that.

One project we undertook on the #agchatoz, which is a community in Australia around weekly Twitter chats, but connected to a global community, explored the hashtag as a hybrid community. So here we looked at, for instance, the network of followers/followees in this network. And within that we were able to identify clusters of actors (across: Left-learning Twitterati (30%); Australian ag, farmers (29%); Media orgs, politicians (13%); International ag, farmers (12%); Foodies (10%); Right-wing Australian politics and others), and this reveals some unexpected alliances or crossovers – e.g. between animal rights campaigners and dairy farmers. That suggests opportunities to bridge communities, to raise challenges, etc.

We have linked, in the files for this session, to various papers. One of these, Burgess and Matamoros-Fernandez (2016) looks at Gamergate and I’m going to show a visualisation of the YouTube video network (Reider 2015; Gephi), which shows videos mentioned in tweets around that controversy, showing those that were closely related to each other.

Ariadna: My PhD is looking at another controversy, this one is concerned by Adam Goodes, an Australian Rules Footballer who was a high profile player until he retired last year. He has been a high profile campaigner against racism, and has called out racism on the field. He has been criticised for that by one part of society. And in 2014 he performed an indiginous war dance on the pitch, which again received booing from the crowd and backlash. So, I start with Twitter, follow the links, and then move to those linked platforms and moving onwards…

Now I’m focusing on visual material, because the controversy was visual, it was about a gesture. So there is visual content (images, videos, gifs) are mediators of race and racism on social media. I have identified key media objects through qualitative analysis – important gestures, different image genres. And the next step has been to reflect on the differences between platform traces – YouTube relates videos, Facebook like network, Twitter filters, notice and take down automatic messages. That gives a sense of the community, the discourse, the context, exploring their specificities and how their contributes to the cultural dynamics of face and racism online.

Jean: And if you want to learn more, there’s a paper later this week!

So, we usually do training on this at DMRC #CCISS16 Workshops. We usually ask participants to think about YouTube and related videos – as a way to encourage to people to think about networks other than social networks, and also to get to grips with Gephi.

Ariadna: Usually we split people into small groups and actually it is difficult to identify a current controversy that is visible and active in digital media – we look at YouTube and Tumblr (Twitter really requires prior collection of data). So, we go to YouTube to look for a key term, and we can then filter and find results changing… Usually you don’t reflect that much. So, if you look at “Black Lives Matter”, you get a range of content… And we ask participants to pick out relevant results – and what is relevant will depend on the research question you are asking. That first choice of what to select is important. Once this is done we get participants to use the YouTube Data Tools: https://tools.digitalmethods.net/netvizz/youtube/. This tool enables you to explore the network… You can use a video as a “seed”, or you can use a crawler that finds related videos… And that can be interesting… So if you see an Anti-Islamic video, does YouTube recommend more, or other videos related in other ways?

That seed leads you to related videos, and, depending on the depth you are interested in, videos related to the related videos… You can make selections of what to crawl, what the relevance should be. The crawler runs and outputs a Gephi file. So, this is an undirected network. Here nodes are videos, edges are relationships between videos. We generally use the layout: Force Atlas 2. And we run the Modularity Report to colour code the relationships on thematic or similar basis. Gephi can be confusing at first, but you can configure and use options to explore and better understand your network. You can look at the Data Table – and begin to understand the reasons for connection…

So, I have done this for Adam Goodes videos, to understand the clusters and connections.

So, we have looked at YouTube. Normally we move to Tumblr. But sometimes a controversy does not resonate on a different social media platform… So maybe a controversy on Twitter, doesn’t translate on Facebook; or one on YouTube doesn’t resonate on Tumblr… Or keywords will vary greatly. It can be a good way to start to understand the cultures of the platforms. And the role of main actors etc. on response in a given platform.

With Tumblr we start with the interface – e.g. looking at BlackLivesMatter. We look at the interface, functionality, etc. And then, again, we have a tool that can be used: https://tools.digitalmethods.net/netvizz/tumblr/. We usually encourage use of the same timeline across Tumblr and YouTube so that they can be compared.

So we can again go to Gephi, visualise the network. And in this case the nodes and edges can look different. So in this example we see 20 posts that connect 141 nodes, reflecting the particular reposting nature of that space.

Jean: The very specific cultural nature of the different online spaces can make for very interesting stuff when looking at controversies. And those are really useful starting points into further exploration.

And finally, a reminder, we run our summer schools in DMRC in February. When it is summer! And sunny! Apply now at: http://dmrcss.org/!

Analysing and visualising geospatial data (Peta Mitchell)

Normally when I would do this as a workshop I’d give some theoretical and historical background of the emergence of geospatial data, and then move onto the practical workshop on Carto (was CartoDB). Today though I’m going to talk about a case study, around the G8 meeting in Melbourne, and then talk about using Carto to create a social media map.

My own background is a field increasingly known as the geo humanities or the spatial humanities. And I did a close reading project of novels and films to create a Cultural Atlas of Australia. And how locations relate to narrative. For instance almost all films are made in South Australia, regardless of where they are set, mapping patterns of representation. We also created a CultureMap – an app that went with a map to alert you to literary or filmic places nearby that related back to that atlas.

I’ll talk about that G8 stuff. I now work on rapid spatial analytics; participatory geovisualisation and crowdsourced data; VGI – Volunteered Geographic Information; placemaking etc. But today I’ll be talking about emerging forms of spatial information/geodata, neogeographical tools etc.

So Godon and de Souza e Silva (2011) talk about us witnessing the increasing proliferation of geospatial data. And this is sitting alongside a geospatial revolution – GPS enabled devices, geospatial data permeating social media, etc. So GPS emerged in the late ’90s/early 00’s with a slight social friend-finder function. But the geospatial web really begins around 2000, the beginning of the end of the idea of the web as a “placeless space”. To an extent this came from a legal case brought by a French individual against Yahoo!, who were allowing Nazi memorabilia to be sold. That was illegal in France, and Yahoo! claimed that the internet is global, and claimed that it wasn’t possible. A French judge found in favour of the individual, Yahoo! were told it was both doable and easy, and Yahoo! went on to financially benefit from IP based location information. As Richard Rogers that case was the “revenge of geography against the idea of cyberspace”.

Then in 2005 Google Maps was described by John Yudell as that platform having the potential to be a “service factory for the geospatial web”. So in 2005 the “geospatial web” really is there as a term. By 2006 the concept of “Neogeography” was defined by Andrew (?) to describe the kind of non-professional, user-orientated, web 2.0-enabled mapping. There are are critiques in cultural geography, in geospatial literature about this term, and the use of the “neo” part of it. But there are multiple applications here, from humanities to humanitariasm; from cultural mapping to crisis mapping. An example here is Ushahidi maps, where individuals can send in data and contribute to mapping of crisis. Now Ushahidi is more of a platform for crisis mapping, and other tools have emerged.

So there are lots of visualisation tools and platforms. There are traditional desktop GIS – ArcGIS, QGIS. There is basic web-mapping (e.g. Google Maps); Online services (E.g. CARTO, Mapbox); Custom map design applications (e.g. MapMill); and there are many more…

Spatial data is not new, but there is a growth in ambient and algorithmic spatial data. So for instance ABC (TV channel in Australia) did some investigation, inviting audiences to find out as much as they could based on their reporter Will Ockenden’s metadata. So, his phone records, for instance, revealed locations, a sensitive data point. And geospatial data is growing too.

We now have a geospatial sub stratum underpinning all social media networks. So this includes check-in/recommendation platforms: Foursquare, Swarm, Gowalla (now defunct), Yelp; Meetup/hookup apps: Tinder, Grindr, Meetup; YikYak; Facebook; Twitter; Instagram; and Geospatial Gaming: Ingress; Pokemon Go (from which Google has been harvesting improvements for its pedestrian routes).

Geospatial media data is generated from sources ranging from VGI (Volunteered geographic information) to AGI (ambient geographic information), where users are not always aware that they are sharing data. That type of data doesn’t feel like crowd sourced data or VGI, hence the potential challenges, potential and ethical complexity of AGI.

So, the promises of geosocial analysis include a focus on real-time dynamics – people working with geospatial data aren’t used to this… And we also see social media as a “sensor network” for crisis events. There is also potential to provide new insights into spatio-temporal spread of ideas and actions; human mobilities and human behaviours.

People do often start with Twitter – because it is easier to gather data from it – but only between 1% and 3% of Tweets are located. But when we work at festivals we see around 10% being location data – partly a nature of the event, partly as Tweets are often coming through Instagram… On Instagram we see between 20% and 30% of images georeferenced, but based on upload location, not where image is taken.

There is also the challenge of geospatial granularity. On a tweet with Lat Long, that’s fairly clear. When we have a post tagged with a place we essentially have a polygon. And then when you geoparse, what is the granularity – street, city? Then there are issues of privacy and the extent to which people are happy to share that data.

So, in 2014 Brisbane hosted the G20, at a cost of $140 AUS for one highly disruptive weekend. In preceeding G20 meetings there had been large scale protests. At the time the premier of the city was former military and he put the whole central business district was in lockdown and designated a “declared area” – under new laws made for this event. And hotels for G20 world leaders were inside the zone. So, Twitter mapping is usually during crisis events – but you don’t know where this will happen, where to track it, etc. In this case we knew in advance where to look. So, a Safety and Security Act (2013) was put in place for this event, requiring prior approval for protests; arrests for the duration of the event; on the spot strip search; banning of eggs in the central Business District, no manure, no kayaks or floatation devices, no remote control cars or reptiles!

So we had these fears of violent protests, given all of these draconian measures. We had elevated terror levels. And we had war threatened after Abbott said he would “shirtfront” Vladimir Putin over MH17. But all that concern made city leaders concerned that the city might be a ghost town, when they wanted it marketed as a new world city. They were offering free parking etc. to incentivise them to come in. And tweets reinforced the ghost town trope. So, what geosocial mapping enabled was a close to realtime sensor network of what might be happening during the G20.

So, the map we did was the first close to real time social media map that was public facing, using CARTODB, and it was never more than an hour behind reality. We had few false matches. But we had clear locations and clear keywords – e.g. G20 – to focus on. A very few “the meeting will now be held in G20” but otherwise no false matches. We tracked the data through the meeting… Which ran over a weekend and bank holiday. This map parses around 17,000(?) tweets, most of which were not geotagged but parsed. Only 10% represent where someone was when they tweeted, the remaining 90% are subjects of posts from geoparsing of tweets.

Now, even though that declared area isn’t huge, there are over 300 streets there. I had to build a manually constructed gazeteer, using Open Street Map (OSM) data, and then new data. Picking a bounding box that included that area generated a whole range of features – but I wasn’t that excited about fountains, benches etc. I was looking for places people might mention. And I wanted to know about features people might actually mention in their tweets. So, I had a bounding box, and the declared area before… Would have been ideal if the G20 had given me their bounding polygon but we didn’t especially want to draw attention to what we were doing.

So, at the end we had lat, long, amenity (using OSM terms), name (e.g. Obama was at the Marriott so tweets about that), associated search terms – including local/vernacular versions of names of amenities; Status (declared or restricted); and confidence (of location/coordinates – score of 1 for geospatially tagged tweets, 0.8 for buildings, etc.). We could also create category maps of different data sets. On our map we showed geospatial and parsed tweets inside the area, but we only used geotweets outside the declared area. One of my colleagues created a Python script to “read” and parse tweets, and that generated a CSV. That CSV could then be fed into CARTODB. CARTODB has a time dimension, could update directly every half hour, and could use a Dr0pbox source to do that.

So, did we see much disruption? Well no… About celebrity spotting – the two most tweeted images were Obama with a koala and Putin with a koala. It was very hot and very secured so little disruption happened. We did see selfies with Angela Merkel, images of phallic motorcade. And after the G20 there was a complaint filed to board of corruption about the cooling effect of security on participation, particularly in environmental protests. There was still engagement on social media, but not in-person. Disruption, protest, criticism were replaced by spectacle and distant viewing of the event.

And, with that, we turn to an 11 person panel session to answer questions, wrap up, answer questions, etc. 

Panel Session

Q1) Each of you presented different tools and approaches… Can you comment on how they are connected and how we can take advantage of that.

A1 – Jean) Implicitly or explicitly we’ve talked about possibilities of combining tools together in bigger projects. And tools that Peta and I have been working on are based on DMI tools for instance… It’s sharing tools, shared fundamental techniques for analytics for e.g. a Twitter dataset…

A1 – Richard) We’ve never done this sort of thing together… The fact that so much has been shared has been remarkable. We share quite similar outlooks on digital methods, and also on “to what end” – largely for the study of social issues and mapping social issues. But also other social research opportunities available when looking at a variety of online data, including geodata. It’s online web data analysis using digital methods for issue mapping and also other forms of social research.

A1 – Carolyn) All of these projects are using data that hasn’t been generated by research, but which has been created for other purposes… And that’s pushing the analysis in their own way… And tools that we combine bring in levels, encryptions… Digital methods use these, but also a need to step back and reflect – present in all of the presentations.

Q2) A question especially for Carolyn and Anne: what do you think about the study of proprietary algorithms. You talked a bit about the limitations of proprietary algorithms – for mobile applications etc? I’m having trouble doing that…

A2 – Anne) I think in the case of the tracker tool, it doesn’t try to engage with the algorithm, it looks at presence of trackers. But here we have encountered proprietary issues… So for Ghostery, if you download a Firefox plugin you can access the content. We took the library of trackers from that to use as a database, we took that apart. We did talk to Ghostery, to make them aware… The question of algorithms… Of how you get to the blackbox things… We are developing methods to do this… One way in is to see the outputs, and compare that. Also Christian Zudwig is doing the auditing algorithms work.

A2 – Carolyn) Was just a discussion on Twitter about currency of algorithms and research on them… We’ve tried to ride on them, to implement that… Otherwise difficult. One element was on studying mobile applications. We are giving a presentation on this on Friday. Similar approach here, using infrastructures of app distribution and description etc. to look into this… Using existing infrastructures in which apps are built or encountered…

A2 – Anne) We can’t screenscrape and we are moving to this more closed world.

A2 – Richard) One of the best ways to understand algorithms is to save the outputs – e.g. we’ve been saving Google search outputs for years. Trying to save newsfeeds on Facebook, or other sorts of web apps can be quite difficult… You can use the API but you don’t necessarily get what the user has seen. The interface outputs are very different from developer outputs. So people think about recording rather than saving data – an older method in a way… But then you have the problem of only capturing a small sample of data – like analysing TV News. The new digital methods can mean resorting to older media methods… Data outputs aren’t as friendly or obtainable…

A2 – Carolyn) This one strand is accessing algorithms via transparancy; you can also think of them as situated and in context, seeing it in operation and in action in relation to the data, associated with outputs. I’d recommend Salam Marocca on the Impact of Big Data which sits in legal studies.

A2 – Jean) One of the ways we approach this is the “App Walkthrough”, a method Ben Light and I have worked on and will shortly be published in Media and Society, is to think about those older media approaches, with user studies part of that…

Q3) What is your position as researchers on opening up data, and doing ethically acceptable data on the other side? Do you take a stance, even a public stance on these issues.

A3 – Anne) Many of these tools, like the YouTube tool, and his Facebook tools, our developer took the conscious decision to anonymise that data.

A3 – Jean) I do have public positions. I’ve published on the political economy of Twitter… One interesting thing is that privacy discourses were used by Twitter to shut down TwapperKeeper at a time it was seeking to monetise… But you can’t just published an archive of tweets with username, I don’t think anyone would find that acceptable…

A3 – Richard) I think it is important to respect or understand contextual privacy. People posting, on Twitter say, don’t have an expectation of its use in commercial or research uses. Awareness of that is important for a researcher, no matter what terms of service the user has signed/consented to, or even if you have paid for that data. You should be aware and concerned about contextual privacy… Which leads to a number of different steps. And that’s why, for instance, NetVis – the Facebook tool – usernames are not available for comments made, even though FacePager does show that. Tools vary in that understanding. Those issues need to be thought about, but not necessarily uniformly thought about by our field.

A3 – Carolyn) But that becomes more difficult in spaces that require you to take part to research them – WhatsApp? for instance – researchers start pretending to be regular users… to generate insights.

Comment (me): on native vs web apps and approaches and potential for applying Ghostery/Tracker Tracker methods to web apps which are essentially pointing to URLs.

Q4) Given that we are beholden to commercial companies, changes to algorithms, APIs etc, and you’ve all spoken about that to an extent, how do you feel about commercial limitations?

A4 – Richard) Part of my idea of digital methods is to deal with ephemerality… And my ideal to follow the medium… Rather than to follow good data prescripts… If you follow that methodology, then you won’t be able to use web data or social media data… Unless you either work with the corporation or corporate data scientist – many issues there of course. We did work with Yahoo! on political insights… categorising search queries around a US election, which was hard to do from outside. But the point is that even on the inside, you don’t have all the insight or the full access to all the data… The question arises of what can we still do… What web data work can we still do… We constantly ask ourselves, I think digital methods is in part an answer to that, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to do any of that.

A4 – Jean) All research has limitations, and describing that is part of the role here… But also when Axel and I started doing this work we got criticism for not having a “representative sample”… And we have people from across humanities and social sciences seem to be using the same approaches and techniques but actually we are doing really different things…

Q5) Digital methods in social sciences looks different from anthropology where this is a classical “informant” problem… This is where digital ethnography is there and understood in a way that it isn’t in the social sciences…

Resources from this workshop:

Aug 162016
 

This is a very belated posting of my liveblog notes from the eLearning@Ed/LTW Monthly Meet Up #4 on Learning Design which took place on 25th April 2016. You can find further information on the event, and all of our speakers’ slides, on the eLearning@ed wiki.

Despite the delay in posting these notes, the usual cautionary notes apply, and that all corrections, additions, etc. are very much welcomed. 

Becoming an ELDeR – Fiona Hale, Senior eLearning Advisor, IS

Unfortunately I missed capturing notes for the very beginning of Fiona’s talk but I did catch most of it. As context please be aware that she was talking about a significant and important piece of work on Learning Design, including a scoping report by Fiona, which has been taking place over the last year. My notes start as she addresses the preferred formats for learning design training… 

We found that two-day workshops provided space to think, to collaborate, and had the opportunity to both gain new knowledge and apply it on the same day. And also really useful for academic staff to understand the range of colleagues in the room, knowing who they could and should follow up with.

Scoping report recommended developing reusable and collaborative learning design as a new university services within IS, which positions the learning design framework as a scaffold, support staff as facilitators, etc.

There are many recommendations here but in particular I wanted to talk about the importance of workshops being team based and collaborative in approach – bringing together programme team, course team, admin, LT, peer, student, IAD, IS Support librarian, IS EDE, Facilitator, all in the room. Also part of staff development, reward and recognition – tying into UKSPF (HEA) and the Edinburgh Teaching Award. And ensuring this is am embedded process, with connection to processes, language, etc. with registry, board of studies, etc. And also with multiple facilitators.

I looked for frameworks and focused on three to evaluate. These tend to be theoretical, and don’t always work in practice. After trying those all out we found CAIeRO works best, focusing on designing learning experiences over development of content, structured format of the two day workshop. And it combines pedagogy, technology, learner experience.

We have developed the CAIeRO into a slightly different form, the ELDeR Framework, with the addition of assessment and feedback.

Finally! Theory and Practice – Ruth McQuillan, Co-Programme Director, Master of Public Health (online)

Prior to the new MPH programme I have been working in online learning since 2011. I am part of a bigger team – Christine Matthews is our learning technologist and we have others who have come on board for our new programme. Because we had a new programme launching we were very keen to be part of it. So I’m going to talk about how this worked, how we felt about it, etc.

We launched the online MPG in September 2015, which involved developing lots of new courses but also modifying lots of existing courses. And we have a lot of new staff so we wanted to give a sense of building a new team – as well as learning for ourselves how to do it all properly.

So, the stages of the workshop we went through should give you a sense of it. I’ve been on lots of courses and workshops where you learn about something but you don’t have the practical application. And then you have a course to prepare in practice, maybe without that support. So having both aspects together was really good and helpful.

The course we were designing was for mid career professionals from across the world. We were split into two teams – with each having a blend of the kinds of people Fiona talked about – programme team and colleagues from IS and elsewhere. We both developed programme and course mission statements as a group, then compared and happily those were quite close, we reached consensus and that really felt like we were pulling together as a team. And we also checked the course for consistency with the programme.

Next, we looked at the look and feel aspects. We used cards that were relevant for our course, using workshop cards and post it notes, rejecting non relevant cards, using our choice of the cards and some of our own additions.

So, Fiona talked about beginning with the end in mind, and we tried to do that. We started by thinking about what we wanted our students to be able to do at the end of the course. That is important as this is a professional course where we want to build skills and understanding. So, we wanted to focus on what they should know at the end of the course, and only then look at the knowledge they would need. And that was quite a different liberating approach.

And at this point we looked at the SCQF level descriptors to think about learning outcomes, the “On completion of this course you will be able to…” I’m not sure we’d appreciated the value and importance of our learning outcomes before, but actually in the end this was one of the most useful parts of the process. We looked for Sense (are they clear to the learner); Level (are they appropriate to the level of module); Accessibility (are they accessible).

And then we needed to think about assessment and alignment, looking at how we would assess the course, how this fitted into the bigger picture etc.

The next step was to storyboard the course. And by the end of Day One we had a five week course and a sixth week for assessment, we has learning outcomes and how they’d be addressed, assessment, learning activities, concerns, scaffolding. And we thought we’d done a great job! We came back on day two and when we came back we spend maybe half a day recapping, changing… Even if you can’t do a 2 day workshop at least try to do two half days with a big gap between/overnight as we found that space away very helpful.

And once finalised we built a prototype online. And we had a reality check from a critical friend, which was very helpful. We reviewed and adjusted and then made a really detailed action plan. That plan was really helpful.

Now, at the outside we were told that we could come into this process at any point. We had quite a significantly complete idea already and that helped us get real value from this process.

So, how did it feel and what did we learn? Well it was great to have a plan, to see the different areas coming together. The struggle was difficult but important, and it was excellent for team building. “To learn and not to do is really not to learn. To do and not to learn is really not to know. And actually at the end of the day we were really enthusiastic about the process and it was really good to see that process, to put theory into practice, and to do this all in a truly collaborative experience.

How has it changed us? Well we are putting all our new courses through this process. We want to put all our existing courses through this process. We involved more people in the process, in different roles and stages, including students where we can. And we have modified the structure.

Q&A

Q1) Did you go away to do this?

A1) Yes, we went to Dovecot Gallery on Infirmary Street.

A1 – FH) I had some money to do that but I wasn’t kidding that a new space and nice food is important. We are strict on you being there, or not. We expect full on participation. So for those going forward we are looking at rooms in other places – in Evolution House, or in Moray House, etc. Somewhere away from normal offices etc. It has to be a focused. And the value of that is huge, the time up front is really valuable.

A1 – RM) It is also really important for understanding what colleagues are doing, which helps ensure the coherence of the programme, and it is really beneficial to the programme.

Q2) Dow different do you think your design ended up if you hadn’t done this?

A2 – RM) I think one of my colleagues was saying today that she was gently nudged by colleagues to avoid mistakes or pitfalls, to not overload the course, to ensure coherence, etc. I think it’s completely different to how it would have been. And also there were resources and activities – lectures and materials – that could be shared where gaps were recognised.

A2 – FH) If this had been content driven it would be hard as a facilitator. But thinking about the structure, the needs, the learner experience, that can be done, with content and expertise already being brought into that process. It saves time in the long run.

A2 – RM) I know in the past when I’ve been designing courses you can find that you put activities in a particular place without purpose, to make sure there is an activity there… But this process helped keep things clear, coherent and to ensure any activity is clearly linked to a learning outcome, etc.

Q3) Once you’d created the learning outcomes, did you go back and change any of theme?

A3 – FH) On Day 2 there was something that wasn’t quite right…

A3 – RM) It was something too big for the course, and we needed to work that through. The course we were working on in February and that will run for the first time in the new academic year. But actually the UoE system dictates that learning outcomes should be published many months/more than a year in advance. So with new courses we did ask the board of studies if we could provide the learning outcomes to them later on, once defined. They were fine.

A3 – FH) That is a major change that we are working on. But not all departments run the same process or timetable.

A3 – RM) Luckily our board of studies were very open to this, it was great.

Q4) Was there any focus on student interaction and engagement in these process.

A4 – FH) It was part of those cards early in the process, it is part of the design work. And that stage of the cards, the consensus building, those are huge collaborative and valuable sessions.

Q5) And how did you support/require that?

A5 – FH) In that storyboard you will see various (yellow) post its showing assessment and feedback wove in across the course, ensuring the courses you design really do align with that wider University strategy.

Learning Design: Paying It Forward – Christina Matthews

There is a shift across the uni to richer approaches.

I’m going to talk about getting learning technologist involved and why that matters.

The LT can inform the process in useful and creative ways. They can bring insights into particular tools, affordances, and ways to afford or constrain the behaviours of students. They also have a feel for digital literacy of students, as well as being able to provide some continuity across the course in terms of approaches and tools. And having LT in the design process, academic staff can feel supported and better able to take risks and do new things. And the LT can help that nothing is lost between the design workshop, and the actual online course and implementation.

So, how are we paying this forward? Well we are planning learning design workshops for all our new courses for 2015-16 and 2016-17. We really did feel the benefits of 2 days but we didn’t think it was going to be feasible for all of our teams. We felt that we needed to adapt the workshop to fit into one day, so we will be running these as one day workshops and we have prioritised particular aspects to enable that.

The two day workshop format for CAIeRO follows several stages:

  • Stage 1: Course blueprint (mission, learning outcomes, assessment and feedback)
  • Stage 2: Storyboarding
  • Stage 3: Rapid prototyping in the VLE
  • Stage 4: Critical friend evaluation of VLE prototype
  • Stage 5: adjust and review from feedback
  • Stage 6: Creating an action plan
  • Stage 7: reflecting on the workshop in relation to the UK Professional Standards Framework.
  • For the one day workshop we felt the blue print (1), storyboard (2) and action plan stages (6) were essential. The prototyping can be done afterwards and separately, although it is a shame to do that of course.

So, we are reviewing and formalising our 1 day workshop model, which may be useful elsewhere. And we are using these approaches for all the courses on our programme, including new and existing courses. And we are very much looking forward to the ELDeR (Edinburgh Learning Design Roadmap).

Q&A

Q1) When you say “all” programmes, do you mean online or on-campus programmes?

A1) Initially the online courses but we have a campus programme that we really want to connect up, to make the courses more blended, so I think it will feed into our on campus courses. A lot of our online tutors teach both online and on campus, so that will also lead some feeding in here.

Q2) How many do you take to the workshop?

A2) You can have quite a few. We’ve had programme director, course leader, learning technologist, critical friends, etc.

A2 – FH) There are no observers in the room for workshops – lots are wanting to understand that. There are no observers in the room, you have to facilitate the learning objectives section very carefully. Too many people is not useful. Everyone has to be trusted, they have to be part of the process. You need a support librarian, the learning technologist has to squarely be part of the design, student, reality checker, QA… I’ve done at most 8 people. In terms of students you need to be able to open and raw…. So, is it OK to have students in the room… Some conversations being had may not be right for that co-creation type idea. Maybe alumni are better in some cases. Some schools don’t have their own learning technologist, so we bring one. Some don’t have a VLE, so we bring one they can play with.

A2 – CM) In the pilot there were 8 in some, but it didn’t feel like too many in the room.

Q3) As a learning technologist have the workshops helped your work?

A3 – CM) Yes, hugely. That action plan really maps out every stage very clearly. Things can come in last minute and all at the same time otherwise, so that is great. And when big things are agreed in the workshop, you can then focus on the details.

A3 – FH) We are trying to show how actually getting this all resolved up front actually saves money and time later on, as everything is agreed.

Q4) Thinking way ahead… People will do great things… So if we have the course all mapped out here, and well agreed, what happens when teams change – how do you capture and communicate this. Should you have a mini reprise of this to revisit it? How does it go over the long term?

A4 – FH) That’s really true. Also if technologist isn’t the one delivering it, that can also be helpful.

A4 – CM) One thing that comes out of this is a CAIeRO planner that can be edited and shared, but yes, maybe you revisit it for future staff…

A4 – FH) Something about ownership of activities, to give the person coming in and feel ownership. And see how it works before and afterwards. Pointing them to document, to output of storyboard, to get ownership. That’s key to facilitation too.

Q4) So, you can revisit activities etc. to achieve Learning outcome…

A4 – FH) That identification of learning outcomes are clear in the storyboards and documents.

Q5) How often do you meet and review programmes? Every 2 years, every 5 years?

A5 – FH) You should review every 5 years for PG.

Comment) We have an annual event, see what’s working and what isn’t and that is very very valuable and helpful. But that’s perhaps unusual.

A5 – FH) That’s the issue of last minute or isolated activities. This process is a good structure for looking at programme and course. Clearly programme has assessment across it so even though we are looking at the course here, it has that consistency. With any luck we can get this stuff embedded in board of studies etc.

A5 – RM) For us doing this process also changed us.

A5 – FH) That report is huge but the universities I looked at these processes are mandatory not optional. But mandatory can make things more about box ticking in some ways…

Learning Design: 6 Months on – Meredith Corey, School of Education 

We are developing a pilot UG course in GeoSciences and Education collaboration, Sustainability and Social Responsibility, running 2016/17. We are 2 online learning educators working from August 2015 to April 2016. This is the first online level 8 course for on-campus students. And there are plans to adapt the course for the wider community – including staff, alumni etc.

So in the three months before the CAIeRO session, we had started looking at existing resources, building a course team, investigating VLEs. The programme is on sustainability. We looked into types of resources and activities. And we had started drafting learning outcomes and topic storyboarding, with support from Louise Connelly who was (then) in IAD.

So the workshop was a 2 day event and we began with the blueprinting. We had similar ideas and very different ways to describe them so, what was very useful for us, was finding common language and ways to describe what we were doing. We didn’t drastically change our learning outcomes, but lots of debate about the wording. Trying to ensure the learning outcomes were appropriate for level 8 SCQF levels, trying not to overload them. And this whole process has helped us focus on our priorities, our vocabulary, the justification and clear purpose.

The remainder of the workshop was spent on storyboarding. We thought we were really organised in terms of content, videos, etc. But actually that storyboarding, after that discussion of priorities, was really useful. Our storyboard generated three huge A0 sheets to understand the content, the ways students would achieve the learning outcomes. It is an online course and there are things you don’t think about but need to consider – how do they navigate the course? How do they find what they need? How do they find what they need? And Fiona and colleagues were great for questioning and probing that.

We did some prototyping but didn’t have time for reality checks – but we have that process lined up for our pilot in the summer. We also took that storyboard and transferred that information to a huge Popplet that allowed us to look at how the feedback and feed forward fits into the course; how we could make that make sense across the course – it’s easy to miss that feedback and feed forward is too late when you are looking week by week.

The key CAIeRO benefits for us were around exploring priorities (and how these may differ for different cohorts); it challenged our assumptions; it formalised our process and this is useful for future projects; focused on all learners and their experience; and really helped us understand our purpose here. And coming soon we shall return to the Popplet to think about the wider community.

Q&A

Q1) I know with one course the head of school was concerned that an online programme might challenge the value of the face to face, or the concern of replacing the face to face course, and how that fits together.

A1) The hope with this course is that the strength is that it brings together students from as many different schools as possible, to really deal with timetabling barriers, to mix students between schools. It would be good if both exists to complement in each others.

A1 – FH) Its not intended as a replacement… In this course’s mission statement for this, it plays up interdisciplinary issues, and that includes use of OERs, reuse, etc. And talking about doing this stuff.

A1) And also the idea is to give students a great online learning experience that means they might go on and do online masters programmes. And hopefully include staff and alumni that also help that mix, that interdisciplinary thing.

Q2) Do you include student expectations in this course? What about student backgrounds?

A2) We have tried to ensure that tutorial groups play to student strengths and interests, making combinations across schools. We are trialling the course with evaluation through very specific questions.

A2 – FH) And there will assessment that asks students to place that learning into their own context, location, etc.

Course Design and your VLE – Ross Ward

I want to talk quickly about how you translate a storyboard into your VLE, in very general terms. Taking your big ideas and making them a course. One thing I like to talk about a lot is user experience – you only need one back experience in Learn or Moodle to really put you off. So you really need to think about ensuring the experience of the VLE and the experience of the course all need to fit together. How you manage or use your VLE is up to do. Once you know what you want to do, you can then pick your technology, fitting your needs. And you’ll need a mix of content, tools, activities, grades, feedback, guidance. If you are an ODL student how you structure that will be very very important, if blended it’s still important. You don’t need your VLE to be a filing cabinet, it can be much more. But it also doesn’t have to be a grand immersive environment, you need it to fit your needs appropriately. And the VLE experience should reflect the overall course experience.

When you have that idea of purpose, you hit the technology and you have kind of a blank canvas. It’s a bit Mona Lisa by numbers… The tools are there but there are easier ways to make your course better. The learning design idea of the storyboard and the user experience of the course context can be very helpful. That is really useful for ensuring students understand what they are doing, creating a digital version of your course, and understanding where you are right now as a student. Arguably a good VLE user experience is one where you could find what you are looking for without any prior knowledge of the course… We get many support calls from those simply looking for information. You may have some pre-requisite stuff, but you need to really make everything easy.

Navigation is key! You need menus. You need context links. You need suggested link. You want to minimise the number of clicks and complexity.

Remember that you should present your material for online, not like a textbook. Use sensible headings. Think about structure. And test it out – ask a colleague, as a student, ask LTW.

And think about consistency – that will help ensure that you can build familiarity with approach, consistently presenting your programme/school brand and look and feel, perhaps also template.

We know this is all important, and we want to provide more opportunity to support that, with examples and resources to draw upon!

Closing Fiona Hale

Huge thanks to Ross for organising today. Huge thanks to our speakers today!

If you are interested in this work do find me at the end, do come talk to me. We have workshops coming up – ELDeR workshop evaluations – and there we’ll talk about design challenges and concerns. That might be learning analytics – and thinking about pace and workshops. For all of these we are addressing particular design challenges – the workshop can concertina to that. There is no rule about how long things take – and whether one day or two days is the number, but sometimes one won’t be enough.

I would say for students it’s worth thinking about sharing the storyboards, the assessment and feedback and reasons for it, so that they understand it.

We go into service in June and July, with facilitators across the schools. Do email me with questions, to offer yourselves as facilitators.

Thank you to all of our University colleagues who took part in this really interesting session!

You can read much more about Edinburgh Learning Design roadmap – and read the full scoping report – on the University of Edinburgh Learning Design Service website

Aug 102016
 
Nicola Osborne presenting the Digital Footprint poster at ECSM2016

It has been a while since I’ve posted something other than a liveblog here but it has been a busy summer so it seems like a good time to share some updates…

A Growing Digital Footprint

Last September I was awarded some University of Edinburgh IS Innovation Fund support to develop a pilot training and consultancy service to build upon the approaches and findings of our recent PTAS-funded Managing Your Digital Footprint research project.

During that University of Edinburgh-wide research and parallel awareness-raising campaign we (my colleague – and Digital Footprint research project PI – Louise Connelly of IAD/Vet School, myself, and colleagues across the University) sought to inform students of the importance of digital tracks and traces in general, particularly around employment and “eProfessionalism”. This included best practice advice around use of social media, personal safety and information security choices, and thoughtful approaches to digital identity and online presences. Throughout the project we were approached by organisations outside of the University for similar training, advice, and consulting around social media best practices and that is how the idea for this pilot service began to take shape.

Over the last few months I have been busy developing the pilot, which has involved getting out and about delivering social media training sessions for clients including NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (with Jennifer Jones); for the British HIV Association (BHIVA) with the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) (also with Jennifer Jones); developing a “Making an Impact with your Blog” Know How session for the lovely members of Culture Republic; leading a public engagement session for the very international gang at EuroStemCell, and an “Engaging with the Real World” session for the inspiring postgrads attending the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science Summer School 2016. I have also been commissioned by colleagues in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences to create an Impact of Social Media session and accompanying resources (the latter of which will continue to develop over time). You can find resources and information from most of these sessions over on my presentations and publications page.

These have been really interesting opportunities and I’m excited to see how this work progresses. If you do have an interest in social media best practice, including advice for your organisation’s social media practice, developing your online profile, or managing your digital footprint, please do get in touch and/or pass on my contact details. I am in the process of writing up the pilot and looking at ways myself and my colleagues can share our expertise and advice in this area.

Adventures in MOOCs and Yik Yak

So, what next?

Well, the Managing Your Digital Footprint team have joined up with colleagues in the Language Technology Group in the School of Informatics for a new project looking at Yik Yak. You can read more about the project, “A Live Pulse: Yik Yak for Understanding Teaching, Learning and Assessment at Edinburgh“, on the Digital Education Research Centre website. We are really excited to explore Yik Yak’s use in more depth as it is one of a range of “anonymous” social networking spaces that appear to be emerging as important alternative spaces for discussion as mainstream social media spaces lose favour/become too well inhabited by extended families, older contacts, etc.

Our core Managing Your Digital Footprint research also continues… I presented a paper, co-written with Louise Connelly, at the European Conference on Social Media 2016 this July on “Students’ Digital Footprints: curation of online presences, privacy and peer support”. This summer we also hosted visiting scholar Rachel Buchanan of University of Newcastle, Australia who has been leading some very interesting work into digital footprints across Australia. We are very much looking forward to collaborating with Rachel in the future – watch this space!

And, more exciting news: my lovely colleague Louise Connelly (University of Edinburgh Vet School) and I have been developing a Digital Footprint MOOC which will go live later this year. The MOOC will complement our ongoing University of Edinburgh service (run by IAD) and external consultancy word (led by us in EDINA) and You can find out much more about that in this poster, presented at the European Conference on Social Media 2016, earlier this month…

Preview of Digital Footprint MOOC Poster

Alternatively, you could join me for my Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas 2016 show….

Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas 2016 - If I Googled You, What Would I Find? Poster

The Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas runs throughout the Edinburgh Fringe Festival but every performance is different! Each day academics and researchers share their work by proposing a dangerous idea, a provocative question, or a challenge, and the audience are invited to respond, discuss, ask difficult questions, etc. It’s a really fun show to see and to be part of – I’ve now been fortunate enough to be involved each year since it started in 2013. You can see a short video on #codi2016 here:

In this year’s show I’ll be talking about some of those core ideas around managing your digital footprint, understanding your online tracks and traces, and reflecting on the type of identity you want to portray online. You can find out more about my show, If I Googled You What Would I Find, in my recent “25 Days of CODI” blog post:

25 Days of CoDI: Day 18

You’ll also find a short promo film for the series of data, identity, and surveillance shows at #codi2016 here:

So… A very busy summer of social media, digital footprints, and exciting new opportunities. Do look out for more news on the MOOC, the YikYak work and the Digital Footprint Training and Consultancy service over the coming weeks and months. And, if you are in Edinburgh this summer, I hope to see you on the 21st at the Stand in the Square!

 

Aug 092016
 
Notes from the Unleashing Data session at Repository Fringe 2016

After 6 years of being Repository Fringe‘s resident live blogger this was the first year that I haven’t been part of the organisation or amplification in any official capacity. From what I’ve seen though my colleagues from EDINA, University of Edinburgh Library, and the DCC did an awesome job of putting together a really interesting programme for the 2016 edition of RepoFringe, attracting a big and diverse audience.

Whilst I was mainly participating through reading the tweets to #rfringe16, I couldn’t quite keep away!

Pauline Ward at Repository Fringe 2016

Pauline Ward at Repository Fringe 2016

This year’s chair, Pauline Ward, asked me to be part of the Unleashing Data session on Tuesday 2nd August. The session was a “World Cafe” format and I was asked to help facilitate discussion around the question: “How can the respository community use crowd-sourcing (e.g. Citizen Science) to engage the public in reuse of data?” – so I was along wearing my COBWEB: Citizen Observatory Web and social media hats. My session also benefited from what I gather was an excellent talk on “The Social Life of Data” earlier in the event from the Erinma Ochu (who, although I missed her this time, is always involved in really interesting projects including several fab citizen science initiatives).

I won’t attempt to reflect on all of the discussions during the Unleashing Data Session here – I know that Pauline will be reporting back from the session to Repository Fringe 2016 participants shortly – but I thought I would share a few pictures of our notes, capturing some of the ideas and discussions that came out of the various groups visiting this question throughout the session. Click the image to view a larger version. Questions or clarifications are welcome – just leave me a comment here on the blog.

Notes from the Unleashing Data session at Repository Fringe 2016

Notes from the Unleashing Data session at Repository Fringe 2016

Notes from the Unleashing Data session at Repository Fringe 2016

If you are interested in finding out more about crowd sourcing and citizen science in general then there are a couple of resources that made be helpful (plus many more resources and articles if you leave a comment/drop me an email with your particular interests).

This June I chaired the “Crowd-Sourcing Data and Citizen Science” breakout session for the Flooding and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Network (FCERM.NET) Annual Assembly in Newcastle. The short slide set created for that workshop gives a brief overview of some of the challenges and considerations in setting up and running citizen science projects:

Last October the CSCS Network interviewed me on developing and running Citizen Science projects for their website – the interview brings together some general thoughts as well as specific comment on the COBWEB experience:

After the Unleashing Data session I was also able to stick around for Stuart Lewis’ closing keynote. Stuart has been working at Edinburgh University since 2012 but is moving on soon to the National Library of Scotland so this was a lovely chance to get some of his reflections and predictions as he prepares to make that move. And to include quite a lot of fun references to The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 ¾. (Before his talk Stuart had also snuck some boxes of sweets under some of the tables around the room – a popularity tactic I’m noting for future talks!)

So, my liveblog notes from Stuart’s talk (slightly tidied up but corrections are, of course, welcomed) follow. Because old Repofringe live blogging habits are hard to kick!

The Secret Diary of a Repository aged 13 ¾ – Stuart Lewis

I’m going to talk about our bread and butter – the institutional repository… Now my inspiration is Adrian Mole… Why? Well we have a bunch of teenage repositories… EPrints is 15 1/2; Fedora is 13 ½; DSpace is 13 ¾.

Now Adrian Mole is a teenager – you can read about him on Wikipedia [note to fellow Wikipedia contributors: this, and most of the other Adrian Mole-related pages could use some major work!]. You see him quoted in two conferences to my amazement! And there are also some Scotland and Edinburgh entries in there too… Brought a haggis… Goes to Glasgow at 11am… and says he encounters 27 drunks in one hour…

Stuart Lewis at Repository Fringe 2016

Stuart Lewis illustrates the teenage birth dates of three of the major repository softwares as captured in (perhaps less well-aged) pop hits of the day.

So, I have four points to make about how repositories are like/unlike teenagers…

The thing about teenagers… People complain about them… They can be expensive, they can be awkward, they aren’t always self aware… Eventually though they usually become useful members of society. So, is that true of repositories? Well ERA, one of our repositories has gotten bigger and bigger – over 18k items… and over 10k paper thesis currently being digitized…

Now teenagers also start to look around… Pandora!

I’m going to call Pandora the CRIS… And we’ve all kind of overlooked their commercial background because we are in love with them…!

Stuart Lewis at Repository Fringe 2016

Stuart Lewis captures the eternal optimism – both around Mole’s love of Pandora, and our love of the (commercial) CRIS.

Now, we have PURE at Edinburgh which also powers Edinburgh Research Explorer. When you looked at repositories a few years ago, it was a bit like Freshers Week… The three questions were: where are you from; what repository platform do you use; how many items do you have? But that’s moved on. We now have around 80% of our outputs in the repository within the REF compliance (3 months of Acceptance)… And that’s a huge change – volumes of materials are open access very promptly.

So,

1. We need to celebrate our success

But are our successes as positive as they could be?

Repositories continue to develop. We’ve heard good things about new developments. But how do repositories demonstrate value – and how do we compare to other areas of librarianship.

Other library domains use different numbers. We can use these to give comparative figures. How do we compare to publishers for cost? Whats our CPU (Cost Per Use)? And what is a good CPU? £10, £5, £0.46… But how easy is it to calculate – are repositories expensive? That’s a “to do” – to take the cost to run/IRUS cost. I would expect it to be lower than publishers, but I’d like to do that calculation.

The other side of this is to become more self-aware… Can we gather new numbers? We only tend to look at deposit and use from our own repositories… What about our own local consumption of OA (the reverse)?

Working within new e-resource infrastructure – http://doai.io/ – lets us see where open versions are available. And we can integrate with OpenURL resolvers to see how much of our usage can be fulfilled.

2. Our repositories must continue to grow up

Do we have double standards?

Hopefully you are all aware of the UK Text and Data Mining Copyright Exception that came out from 1st June 2014. We have massive massive access to electronic resources as universities, and can text and data mine those.

Some do a good job here – Gale Cengage Historic British Newspapers: additional payment to buy all the data (images + XML text) on hard drives for local use. Working with local informatics LTG staff to (geo)parse the data.

Some are not so good – basic APIs allow only simple searchers… But not complex queries (e.g. could use a search term, but not e.g. sentiment).

And many publishers do nothing at all….

So we are working with publishers to encourage and highlight the potential.

But what about our content? Our repositories are open, with extracted full-text, data can be harvested… Sufficient but is it ideal? Why not do bulk download from one click… You can – for example – download all of Wikipedia (if you want to).  We should be able to do that with our repositories.

3. We need to get our house in order for Text and Data Mining

When will we be finished though? Depends on what we do with open access? What should we be doing with OA? Where do we want to get to? Right now we have mandates so it’s easy – green and gold. With gold there is PURE or Hybrid… Mixed views on Hybrid. Can also publish locally for free. Then for gree there is local or disciplinary repositories… For Gold – Pure, Hybrid, Local we pay APCs (some local option is free)… In Hybrid we can do offsetting, discounted subscriptions, voucher schemes too. And for green we have UK Scholarly Communications License (Harvard)…

But which of these forms of OA are best?! Is choice always a great thing?

We still have outstanding OA issues. Is a mixed-modal approach OK, or should we choose a single route? Which one? What role will repositories play? What is the ultimate aim of Open Access? Is it “just” access?

How and where do we have these conversations? We need academics, repository managers, librarians, publishers to all come together to do this.

4. Do we now what a grown-up repository look like? What part does it play?

Please remember to celebrate your repositories – we are in a fantastic place, making a real difference. But they need to continue to grow up. There is work to do with text and data mining… And we have more to do… To be a grown up, to be in the right sort of environment, etc.

Q&A

Q1) I can remember giving my first talk on repositories in 2010… When it comes to OA I think we need to think about what is cost effective, what is sustainable, why are we doing it and what’s the cost?

A1) I think in some ways that’s about what repositories are versus publishers… Right now we are essentially replicating them… And maybe that isn’t the way to approach this.

And with that Repository Fringe 2016 drew to a close. I am sure others will have already blogged their experiences and comments on the event. Do have a look at the Repository Fringe website and at #rfringe16 for more comments, shared blog posts, and resources from the sessions. 

Jul 122016
 

This week I am at the European Conference on Social Media 2016. I’m presenting later today, and have a poster tomorrow, but will also be liveblogging here. As usual the blog is live so there may be small errors or typos – all corrections and additions are very much welcomed!

We are starting with an introduction to EM Normandie, which has 4 campuses and 3000 students.

Introduction from Sue Nugus, ACPI, welcoming us to the event and the various important indexing etc.

Christine Bernadas, ECSM is co-chair and from EM Normandie, is introducing our opening keynote Abi Ouni, Co-founder and CEO of Spectrum Group. [http://www.spectrumgroupe.fr/]

Keynote Address:Ali Ouni,Spectrum Group, France – Researchers in Social Media, Businesses Need You!!!

My talk today is about why businesses need social media. And that, although we have been using social media for the last 10-15 years, we still need some approaches and frameworks to make better use of it.

My own personal background is in Knowledge Manageent, with a PhD from the Ecole Centrale Paris and Renault. Then moved to KAP IT as Head of Enterprise 2.0, helping companies to integrate new technologies, social media, in their businesses. I belive this is a hard question – the issue of how we integrate social media in our businesses. And then in 2011 I co-founded Spectrum Groupe, a consulting firm of 25 people who work closely with researchers to define new approaches to content management, knowledge management, to define new approaches. And our approach is to design end to end approaches, from diagnostic, to strategy development through to technologies, knowledge management, etc.

When Christine asked me to speak today I said “OK, but I am no longer a researcher”, I did that 12-15 years ago, I am now a practitioner. So I have insights but we need you to define the good research questions based on them.

I looked back at what has been said about social media in the last 10-15 years: “Organisationz cannot afford not to be listening to what is being said about them or interacting with their customers in the space where they are spending their time and, increasingly, their money too” (Malcolm Alder, KPMG, 2011).

And I agree with that. This space has high potential for enterprises… So, lets start with two slides with some statistics. So, these statistics are from We Are Social’s work on digital trends. They find internet activity increasing by 10% every year; 10% growth in social media users; and growth of 4% in social media users accessing via mobile; which takes us to 17% of the total population actively engaging in social media on mobile.

So, in terms of organisations going to social media, it is clearly important. Ut it is also a confusion question. We can see that in 2010 70%+ of big international organisations were actively using social media, but of these 80% have not achieved the intended businesses. So, businesses are expending time and energy on social media but they are not accruing all of the benefits that they have targeted.

So, for me social media are new ways of working, new business models, new opportunities, but also bringing new risks and challenges. And there are questions to be answered that we face every day in an organisational context.

The Social Media Landscape today is very very diverse, there is a high density… There are many platforms, sites, medias… Organisationsa re confused by this landscape and they require help to navigate this space. The choice they have is usually to go to the biggest social media in terms of total users – but is that a good strategy? They need to choose sites with good business value. There are some challenges when considering external sites versus internal sites – should they replicate functionality themselves? And where are the values and risks of integrating social media platforms with enterprise IT systems? For instance listening to social media and making connecting back to CRMs (Customer Relationship Management System(s)).

What about using social media for communications? You can experiement, and learn from those… But that makes more sense when these tools are new, and they are not anymore. Is experimenting always the best approach? How ca we move faster? Clients often ask if they can copy/adopt the digital strategies of their competitors but I think generally not, that these approaches have to be specific to the context and audience.

Social media has a fast evolution speed, so agility is required… Organisations can struggle with that in terms of their own speed of organizational change. A lot of agility is requires to address new technologies, new use cases, new skills. And decisions over skills and whether to own the digital transformation process, or to delegate to others.

The issue of Return on Investment (ROI) is long standing but still important. Existing models do not work well with social media – we are in a new space, new technology, a new domain. There is a need to justify the value of these kinds of projects, but I think a good approach is to work on new social constructs, such as engagement, sentiment, retention, “ROR” – Return on Relationship, collective intelligence… But how does one measure these?

And organisations face challenges of governance… Understanding rules and policies of engagement on social media, on understanding issues of privacy and data protection. And thought around who can engage on social media.

So, I have presented some key challenges… Just a few. There are many more on culture, change, etc. that need to be addressed. I think that it is important that businesses and researchers work together on social media.

Q&A

Q1) Could you tell me something on Return on Relationships… ?

A1) This is a new approach. Sometimes the measure of Return on Investment is to measure every conversation and all time spent… ROR is about long term relationships with customers, partners, suppliers… and it is about having benefits after a longer period of time, rather than immediate Return on Investment. So some examples include turning some customers into advocates –so they become your best salespeople. That isn’t easy, but organisations are really very aware about these social constructs.

Q1) And how would you calculate that?

Comment) That is surely ROI still?

Comment) So, if I have a LinkedIn contact, and they buy my software, then that is a return on investment, and value from social capital… There is a time and quality gain too – you identify key contact and context here. Qualitative but eventually quantitative.

A1) There absolutely is a relationship between ROR and ROI.

Q2) It was interesing to hear your take on research. What you said reminded me of 20 years ago when we talked about “Quality Management” and there was a tension between whether that should be its own role, or part of everyone’s role.

A2) Yes, so we have clients that do want “community management” and ask us to do that for them – but they are the experts in their own work and relationships. The quality of content is key, and they have that expertise. Our expertise is around how to use social media as part of that. The good approach is to think about new ways to work with customers, and to define with our consulting customers what they need to do that. We have a coaching role, helping them to design a good approach.

Q3) Thank you for your presentation. I would like to ask you if you could think of a competency framework for good community management, and how you would implement that.

A3) I couldn’t define that framework, but I think rom what I see there are some key skills in community management are about expertise – people from the business who understands their own structure, needs, knowledge. I think that communication skills need to be good – writing skills, identifying good questions, an ability to spot and transform key questions. From our experience, knowing the enterprise, communication skills and coordinating skills are all key.

Q3) What about emotional engagement?

A3) I think emotional engagement is both good and dangerous. It is good to be invested in the role, but if they are too invested there is a clear line to draw beteen professional engagement and personal engagement. And that can make it dangerous.

Stream B – Mini Track on Empowering Women Through Social Media (Chair – Danilo Piaggesi)

Danilo: I proposed this mini track as I saw that the issues facing women in social media were different, but that women were self-organising and addressing these issues, so that is the genesis of this strand. My own background is in ICT in development and developing countries – which is why I am interested in this area of social media… The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which include ICT, have been defined as needing to apply to developing and developed countries. And there is a specific goal dedicated to Women and ICT, which has a deadline of 2030 to achieve this SDG.

Sexting & Intimate Relations Online: Identifying How People Construct Emotional Relationships Online & Intimacies Offline
Spurling – Esme, Coventry University, West Midlands, UK

Sexting and intimate relations online have accelerated with the use of phones and smart phones, particularly platforms such as SnapChat and Whats App… Sexting for the purpose of this paper is about the sharing of intimate texts through digital information. But this raises complexity for real life relationships, and how the online experience relates to that, and how heterosexual relationships are mediated. My work is based on interviewees.

I will be talking about “sex selfies”, which are distributed to a global audience online. These selfies (Ellie is showing examples on the “sexselfie” hashtags) purport to be intimate, despite their global sharing and nature. The hashtags here (established around 2014) show heterosexual couples… There is (by comparison to non-heterosexual selfies) a real focus on womens bodies, which is somewhat at odds with the expectations of girls and women showing an interest in sex. Are we losing our memory of what is intimate? Are sexselfies a way to share and retain that memory?

I spoke to women in the UK and US for my research. All men approached refused to be interviewed. We have adapted to the way we communicate face to face through the way we connect online. My participants reflect social media trends already reported in the media, of the blurring of different spheres of public and private. And that is feeding into our intimate lives too. Prensky (2001) refers to this generation as “Digital Natives” (I insert my usual disclaimer that this is the speaker not me!), and it seems that this group are unable to engage in that intimacy without sharing that experience. And my work focuses on shairng online, and how intimacy is formed offline. I took an ethnographic approach, and my participants are very much of a similar age to me, which helped me to connect as I spoke to them about their intimate relationships.

There becomes a dependency on mobile technologies, of demand and expectation… And that is leading to a “leisure for pleasure” mentality (Cruise?)… You need that reward and return for sharing, and that applies to sexting. Amy Hassenhof notes that sexting can be considered a broadcast media. And mainstream media has also been scrutinising sexting and technology, and giving coverage to issues such as “Revenge Porn” – which was made a criminal offence in 2014. This made texting more taboo and changed public perceptions – with judgement online of images of bodies shared on Twitter. When men participate they sidestep a label, being treated in the highly gendered “boys will be boys” casualness. By contrast women showing their own agency may be subject to “slut shaming” (2014 onwards), but sexting continues. And I was curious to find out why this continues, and how the women in my studies relate to comments that may be made about them. Although there is a feeling of safety (and facelessness) about posting online, versus real world practices.

An expert interview with Amy Hassenhof raised the issue of expectations of privacy – that most of those sexting expect their image to be private to the recipient. Intimate information shared through technology becomes tangled with surveillance culture that is bound up with mobile technologies. Smartphones have cameras, microphone… This contributes to a way of imagining the self that is formed only by how we present ourselves online.

The ability to sext online continues despite Butler noting the freedom of expression online, but also the way in which others comment and make a real impact on the lives of those sharing.

In conclusion it is not clear the extent to which digital natives are sharing deliberately – perceptions seemed to change as a result of the experience encountered. One of my participants felt less in control after reflective interviews about her practice, than she had before. We demand communication instantly… But this form of sharing enables emotional reliving of the experience.

Q&A

Q1) Really interesting research. Do you have any insights in why no men wanted to take part?

A1) The first thing is that I didn’t want to interview anyone that I knew. When I did the research I was a student, I managed to find fellow student participants but the male participants cancelled… But I have learned a lot about research since I undertook my evidence gathering. Women were happy to talk about – perhaps because they felt judged online. There is a lot I’d do differently in terms of the methodology now.

Q2) What is the psychological rationale for sharing details like the sex selfies… Or even what they are eating. Why is that relevant for these people?

A2) I think that the reason for posting such explicit sexual images was to reinforce their heterosexual relationships and that they are part of the norm, as part of their identity online. They want others to know what they are doing… As their identity online. But we don’t know if they have that identity offline. When I interviewed Amy Hassenhof she suggested it’s a “faceless identity” – that we adopt a mask online, and feel able to say something really explicit…

A Social Network Game for Encouraging Girls to Engage in ICT and Entrepreneurship: Findings of the Project MIT-MUT
–  Natalie Denk, Alexander Pfeiffer and Thomas Wernbacher, Donau Universität Krems, Ulli Rohsner, MAKAM Research Gmbh, Wien, Austria and Bernhard Ertl,Universität der Bundeswehr, Munich, Germany

This work is based on a mixture of literature review, qualitative analysis of interviews with students and teachers, and the development of the MIT-MUT game, with input and reflection from students and teachers. We are testing the game, and will be sharing it with schools in Austria later this year.

Our intent was to broaden career perspectives of girls at the age of 12-14 – this is younger than is usually targeted but it is the age at which they have to start making decisions and steps in their academic life that will impact on their career. Their decisions are impacted by family, school, peer groups. But the issue is that a lot of girls don’t even see a career in ICT as an option. We want them to show that that is a possibility, to show them the skills they already have, and that this offers a wide range of opportunities, possible career pathways. We also want to provide a route to mentors who are role models, as this is still a male dominated field especially when it comes to entrepreneurship.

Children and young people today grow up as “digital natives” (Prensky 2001) (again, my usual critical caveat), they have a strong affinity towards digital media, they frequently use internet, they use social media networks – primarily WhatsApp, but also Facebook and Instagram. Girls also play games – it’s not just boys that enjoy online gaming – and they do that on their phones. So we wanted to bring this all together.

The MIT-MUT game takes the form of a 7 week long live challenge. We piloted this in Oct/Nov 2015 with 6 schools and 65 actie players in 17 teams. The main tasks in the game are essentially role playing ICT entrepreneurship… Founding small start up companies, creating a company logo, and find an idea for an app for the target group of youth. They needed to then turn their game into a paper prototype – drawing screens and ideas on paper to demonstrate basic functionality and ideas. The girls had to make a video of this paper prototype, and also present their company on video. We deliberately put few technological barriers in place, but the focus was on technology, and the creative aspects of ICT. We wanted the girls to use their skills, to try different roles, to have opportunity to experiment and be creative.

To bring the schools and the project team we needed a central connecting point… We set up a SeN (Social Enterprise ?? Network), and we did that with Gemma – a Microsoft social networking tool for use within companies, that are closed to outside organisations. This was very important for us, given the young age and need for safety in our target user group. They had many of the risks and opportunities of any social network but in this safe bounded space. And, to make this more interesting for the girls, we created a fictional mentor character, “Rachel Lovelace” (named for Ada Lovelace), who is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, coming to Austria to invest. And the students see a video introduction – we had an actress record about 15 video messages. So everything from the team was through the character of Rachel, whether video or in her network.

A social network like Gemma is perfect for gamification aspects – we did have winners and prizes – but we also had achievements throughout the challenge for finishing a face, making a key contribution, etc. And if course there is a “like” button, the ability to share or praise someone in the space, etc. We also created some mini games, based on favourite genres of the girls – the main goal of these were as starting points for discussing competencies in ICT and Entrepreneurship contexts. With the idea that if you play this game you have these competencies, and why not considering doing more with that.

So, within Gemma, the interface looks a lot like Facebook… And I’ll show you one of these paper prototypes in action (it’s very nicely done!), see all of the winning videos: http://www.mitmut.at/?page_id=940.

To evaluate this work we had a quantitative approach – part of the game presented by Rachel – as well as a quantitative approach based on feedback from teachers and some parents. We had 65 girls, 17 teams, 78% completed the challenge at least to phase 4 (the video presentation – all the main tasks completed). 26% participated in the voting phase (phase 5). Of our participants 30 girls would recommend the game to others, 10 were uncertain, and 4 would not recommend the game. They did enjoy the creativity, design, the paper prototyping. They didn’t like the information/the way the game was structured. The communication within the game was rated in quite a mixed way – some didn’t like it, some liked it. The girls interested in ICT rated the structure and communication more highly than others. The girls stayed motivated but didn’t like the long time line of the game. And we saw a significant increase in knowledgeability of ICT professions, they reported increase in feeling talented, and they had a higher estimation of their own presentation skills.

In the qualitative approach students commented on the teamwork, the independence, the organisational skills, the presentation capabilities. They liked having a steady contact person (the Rachel Lovelace character), the chance of winning, and the feeling of being part of a specialist project.

So now we have a beta version, we have added a scoring system for contributions with points and stars. We had a voting process but didn’t punish girls for not delivering on time, wanted to be very open… But girls thought that we should have done this and given more objective, more strict feedback. And they wanted more honest and less enthusiastic feedback from “Rachel”. They felt she was too enthusiastic. We also restructured the information a bit…

For future development we’d like to make a parallel programme for boys. The girls appreciated the single sex nature of the network. And I would personally really like to develop a custom made social media network for better gamifiation integration, etc. And I’d like

Q&A

Q1) I was interested that you didn’t bring in direct technical skills – coding, e.g. on Raspberry PIs etc. Why was that?

A1) Intentionally skipped programming part… They have lessons and work on programming… But a lack of that idea of creative ways to use ICT, the logical and strategic skills you would need… But they already do informatics as part of their teaching.

Q2) You set this up because girls and women are less attracted to ICT careers… But what is the reason?

A2) I think they can’t imagine to have a career in ICT… I think that is mainly about gender stereotypes. They don’t really know women in ICT… And they can’t imagine what that is as a career, what it means, what that career looks like… And to act out their interests…

And with that I’ve switched to the Education track for the final part of this session… 

Social Media and Theatre Pedagogy for the 21C: Arts-Based Inquiry in Drama Education – Amy Roberts and Wendy Barber, University of Ontario, Canada

Amy is starting her presentation with a video on social media and performance pedagogy, the blurring of boundaries and direct connection that it affords. The video notes that “We have become a Dramaturgical Community” and that we decide how we present ourselves.

Theatre does not exist without the audience, and theatre pedagogy exists at the intersection between performance and audience. Cue another video – this time more of a co-presentation video – on the experience of the audience being watched… Blau in The Audience (1990) talks about the audience “not so much as a mere congregation of people as a body of thought and desire”.  Being an audience member is now a standard part of everyday life – through YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Vine… We see ourselves every day. The song “Digital Witness” by Saint Vincent sums this up pretty well.

YouTube Preview Image

Richard Allen in 2013 asked whether audience actually wants conclusive endings in their theatre, instead showing preference for more videogame open ended type experiences. When considering what modern audiences want… Liveness is prioritised in all areas of life and that that does speak to immediacy of theatre. Originally “live” was about co-presence but digital spaces are changing that. The feeling of liveness comes from our engagement with technology – if we engage with machines, like we do with humans, and there is a response, then that feels live and immediate. Real time experiences gives a feeling of liveness… One way to integrate that with theatre is through direct digital engagement across the audience, and with performance. Both Baker and Auslander agree that liveness is about immediate human contact.

The audience is demanding for live work that engages them in its creation and consumption through the social media spaces they use all the time. And that means educators have to be part of connecting the need for art and tech… So I want to share some of my experiences in attempting “drama tech” research. I’m calling this: “Publicly funded social board presents… Much ado about nothing”. I had been teaching dramatic arts for many years, looking at new technologies and the potential for new tools to enable students to produce “web theatre” around the “theatre of the oppressed” for their peers, with collaboration with audience as creator and viewer. I was curious to see how students would use the 6 second restriction of Vine, and that using familiar tools students could create tools familiar to the students.

The project had ethics approval… All was set but a board member blocked the project as Twitter and Vine “are not approved learning tools”… I was told I’d have to use Moodle… Now I’ve used Moodle before… And it’s great but NOT for theatre (see Nicholls and Phillip 2012). Eisner (2009) talks about “Education can learn from the arts that form and content cannot be separated.How something is said or done shapes the content of experience.”. The reason for this blocking was that there was potential that students might encounter risks and issues that they shouldn’t access… But surely that is true of television, of life, everything. We have to teach students to manage risks… Instead we have a culture of blocking of content, e.g. anything with “games” in the name – even if educational tools. How can you teach media literacy if you don’t have the support to do that, to open up. And this seems to be the case across publicly funded Ontario schools. I am still hoping to do this research in the future though…

Q&A

Q1) How do you plan to overcome those concerns?

A1) I’m trying to work with those in power… We had loads of safeguards in place… I was going to upload the content myself… It was really silly. The social media policy is just so strict.

Q1) They’ll have reasons, you have to engage with those to make that case…

Q2) Can I just ask what age this work was to take place with?

A2) I work with Grade 9-12… But this work specifically was going to focus on 17 and 18 year olds.

Q3) I think that many arts teachers are quite scared by technology – and you made that case well. You focus on technology as a key tool at the end there… And that has to be part of that argument.

A3) It’s both… You don’t teach hammer, you teach how you use the hammer… My presentation is part of a much bigger paper which does address both the traditional and that affordances of technology.

Having had a lovely chat with Amy over lunch, I have now joined Stream B – Monitoring and Privacy on Social media – Chair – Andree Roy

Monitoring Public Opinion by Measuring the Sentiment of Re-tweets on Twitter – LashariIntzar Ali and Uffe KockWiil,University of Southern Denmark, Denmark

I have just completed my PhD at the University of Southern Denmark, and I’ll be talking about some work I’ve been doing on measuring public opinion using social media. I have used Twitter to collect data – this is partly as Twitter is most readibly accessible and it is structured in a way that suits this type of analysis – it operates in real time, people use hashtags, and there are frequent actors and influencers in this space. And there are lots of tools available for analysis such as Tweetreach, Google Analytics, Cytoscope. My project, CBTA, is combining monitoring and analysis of Tweets…

I have been looking for dictation on geographical location based tweets, using a trend based data analyser, with data collection of a specific date and using network detection on negative comments. I also limited my analysis to tweets which have been retweeted – to show they have some impact. In terms of related studies supporting this approach: Steiglitx (2012) found that retweets is a simple powerful mechanism for information diffusion; Shen (2015) found re-tweeting behaviour is an influencing behaviour from the post of influential user. The sentiment analysis – a really useful quick assessment of content – looks at “positive”, “negative” and “neutral” content. I then used topic base monitoring an overview of the wider public. The intent was to move towards real-time monitoring and analysis capabilities.

So, the CBTA Tool display shows you trending topics, which you can pick from, and then you can view tweets and filter by positive, negative, or neutral posts. The tool is working and the code will be shared shortly. In this system there is a keyword search of tweets which collects tweets, these are then filtered. Once filtered (for spam etc), tweets are classified using NLTK which categorises into “Endorse RT”, “Oppose RT” and “Report RT”, the weighted retweets are then put through a process to compute net influence.

So for my work has looked at data from Pakistan around terms: Zarb-e-Azb; #OpZarbeAzb; #Zerb-e-asb etc. And I gathered tweets and retweets, and deduplicated those tweets with more than one hashtag. Once collected the algorithm for measuring re-tweets influence used follower counts, onward retweets etc. And looking at the influence here, most of the influential tweets were those with a positive/endorsing tone.

But we now have case studies for Twitter, but also for other social media sites. We will be making case studies available online. And looking at other factors, for instance we are interested in the location of tweets as a marker for accuracy/authenticity and to understand how other areas are influencing/influenced by global events.

Q&A

Q1) I have a question about the small amount of negative sentiment… What about sarcasm?

A1) When you look at data you will see I found many things… There was some sarcasm there… I have used NLTK but I added my own analysis to help deal with that.

Q2) So it registers all tweets right across Twitter? So can you store that data and re-parse it again if you change the sentiment analysis?

A2) Yes, I can reprocess it. In Twitter there is limited availability of Tweets for 7 days only so my work captures a bigger pool of tweets that can then be analysed.

Q3) Do you look at confidence scores here? Sentiment is one thing…

A3) Yes, this processing needs some human input to train it… But in this approach it is trained by data that is collected each week.

Social Media and the European Fundamental Rights to Privacy and Data Protection – BeyversEva, University of Passau and TilmanHerbrich, University of Leipzig, Germany

Tilman: Today we will be talking about Data Protection and particularly potential use in commercial contexts, particularly marketing. This is a real area of conflict in social media. We are going to talk about those fundamental rights to privacy and data protection in the EU, the interaction with other fundamental rights, and things like profiling etc. The Treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights (CFR) are primary law based on EU law. There is also secondary law including Directives (requiring transposition into national law, but are not binding until then), and Regulations (binding in entirity on all member states, they are automatically law in all member states).

In 2018 the CFR will become legally binding across the piece. In this change private entities and public bodies will all be impacted by the CFR. But how does one enforce those? They could institute a proceeding before a national court, then the National Court must refer questions to the European Court of Human Rights who will answer and provide clarifications, that will then enable the National Courts to take a judgement on the specific case at hand.

When we look across the stakeholders, we see that they all have different rights under the law. And that means there is a requirement to balance those rights. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has always upheld that concerned rights and interests must be considered, evaluated and weighed in order to find an adequate balance between colliding fundamental rights – as an example the Google Spain Data Protection case in Spain where their commercial rights were deemed secondary to the inidividual rights to privacy.

Eva: Most social media sites are free to use, but this is made possible by highly profiled advertising. Profiling is articulated in Article 4 in the CFR as including aspects of behaviours, personality, etc. Profiling is already seen as an issue that is a threat to Data Protection. We would argue that it poses an even greater threat: users are frequently comfortable to give their real name in order to find others which means they are easily identifiable; users private lives are explicity part of the individual’s profile and may include sensitive data; further this broad and comprehensive data set has very wide scope.

So, on the one hand the users individual privacy is threatened, but so is the freedom to conduct a business (Art 16 CFR). The right to data protection (Article 8, CFR) rests on the idea of consent – and the way that consent is articulated in the law – that consent must be freely given, informed and specific – is incompatible with social networking services and the heavy level of data processing associated with them. These spaces adopt excessive processing, there is dynamic evolution of these platforms, and their concept is networking. Providers make changes in platform, affordances, advertising, etc. create continued changes of the use and collection of data – at odds with specific requirements for consent. The concept of networking means that individuals manage information that is not just about themselves but also others – their image, their location, etc. European Data Protection law does nothing to accommodate the privacy of others in this way. There has been no specific ruling on the interaction of business and personal rights here, but given previous trends it seems likely that business will win.

These data collections by social networking sites also has commercialisation potential to exploit users data. It is not clear how this will evolve – perhaps through greater national law in the changing or terms and conditions?

This is a real tension, with rights of businesses on one side, the individual on the other. The European legislator has upheld fundamental data protection law, but there is still much to examine here. We wanted to give you an overview of relevant concepts and rights in social media contexts and we hope that we’ve done this.

Q&A

Q1) How do these things change when Europe is outwith the legislative jurisdiction of most social media companies are – they are global
A1) General Data Protection Law 2018 will target companies in the EU, if they profile there. It was unclear until now… Previously you had to have a company here in Europe (usually Ireland), but in 2018 it will be very clear and very strict.

Q2) How has the European Court of Human rights fared so far in judgements?

A2) In Google Spain case, in another Digital Rights case the ECHR has upheld personal rights. And we see this also on the storage and retention of data… But the regulation is quite open, right now there are ways to circumvent.

Q3) What are the consequences of non-compliance? Maybe the profit I make is greater than that risk?

A3) That has been an issue until now. Fines have been small. From 2018 it will be up to 5% of worldwide revenue – that’s a serious fine!

Q4) Is private agreement… Is the law stronger than private agreement? Many agree without reading, or without understanding, are they protected if they agree to something illegal.

A4) Of course you are able to contract and agree to data use. But you have to be informed… So if you don’t understand, and don’t care… The legislator cannot change this. This is a problem we don’t have an approach for. You have to be informed, have to understand purpose, and understand means and methods, so without that information the consent is invalid.

Q5) There has been this Safe Harbour agreement breakdown. What impact is that having on regulations and practices?

A5) The regulations, probably not? But the effect is that data processing activities cannot be based on Safe Harbour agreement… So companies have to work around or work illegally etc. So now you can choose a Data Protection agreement – standardised contracts to cover this… But that is insecure too.

Digital Friendship on Facebook and Analog Friendship Skills – KordoutisPanagiotis, Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences, Athens and EvangeliaKourti,University of Athens, Greece

Panagiotis: My colleague and I were keen to look at friendship on Facebook. There is a lot of work on this topic of course, but very little work connecting Facebook and real life friendship from a psychological perspective. But lets start by seeing how Facebook describes itself and friendship… Facebook talk about “building, strengthening and enriching friendships”. Operationally they define friendship through digital “Facebook acts” such as “like”, “comment”, “chat” etc. But this creates a paradox… You can have friends you have never met and will never meet – we call them “unknown friends” and they can have real consequences for life.

People perceive friendship in Facebook in different ways. In Greece (Savrami 2009, Kourti, Kourdoutis, Madaglou 2016) young people see Facebook friendship as a “phony” space, due to “unknown friends” and the possibility of manipulating self presentation. As a tool for popularity, public relations, useful acquaintances; a doubtful and risky mode of dating; the resort of people with a limited nnumber of friends and lack of “real” social live; and the resort of people who lack friendship skills (Buotte, wood and pratt 2009). BUT it is widely used and most are happy with their usage…

So, how about psychological definitions of analog friendship? Baron-Cohen and Wheelright (2003) talk about friendship as survival supporting social interdependence based on attachment and instrumentality skills.

Attachment involves high interdependence, commitment, systematic support, responsiveness, communication, investment in joint outcomes, high potential for developing the friendship – it is not static but dynamic. It is being satisfied by the interaction with each other, with the company of each other. They are happy to just be with someone else.

Instrumentality is also part of friendship though and it involves low interdependence, low commitment, non-systematic support, low responsiveness, superficial communication, expectations for specific benefits and personal outomes, little potential for developing the relationship – a more static arrangements. And they are satisfied by interacting with others for a specific goal or activity.

Now the way that I have presented this can perhaps look like the good and the bad side… But we need both sides of that equation, we need both sets of skills. What we perceive as friendship in analog life usually has a prevalence of attachement over instrumentality…

So, why are we looking at this? We wanted to look into whether those common negative attitudes about Facebook and friendship were accurate. Will FB users with low friendship skills have more Fb friends? Engage in more Fb “friendship acts”; will they use Fb more intensely; will they have more “unknown” friends than users with stronger friendship skills”. And when I say stronger friendship skills – I mean those with more attachment skills versus those with more instrumental skills.

In our method here we had 201 participants, most were women (139) from Universities and technological Institutes in metropolitan areas of Greece. All had profiles in Fb. median age was 20, all had used Facebook for 2 hours the day before, and many reported being online at least 8 hours a day, some on a permanent ongoing basis. We asked them how many friends they have… Then we asked them for an estimate of how many they know in-person. Then we asked them how many of these friends they have never met or will never meet – they provided an estimation. There were other questions about interactions in Facebook. We used a scale called the Facebook Insensity Scale (Ellison, Steinfield and Lampe 2007) which looks at importance of Facebook in the persons life (this is a 12 pt Likert scale). We also used an Active Digital Sociability Scale which we came up with – this was a 12 pt likert scale on Fb Friendship acts etc. And we used a Friendship Questionnaire (Baron-Cohen and Wainwright 2003). This was a paper exercise, for less than 30 minutes.

When we looked at stronger and weaker friendship skills groups – we had 44.3% of participants in the stronger friendship skills group, 52% in the weaker friendship skills group. More women had stronger friendship skills – consistent with the general population across countries.

So, firstly do people with weaker friendship skills have more friends? No, there was no difference. But we found a gender result – men had more friends in facebook, and also had weaker friendship skills.

Do people with weaker friendships skills engage more frequently in Fb friendship operations of friendship acts? No. No difference. Chatting wa smost popular, browsing adn liking were most frequet acts regardless of skills. Less frequent were participating in groups, check in and gaming. BUT a very telling difference: Men were more likely to comment than women, and that’s significant for me.

Do people with weaker friendship skills engage in Fb use it more intensively? Yes and No. There was a difference… But those with stronger friendship skills showed high Fb intensity, compared to those with weaker friendship. Men with stronger skills were more intensive in their use than women with strong skills.

Do people with weaker friendship skills have more friends on facebook? No. Do they have more unknown friends? No. But there was a gender effect. 16% of men have unknown friends, ony 9% of women do. Do those with weaker friendship skills interact more with unknown friends? No, opposite. Those with stroger skills, interact more with unknown friends. And so on.

And do those with weaker friendship skills actually meet unknown friends from Fb in real life? Yes, but opposite to expected. If they have stronger skills I’m more likely to meet you in real life… If I am a man… The percentages are small (3% of men, 1% of women).

So, what do I make of all this? Facebook is not the resort of people with weak friendship skills. Our data suggests it may be advantageous space for those with higher friendship skills, it is a socail space regulated by lots of social norms – it is an extension of what happens in real life. And what is the norm at play? It is the famous idea that men are encouraged to be bold, women to be cautious and apprehensive. Women have stronger social skills, but Facebook and the dynamics suppresses them, and enhances men with weaker skills… So, that’s my conclusion here!

Q&A

Q1) Very interesting. When men start to see someone they haven’t met before… Wouldn’t it be women? To hit on them?

A1) Actually yes, often it is dating. But men are eager to go on about it… to interact and go on to meet. Women are very cautious. We have complimented this work with qualitative work that shows women need much longer interaction – they need to interact for maybe 3 years before meeting. Men are not so concerned.

Q2) You haven’t talked about quality etc. of your quantitative data?

A2) I haven’t mentioned it here, but it’s in the paper (in the Proceedings). The Friendship questionnaire is based on established work, saw similar distribution ratios as seen elsewhere. We haven’t tried it (but are about to) with those with clinical status, Aspergers, etc. The Facebook Intensity questionnaire had a high reliability alpha.

Q3) Did you do any comparison of this data with any questions on trolling, cyber bullying, etc. as the consequences for sharing opinion or engaging with strangers for women is usually harsher than for men.

A3) Yes, some came up in the qualitative study where individuals were able to explain their reasons.

Q4) Did your work look at perceptions by employers etc. And how that made a difference to selecting friends?

A4) We didn’t look at this, but others have. Some are keen not to make friends in specific groups – they use Facebook to sell a specific identity to a specific audience.

Q5) The statistics you produced are particularly interesting… What is your theoretical conjecture as a result of this work?

A5) My feeling is that we have to see looking at Facebook as an alternative mode of socialising. It has been normalised so the same social rules functioning in the rest of society do function in Facebook. This was an example. It sounds commonplace but it is important.

The Net Generation’s Perceptions of Digital Activism –  StochLouise and SumarieRoodt, University of Cape Town, South Africa

Sumarie: I will be talking about how the Net Generation view digital activism. And the reason this is of interest to me is because of the many examples of digital activism we see around us. I’ll talk a bit about activism in South Africa, and particularly a recent campaign called “Fees Must Fall”.

There are various synonyms for Digital Activism but that’s the term I’ll use. So what is this? It’s origins start with the internet, with connection and mobilisation. We saw the rise of social media and the huge increase in people using it. We saw economies and societies coming online and using these spaces over the last 10 years. What does this mean for us? Well it enables quick and far-reaching information sharing. And there is a video that goes with this too.

Joyce 2013 defines Digital Activism as being about “the use of digital media in collective efforts to bring about social or political change, using methods outside of routine decision-making processes”. “It is non-violent and civil but can involve hacking (Edwards et al. 2013). We see digital activism across a range of approaches: from Slacktivism (things that are easy to participate in); online activism; internet activism; cyber activism; hacktivism. That’s a broad range, there are subtleties that divide into these and other terms, and the different characteristics of these types of activism.

Some examples…

In 2011 we saw revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, Occupy Wall Street;

2012-14 we saw BringBackOurGirls, and numerous others;

2015 onwards we have:

  • RhodesMustFall – on how Cecil John Rhodes took resources from the indigenous communities, and recent removals of statues etc. and naming of buildings, highly sensitive.
  • FeesMustFall  – about providing free education to everybody, particularly university – less than 10% of South Africans go to University and they tend to be those from the more privileged background – as a result of that we weren’t allowed to raise our fees for now, and we are encouraged to find other funders to subsidise education and we cannot exclude anyone because of lack of economic access, the government will help but…. a lot of conflict there particularly around corruption, but government also classified universities as advantaged or non advantaged university and distributes funds much more to non advantaged university.
  • ZumaMustFall – our president is also famous for causing havoc politically and economically for what many see as very poor decisions, particularly under public scrutiny in the last 12 months.

In the room we are having a discussion about other activist activities, including an Israeli campaign against internet censorship law targeted at pornography etc. but including political and cultural aspects. Others mention 38 degrees etc. and successful campaigns to get issues debated. 

Now, digital activism can be on any platform – not necessarily Facebook or Twitter.

When we look at who our students are today – the “Net Generation”, “Millennials”, “Digital Natives” – and characteristics (Oblinger and Oblinger) associated this group include: confidence with technologu, always connected, immediate, social and team orientated, diverse, visual, education driven, emotionally open. But this isn’t homogenous, not all students will have these qualities.

So, what did we do with our students to assess students view? We looks at 230 students, and targeted those looked at in the literature: those born in any year from 1983 to 2003, and they needed to be those with some form of online identit(ies). We had an online questionnare that ran over 5 days. We analysed with Qualtrics, and thematic analysis. There are limitations here – all students were registered in the Comms department – business etc.

In terms of the demographics: Male participants were 38%, female were 62%; Average age was 22, minimum was 17, maximum was 33. We asked about the various characteristics, using a Likert scale questions… Showing that all qualify suffiently to be this “Net Generation”. We asked if they paid attention to digital activism… Most did, but it’s not definitive. Now this is the beginning of a much bigger project…

We asked if the participants had ever signed an online petition – 145 had; and 144 believed online petitions made a difference. We also asked if the internet and social media have a positive effect on an activism campaign – 92% do, and that has huge interest to companies and advertisers. And 89% of participants felt the use of social media in these causes has contributed to creating a society that is more aware of important issues.

What did we learn? Well we did see that this generation are inclined to participate in slacktivism. They believe digital activism mades a difference. They pay attention to online campaigns and are aware of which ones have been successful – at least in terms of having some form of impact or engagement.

Now, if you’d like access to the surveys, etc. do get in touch.

Q&A

Q1) How does UCT engage with the student body around local activism?

A1) Mostly that has been digitally, with the UCT Facebook page. There were also official statements from the University… But individual staff were discouraged from reacting. But freedom of speech for the students. It increased conflict in some way, but it also made students feel heard. Hard to call which side it fell on. Policy change is being made as a result of this work… They had a chance to be heard. We wanted free speech (unless totally inappropriate).

Q2) I see that you use a lot of “yes” and “no” questions… I like that but did you then also get other data?

A2) Yes. I present that work here. This paper doesn’t show the thematic analysis – we are still working on submitting that somewhere. We have that data, so once the full piece is in a journal we can let you know.

Q3) Do you know any successful campaigns in your context?

A3) Yes, FeesMustFall started in individual universities, and turned then to the government. It actually got quite serious, quite violent, but that definitely has changed their approach. And that campaign continues and will continue for now.

At this point of the day my laptop lost juice, the internet connection dropped, and there was a momentary power outage just as my presentation was about to go ahead! All notes from my strand are therefore from those taken on my mobile – apologies for more typos than usual!

Stream C – Teaching and Supporting Students – Chair – Ted Clark

Students’ Digital Footprints: Curation of Online Presences, Privacy and Peer Support – Nicola Osborne and Louise Connelly,University of Edinburgh, UK

That was me!

My slides are available on Prezi herehttps://prezi.com/hpphwg6u-f6b/students-digital-footprints-curation-of-online-presences-privacy-and-peer-support/

The paper can be found in the ECSM 2016 Proceedings, and will also be shared on the University of Edinburgh Research Explorer along with others on the Managing Your Digital Footprint (research strand) researchhttp://www.research.ed.ac.uk/portal/en/publications/students-digital-footprints(5f3dffda-f1b4-470f-abd4-24fd6081ab98).html 

Please note that the remaining notes are very partial as taken on my smartphone and, unfortunately, somewhat eaten by the phone in the process… 

How do you Choose a Friend? Greek Students’ Friendships in Facebook – KourtiEvangelia, University of Athens and PanagiotisKordoutisand AnnaMadoglou,Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences, Greece

This work, relating to Panagiotis’ paper earlier (see above) looked at how individuals make friends on Facebook. You can find out more about the methodology in this paper and Panagiotis’ paper on Analog and Facebook friends.

We asked our cohort of students to tell us specifically about their criteria for making new friends, whether they were making the approach for friendship or responding to others’ requests. We also wanted to find out how they interacted with people who were not (yet) their friends in Facebook, and what factors played a part. The data was collected in a paper questionnaire with the same cohort as reported in Panagiotis’ paper earlier today.

Criteria for interacting with a friend, never met before within Facebook. The most frequent answer was “I never do” but the next most popular responses were common interests and interest in getting to know others better. physical appearance seems to play a factor, more so than previous interactions but less so than positive personality traits. 

Criteria for deciding to meet a previously unknown friend. Most popular response here was “I never do so”, followed by sufficient previous FB interaction, common acquaintances, positive personality etc. less so.

Correspondence Analysis – I won’t go into here, very interesting in terms of gender. Have a look at the Proceedings. 

Conclusion is that Facebook operated as social identity tool. And supporting offline relationships. self involvement with the medium seems to define selection criteria compatible with different social goals reinforcing one real-life social network.

Q&A

Q1) I’m very interested in how FB suggests new friends. Did students comment on that. 

A1) We didn’t ask about that.

Q2) isn’t your data gender biased in some way – most of your participants are female.

A2) Yes. But we continue this… With qualitative data it’s a problem, but means and standard deviation cover that. 

Q2) Reasons for sending a request to who you don’t know. First work by Ellison etc. showed people connecting with already known people… I wonder if it is still true? 

A2) Interesting questions. We must say that students answer to their professor in a uni context, that means maybe this is an explanation… 

Comment) Facebook gives you status for numbers and types of friends etc. 

A2) it’s about social identity and identity construction. Many have different presences with different goals. 

Comment) there is a bit of showing off in social. For status. 

Professional Development of Academic Staff in the use of Social Media for Teaching and Learning – Julie Willems, Deakin University, Burwood, Australia

This work has roots in 2012. from then to 2015 I ran classes for staff on using social media. This follows conversations I’ve heard around the place about expecting staff to use social media without training. 

Now I use a very broad definition of social media – from mainstream sites to mobile apps to gaming etc. Media that accesses digital means for communication in various forms. 

Why do we need staff development for social media? To deal with concerns of staff, students move there, also super enthusiasm.. 

My own experience is of colleagues who have run with it, which has raised all sorts of concerns. Some would say that an academic should be doing teaching, research, service and development can end up being the missing leg on the chair there. And staff development is not just about development on social media but also within social media. 

We ran some webinars within Zoom webinar, showing Twitter use with support online, offline and on Twitter – particularly important  for a distributed campus like we have. 

When we train staff we have to think about the pedagogy, we have to think about learning outcomes. We need to align the course structure with LOs, and also to consider staff workload in how we do that training. What will our modes of delivery be? What types of technology will they meet and use – and what prep/overhead is involved in that? We also need to consider privacy issues. And then how do you fill that time. 

So the handout I’ve shared here was work for one days course, to be delivered in a flipped classroom – prep first, in person, then online follow up. Could be completed quickly but many spent more time on these.

This PPT from a module I developed for staff at Monash university, with social media at the intersection of formal and informal learning, and the interaction of teacher-directed learning and student-centred learning. That quadrant model is useful to be aware of: Willem Blakemore(?): 4QF.

Q&A

Q1) What was the object among staff at your university?

A1) First three years were optional. This last year Monash require staff to do 3 one day courses per year. One can be a conference with a full report. Social Media is one of 8 options. Wanted to give an encouragement for folk to attend. 

Q2) How many classes use your social media as a result?

A2) I’ve just moved institution. One of our architecture lecturers was using FB in preference to LMS: students love it, faculty concerned. Complex. At my current university social media isn’t encouraged but it is use. Regardless of attitude social media is in use… And we at least have to be aware of that. 

Q3) I was starting to think that you were encouraging faculty staff to use Social media alone, rather than with LMS.

A3) At Monash reality was using social alongside LMS. That connection discouraged in my new faculty. 

Q4) I loved that you brought up that pressure from teaching staff – as so many academics in social media now, they are min more active and a real pressure to integrate.

A4) I think that gap is growing too… Between resisters and those keen to use. Students are aware of what they share – a Demi formal space… Have to be aware.

Q5) do you have a range of social media tools or just Facebook?

A5) mainly Facebook, sometimes Twitter and Linked In. I’m in engineering and architecture. 

Q5) Are they approved for use by faculty?

A5) Yes, the structure you have there had been. 

Q6) also encourage academic staff to use academic networking sites?

A6) depends on context. Depends… ResearchGate good for pubs, Academic.edu like bus card. 

Q7) Reward and recognition

A7) Stuff on sheet was for GCAP… Came out of that… 

Q8) Will we still have these requirements to train in, say, 5 years time? Surely they’ll be like pen and pencil now?

A8) Maybe. Universities are keen for good profiles though, which means this stuff matters in this competitive academic marketplace. 

And with that Day One has drawn to a close. I’m off to charge a lot of devices and replace my memory sticks! More tomorrow in a new liveblog post. 

 July 12, 2016  Posted by at 9:22 am Events Attended, LiveBlogs Tagged with: , ,  No Responses »
Jul 072016
 

On 27th June I attended a lunchtime seminar, hosted by the University of Edinburgh Centre for Research in Digital Education with Professor Catherine Hasse of Aarhus University

Catherine is opening with a still from Ex-machina (2015, dir. Alex Garland). The title of my talk is the difference between human and posthuman learning, I’ll talk for a while but I’ve moved a bit from my title… My studies in posthuman learning has moved me to more of a posthumanistic learning… Today human beings are capable of many things – we can transform ourselves, and ourselves in our environment. We have to think about that and discuss that, to take account of that in learning.

I come from the centre for Future Technology, Culture and Learning, Aarhus University, Denmark. We are hugely interdisciplinary as a team. We discuss and research what is learning under these new conditions, and to consider the implications for education. I’ll talk less about education today, more about the type of learning taking place and the ways we can address that.

My own background is in anthropology of education in Denmark, specifically looking at physicists.In 2015 we got a big grant to work on “The Technucation Project” and we looked at the anthropology of education in Denmark in nurses and teachers – and the types of technological literacy they require for their work. My work (in English) has been about “Mattering” – the learning changes that matter to you. The learning theories I am interested in acknowledge cultural differences in learning, something we have to take account of. What it is to be human is already transformed. Posthumanistics learning is a new conceptualisations and material conditions that change what it was to be human. It was and it ultra human to be learners.

So… I have become interested in robots.. They are coming into our lives. They are not just tools. Human beings encounter tools that they haven’t asked for. You will be aware of predictions that over a third of jobs in the US may be taken over by automated processes and robots in the next 20 years. That comes at the same time as there is pressure on the human body to become different, at the point at which our material conditions are changing very rapidly. A lot of theorists are picking up on this moment of change, and engaging with the idea of what it is to be human – including those in Science and Technology Studies, and feminist critique. Some anthropologist suggest that it is not geography but humans that should shape our conceptions of the world (Anthrpos- Anthropocene), others differ and conceive of the capitalocene. When we talk about the posthuman a lot of the theories acknowledge that we can’t talk about the fact that we can’t think of the human in the same way anymore. Kirksey & Helmreich (2010) talk of “natural-cultural hybrids”, and we see everything from heart valves to sensors, to iris scanning… We are seeing robots, cybords, amalgamations, including how our thinking feeds into systems – like the stockmarkets (especially today!). The human is de-centered in this amalgamation but is still there. And we may yet get to this creature from Ex-machina, the complex sentient robot/cyborg.

We see posthuman learning in uncanny valley… gradually we will move from robots that feel far away, to those with human tissues, with something more human and blended. The new materialism and robotics together challenge the conception of the human. When we talk of learning we talk about how humans learn, not what follows when bodies are transformed by other (machine) bodies. And here we have to be aware that in feminism that people like Rosa Predosi(?) have been happy with the discarding of the human: for them it was always a narrative, it was never really there. The feminist critique is that the “human” was really retruvian man.. But they also critique the idea that Posthu-man is a continuation of individual goal-directed and rational self-enhancing (white male) humans. And that questions the post human…

There are actually two ways to think of the post human. One way is the posthuman learning as something that does away with useless, biological bodies (Kurzweil 2005) and we see transhumanists, Verner Vinge, Hans Moravec, Natasha Vita-More in this space that sees us heading towards the singularity. But the alternative is a posthumanistic approach, which is about cultural transformations of boundaries in human-material assemblages, referencing that we have never been isolated human beings, we’ve always been part of our surroundings. That is another way to see the posthuman. This is a case that I make in an article (Hayles 1999) that we have always been posthuman. We also see have, on the other hand, Spinozists approach which is about how are we, if we understand ourselves as de-centered, able to see ourselves as agents. In other words we are not separate from the culture, we are all Nature-cultural…Not of nature, not of culture but naturacultural (Hayles; Haraway).

But at the same time if it is true that human beings can literally shape the crust of the earth, we are now witnessing anthropomorphism on steroids (Latour, 2011 – Waiting for Gaia [PDF]). The Anthropocene perspective is that, if human impact on Earth can be translated into human responsibility fr the earth, the concept may help stimulate appropriate societal responses and/or invoke appropriate planetary stewardship (Head 2014); the capitalocene (see Jason Moore) talks about moving away from cartesian dualism in global environmental change, the alternative implies a shift from humanity and nature to humanity in nature, we have to counter capitalism in nature.

So from the human to the posthuman, I have argue that this is a way we can go with our theories… There are two ways to understand that, the singularist posthumanism or spinozist posthumanism. And I think we need to take a posthumanistic stance with learning – taking account of learning in technological naturecultures.

My own take here… We talk about intra-species differentiations. This nature is not nature as resource but rather nature as matrices – a nature that operates not only outside and inside our bodies (from global climate to the microbiome) but also through our bodies, including embodied minds. We do create intra-species differentiation, where learning changes what maters to you and others, and what matters changes learning. To create an ecological responsible ultra-sociality we need to see ourselves as a species of normative learners in cultural organisations.

So, my own experience, after studying physicists as an anthropologists I no longer saw the night sky the same way – they were stars and star constellations. After that work I saw them as thousands of potetial suns – and perhaps planets – and that wasn’t a wider discussion at that time.

I see it as a human thing to be learners. And we are ultra social learning. And that is a characteristic of being human. Collective learning is essentially what has made us culturally diverse. We have learning theories that are relavent for cultural diversity. We have to think of learning in a cultural way. Mediational approachs in collective activity. Vygotsky takes the idea of learners as social learners before we become personal learners and that is about the mediation – not natureculture but cultureculture (Moll 2000). That’s my take on it. So, we can re-centre human beings… Humans are not the centre of the universe, or of the environment. But we can be at the centre and think about what we want to be, what we want to become.

I was thinking of coming in with a critique of MOOCs, particularly as those being a capitolocene position. But I think we need to think of social learning before we look at individual learning (Vygotsky 1981). And we are always materially based. So, how do we learn to be engaged collectively? What does it matter – for MOOCs for instance – if we each take part from very different environments and contexts, when that environment has a significant impact. We can talk about those environments and what impact they have.

You can buy robots now that can be programmed – essentially sex robots like “Roxxxy” – and are programmed by reactions to our actions, emotions etc. If we learn from those actions and emotions, we may relearn and be changed in our own actions and emptions. We are seeing a separation of tool-creation from user-demand in Capitalocene. The introduction of robots in work places are often not replacing the work that workers actually want support with. The seal robots to calm dementia patients down cover a role that many carers actually enjoyed in their work, the human contact and suport. But those introducing them spoke of efficiency, the idea being to make employees superfluous but described as “simply an attempt to remove some of the most demeaning hard task from the work with old people so the wor time ca be used for care and attention” (Hasse 2013).

These alternative relations with machines are things we always react too, humans always stretch themselves to meet the challenge or engagement at hand. An inferentialist approach (Derry 2013) acknowledges many roads to knowledge but materiality of thinking reflects that we live in a world of not just case but reason. We don’t live in just a representationalism (Bakker and Derry 2011) paradigm, it is much more complex. Material wealth will teach us new things.. But maybe these machines will encourage us to think we should learn more in a representative than an inferentialist way. We have to challenge robotic space of reasons. I would recommend Jan Derry’s work on Vygotsky in this area.

For me robot representationalism has the capacity to make convincing representations… You can give and take answers but you can’t argue space and reasons… They cannot reason from this representation. Representational content is not articulated by determinate negation and complex concept formation. Algorithmic learning has potential and limitations, and is based on representationalism. Not concept formation. I think we have to take a position on posthumanistic learning, with collectivity as a normative space of reasons; acknowledge mattering matter in concept formation; acknowledge human inferentialism; acknowledge transformation in environment…

Discussion/Q&A

Q1) Can I ask about causes and reasons… My background is psychology and I could argue that we are more automated than we think we are, that reasons come later…

A1) Inferentialism is challenging  the idea of giving and taking reasons as part of normative space. It’s not anything goes… It’s sort of narrowing it down, that humans come into being in terms of learning and thinking in a normative space that is already there. Wilfred Sellers says there is no “bare given” – we are in a normative space, it’s not nature doing this… I have some problems with the term dialectical… But it is a kind of dialective process. If you give an dtake reasons, its not anything goes. I think Jen Derry has a better phrasing for this. But that is the basic sense. And it comes for me from analytical philosophy – which I’m not a huge fan of – but they are asking important questions on what it is to be human, and what it is to learn.

Q2) Interesting to hear you talk about Jan Derry. She talks about technology perhaps obscuring some of the reasoning process and I was wondering how representational things fitted in?

A2) Not in the book I mentioned but she has been working on this type of area at University of London. It is part of the idea of not needing to learn representational knowledge, which is built into technological systems, but for inferentialism we need really good teachers. She has examples about learning about the bible, she followed a school class… Who look at the bible, understand the 10 commandments, and then ask them to write their own bible 10 commandments on whatever topic… That’s a very narrow reasoning… It is engaging but it is limited.

Q3) An ethics issue… If we could devise robots or machines, AI, that could think inferentially, should we?

A3) A challenge for me – we don’t have enough technical people. My understanding is that it’s virtually impossible to do that. You have claims but the capacities of AI systems so far are so limited in terms of function. I think that “theory of mind” is so problematic. They deteriorise what it means to be human, and narrow what it means to be our species. I think algorithmic learning is representational… I may be wrong though… If we can… There are poiltical issues. Why make machines that are one to one to human beings… Maybe to be slaves, to do dirty work. If they can think inferentiality, should they not have ethical rights. In spinostas we have a responsibility to think about those ethical issues.

Q4) You use the word robot, that term is being used to be something very embodies and physical.. But algorithmic agency, much less embodied and much less visible – you mentioned the stock market – and how that fits in.

A4) In a way robots are a novelty, a way to demonstrate that. A chatbot is also a robot. Robot covers a lot of automated processes. One of the things that came out of AI at one point was that AI couldn’t learn without bodies.. That for deep learning there needs to be some sort of bodily engagement to make bodily mistakes. But then encounters like Roxy and others is that they become very much better… As humans we stretch to engage with these robots… We take an answer for an answer, not just an algorithm, and that might change how we learn.

Q4) So the robot is a point of engaging for machine learning… A provocation.

A4) I think roboticists see this as being an easy way to make this happen. But everything happens so quickly… Chips in bodies etc. But can also have robots moving in space, engaging with chips.

Q5) Is there something here about artifical life, rather than artifical intelligence – that the robot provokes that…

A5) That is what a lot of roboticists work at, is trying to create artificial life… There is a lot of work we haven’t seen yet. Working on learning algorithms in computer programming now, that evolves with the process, a form of artifical life. They hope to create robots and if they malfunction, they can self-repair so that the next generation is better. We asked at a conference in Prague recently, with roboticists, was “what do you mean by better?” and they simply couldn’t answer that, which was really interesting… I do think they are working on artifical life as well. And maybe there are two little connections between those of us in education, and those that create these things.

Q6) I was approached by robotics folks about teaching robots to learn drawing with charcoal, largely because the robotic hand had enough sensitivity to do something quite complex – to teach charcoal drawing and representation… The teacher gesticulates, uses metaphor, describes things… I teach drawing and representational drawing… There is no right answer there, which is tough for robototics… What is the equivelent cyborg/dual space in learning? Drawing toolsa re cyborg-esque in terms of digital and drawing tools… BUt also that diea of culture… You can manipulate tools, awareness of function and then the hack, and complexity of that hack… I suppose lots of things were ringing true but I couldn’t quite stick them in to what I’m trying to get at…

A6) Some of this is maybe tied to Schuman Enhancement Theory – the idea of a perfect cyborg drawing?

Q6) No, they were interested in improving computer learning, and language, but for me… The idea of human creativity and hacking… You could pack a robot with the history of art, and representation, so much information… Could do a lot… But is that better art? Or better design? A conversation we have to have!

A6) I tend to look at the dark side of the coin in a way… Not because I am techno-determinist… I do love gadgets, technology enhances our life, we can be playful… BUt in the capitalocene… There is much more focus on this. The creative side of technology is what many people are working on… Fantastic things are coming up, crossovers in art… New things can be created… What I see in nursing and teaching learning contexts is how to avoid engaging… So lifting robots are here, but nursing staff aren’t trained properly and they avoid them… Creativity goes many ways… I’m seeing from quite a particular position, and that is partly a position of warning. These technologies may be creative and they may then make us less and less creative… That’s a question we have to ask. For physicists, who have to be creative, are always so tied to the materiality, the machines and technologies in their working environments. I’ve also seen some of these drawing programmes…. It is amazing what you can draw with these tools… But you need purpose, awareness of what those changes mean… Tools are never innocent. We have to analyse what tools are doing to us

Jul 052016
 

This afternoon I’m at UCL for the “If you give a historian code: Adventures in Digital Humanities” seminar from Jean Bauer of Center for Digital Humanities at Princeton University, who is being hosted by Melissa Terras of the UCL Centre for Digital HumanitiesI’ll be liveblogging so, as usual, any corrections and additions are very much welcomed. 

Melissa is introducing Jean, who is in London en route to DH 2016 in Kraków next week. Over to Jean:

I’m delighted to be here with all of the wonderful work Melissa has been doing here. I’m going to talk a bit about how I got into digital humanities, but also about how scholars in library and information sciences, and scholars in other areas of the humanities might find these approaches useful.

So, this image (American Commissioners of the Preliminary Peace Negotiations with Great Britain. By Benjamin West, London, England; 1783 (begun). Oil on canvas. (Unframed) Height: 28 ½” (72.3 cm); Width: 36 ¼” (92.7 cm). 1957.856) is by Benjamin West, the Treaty of Paris, 1783. This is the era that I research and what I am interested in. In particular I am interested in John Adam, the first minister of the United States – he even gets one line in Hamilton: the musical. He’s really interested as he was very concerned with getting thinking and processes on paper. And on the work he did with Europe, where there hadn’t really been American foreign consuls before. And he was also working on areas of the North America, making changes that locked the British out of particular trading blocks through adjustments brought about by that peace treaty – and I might add that this is a weird time to give this talk in England!

Now, the foreign service at this time kind of lost contact once they reached Europe and left the US. So the correspondence is really important and useful to understand these changes. There are only 12 diplomats in Europe from 1775-1788, but that grows and grows with consuls and diplomats increasing steadily. And most of those consuls are unpaid as the US had no money to support them. When people talk about the diplomats of this time they tend to focus on future presidents etc. and I was interested in this much wider group of consuls and diplomats. So I had a dataset of letters, sent to John Jay, as he was negotiating the treaty. To use that I needed to put this into some sort of data structure – so, this is it. And this is essentially the world of 1820 as expressed in code. So we have locations, residences, assignments, letters, people, etc. Within that data structure we have letters – sent to or from individuals, to or from locations, they have dates assigned to them. And there are linkages here. Databases don’t handle fuzzy dates well, and I don’t want invalid dates, so I have a Boolean logic here. And also a process for handling enclosures – right now that’s letters but people did enclose books, shoes, statuettes – all sorts of things! And when you look at locations these connect to “in states” and states and location information… This data set occurs within the Napoleonic wars so none of the boundaries are stable in these times so the same location shifts in meaning/state depending on the date.

So, John Jay has all this correspondence between May 27 and Nov 19, 1794 and they are going from Europe to North America, and between the West Indies and North America. Many of these are reporting on trouble. The West Indies are ship siezures… And there are debts to Britain… And none of these issues get resolved in that treaty. Instread John Jay and Lord Granville set up a series of committees – and this is the historical precident for mediation. Which is why I was keen to understand what information John Jay had available. None of this correspondance got to him early enough in time. There wasn’t information there to resolve the issue, but enough to understand it. But there were delays for safety, for practical issues – the State Department was 6 people at this time – but the information was being collected in Philadephia. So you have a centre collecting data from across the continent, but not able to push it out quickly enough…

And if you look at the people in these letters you see John Jay, and you see Edmund Jennings Randolph mentions most regularly. So, I have this elaborate database (The Early American Foreign Service Database – EAFSD) and lots of ways to visualise this… Which enables us to see connections, linkages, and places where different comparisons highlight different areas of interest. And this is one of the reasons I got into the Humanities. There are all these papers – usually for famous historical men – and they get digitised, also the enclosures… In a single file(!), parsing that with a partial typescript, you start to see patterns. You see not summaries of information being shared, not aggregation and analysis, but the letters being bundled up and sent off – like a repeater note. So, building up all of this stuff… Letters are objects, they have relationships to each others, they move across space and time. You look at the papers of John Adams, or of any political leader, and they are just in order of date sent… Requiring us to flip back and forth. Databases and networks allow us to follow those conversations, to understand new orders to read those letters in.

Now, I had a background in code before I was a graduate student. What I do now at Princeton (as Associate Director of the Center for Digital Humanities) is to work with librarians and students to build new projects. We use a lot of relational databases, and network analysis… And that means a student like one I have at the moment can have a fully described, fully structured data set on a vagrant machine that she can engage with, query, analysis, and convey to her examiners etc. Now this student was an excel junky but approaching the data as a database allows us to structure the data, to think about information, the nature of sources and citation practices, and also to get major demographic data on her group and the things she’s working on.

Another thing we do at Princeton is to work with libraries and with catalogue data – thinking about data in MARC, MODS, or METS record, and thinking about the extract and reformatting of that data to query and rethink that data. And we work with librarians on information retrieval, and how that could be translated to research – book history perhaps. Princeton University library brought the personal library of philosopher Jaques Derrida – close to 19,000 volumes (thought it was about 15,000 until they were unpacked), so two projects are happening simultaneously. One is at the Centre for Digital Humanities, looking at how Derrida marked up the texts, and then went on to use and cite in Of Grammatology. The other is with BibFrame – a Linked Open Data standard for library catalogues, and they are looking at books sent to Derrida, with dedications to him. Now there won’t be much overlap of those projects just now – Of Grammatology was his first book so those dedicated/gifted books to him. But we are building our databases for both projects as Linked Open Data, all being added a book at a time, so the hope is that we’ll be able to look at any relationships between the books that he owned and the way that he was using and being gifted items. And this is an experiment to explore those connections, and to expose that via library catalogue… But the library wants to catalogue all works, not just those with research interest. And it can be hard to connect research work, with depth and challenge, back to the catalogue but that’s what we are trying to do. And we want to be able to encourage more use and access to the works, without the library having to stand behind the work or analyse the work of a particular scholar.

So, you can take a data structure like this, then set up your system with appropriate constraints and affordances that need to be thought about as they will shape what you can and will do with your data later on. Continents have particular locations, boundaries, shape files. But you can’t mark out the boundaries for empires and states. The Western boundary at this time is a very contested thing indeed. In my system states are merely groups of locations, so that I can follow mercantile power, and think from a political viewpoint. But I wanted a tool with broader use hence that other data. Locations seem very safe and neutral but they really are not, they are complex and disputed. Now for that reason I wanted this tool – Project Quincy – to have others using it, but that hasn’t happened yet… Because this was very much created for my research and research question…It’s my own little Mind Palace for my needs… But I have heard from a researcher looking to catalogue those letters, and that would be very useful. Systems like this can have interesting afterlives, even if they don’t have the uptake we want Open Source Digital Humanities tools to have. The biggest impact of this project has been that I have the schema online. Some people do use the American Foreign Correspondents databases – I am one of the few places you can find this information, especially about consuls. But that schema being shared online have been helping others to make their own system… In that sense the more open documentation we can do, the better all of our projects could be.

I also created those diagrams that you were seeing – with DAVILA, a programme that creates these allows you to create easy to read, easy to follow, annotated, colour coded visuals. They are prettier than most database diagrams. I hope that when documentation is appealing and more transparent,  that that will get used more… That additional step to help people understand what you’ve made available for them… And you can use documentation to help teach someone how to make a project. So when my student was creating her schema, it was an example I could share or reference. Having something more designed was very helpful.

Q&A

Q1) Can you say more about the Derrida project and that holy grail of hanging that other stuff on the catalogue record?

A1) So the BibFrame schema is not as flexible as you’d like, it’s based on MARC, but it’s Linked Open Data, it can be expressed in RDF or JSON… And that lets us link records up. And we are working in the same library so we can link up on people, locations, maybe also major terms, and on th eaccession id number too. We haven’t tried it yet but…

Q1) And how do you make the distinction between authoritative record and other data.

A1) Jill Benson(?) team are creating authoritative linked open data records for all of the catalogue. And we are creating Linked Open Data, we’ll put it in a relational database with an API and an endpoint to query to generate that data. Once we have something we’ll look at offering a Triple Store on an ongoing basis. So, basically it is two independent data structures growing side by side with an awareness of each other. You can connect via API but we are also hoping for a demo of the Derrida library in BibFrame in the next year or two. At least a couple of the books there will be annotated, so you can see data from under the catalogue.

Q1) What about the commentary or research outputs from that…

A1) So, once we have our data, we’ll make a link to the catalogue and pull in from the researcher system. The link back to the catalogue is the harder bit.

Q2) I had a suggestion for a geographic system you might be interested in called Pelagios… And I don’t know if you could feed into that – it maps historical locations, fictional locations etc.

A2) There is a historical location atlas held by Newbury so there are shapefiles. Last I looked at Pelagios it was concerned more with the ancient world.

Comment) Latest iteration of funding takes it to Medieval and Arabic… It’s getting closer to your period.

A2) One thing that I really like about Pelagios is that they have split locations from their name, which accommodates multiple names, multiple imaginings and understandings etc. It’s a really neat data model. My model is more of a hack together – so in mine “London” is at the centre of modern London… Doesn’t make much sense for London but I do similar for Paris, that probably makes more sense. So you could go in deeper… There was a time when I was really interested in where all of Jay’s London Correspondents were… That was what put me into thinking about networking analysis… 60 letters are within London alone. I thought about disambiguating it more… But I was more interested in the people. So I went down a Royal Mail in London 1794 rabbit hole… And that was interesting, thinking about letters as a unit of information… Diplomatic notes fix conversations into a piece of paper you can refer to later – capturing the information and decisions. They go back and forth… So the ways letters came and went across London – sometimes several per day, sometimes over a week within the city…. is really interesting… London was and is extremely complicated.

Q3) I was going to ask about different letters. Those letters in London sound more like memos than a letter. But the others being sent are more precarious, at more time delay… My background is classics so there you tend to see a single letter – and you’d commission someone like Cicero to write a letter to you to stick up somewhere – but these letters are part of a conversation… So what is the difference in these transatlantic letters?

A3) There are lots of letters. I treat letters capaciously… If there is a “to” or “from” it’s in. So there are diplomatic notes between John Jay and George Hammond – a minister not an ambassadors as the US didn’t warrant that. Hammond was bad at his job – he saw a war coming and therefore didn’t see value in negotiating. They exchange notes, forward conversations back and forth. My data set for my research was all the letters sent to Jay, not those sent by Jay. I wanted to see what information Jay had available. With Hammond he kept a copy of all his letters to Jay, as evidence for very petty disputes. The letters from the West Indies were from Nathanial Cabbot Dickinson, who was sent as an information collector for the US government. Jay was sent to Europe on the treaty…. So the kick off for Jay’s treaty is changes that sees food supplies to British West Indies being stopped. Hammond actually couldn’t find a ship to take evidence against admiralty courts… They had to go through Philadelphia, then through London. So that cluster of letters include older letters. Letters from the coast include complaints from Angry American consuls…. There are urgent cries for help from the US. There is every possible genre… One of the things I love about American history is that Jay needs all the information he can get. When you map letters – like the Republic of Letters project at Stanford – you have this issue of someone writing to their tailor, not just important political texts. But for diplomats all information matters… Now you could say that a letter to a tailor is important but you could also say you are looking to map the boundaries of intellectual history here… Now in my system I map duplicates sent transatlantically, as those really matter, not all arrived, etc. I don’t map duplicates within London, as that isn’t as notable and is more about after the fact archiving.

Q4) Did John Jay keep diaries that put this correspondance in context?

A4) He did keep diaries… I do have analysis of how John Quincy Adams wrote letters in his time. He created subject headings, he analysed them, he recreated a filing system and way of managing his letters – he’d docket his letters, noting date received. He was like a human database… Hence naming my database after him.

Q5) There are a couple of different types of a tool like this. There is your use and then there is reuse of the engineering. I have correspondance earlier than Jay’s, mainly centred on London… Could I download the system and input my own letters?

A5) Yes, if you go to eafsd.org you’ll find more information there and you can try out the system. The database is Project Quincy and that’s on GitHub (GPL 3.0) and you can fire it up in Django. It comes with a nice interface. And do get in touch and I’ll update you on the system etc. It runs in the Django framework, can use any database underneath it. And there may be a smaller tractable letter database running underneath it.

Comment) On BibFrame… We have a Library and Information Studies programme which we teach BibFrame as part of that. We set up a project with a teaching tool which is also on GitHub – its linked from my staff page.

A quick note as follow up:

If you have research software that you have created for your work, and which you are making available under open source license, then I would recommend looking at some of the dedicated metajournals that will help you raise awareness of your project and ensure it is well documented for others to reuse. I would particularly recommend the Journal of Open Research Software (which, for full disclosure, I sit on the Editorial Advisory Board for), or the Journal of Open Source Software (as recommended by the lovely Daniel S. Katz in response to my post).

 

Jun 292016
 

Today I am at theFlood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Network (FCERM.net) 2016 Annual Assembly in Newcastle. The event brings together a really wide range of stakeholders engaged in flood risk management. I’m here to talk about crowd sourcing and citizen science, with both COBWEB and University of Edinburgh CSCS Network member hats on, as the event is focusing on future approaches to managing flood risk and of course citizen science offers some really interesting potential here. 

I’m going to be liveblogging today but as the core flooding focus of the day is not my usual subject area I particularly welcome any corrections, additions, etc. 

The first section of the day is set up as: Future-Thinking in Flood Risk Management:

Welcome by Prof Garry Pender

Welcome to our third and final meeting of this programme of network meetings. Back at our first Assembly meeting we talked about projects we could do together, and we are pleased to say that two proposals are in the process of submissions. For today’s Assembly we will be looking to the future and future thinking about flood risk management.  There is a lot in the day but also we encourage you to discuss ideas, form your own breakout groups if you want.

And now onto our first speaker. Unfortunately Prof Hayley Fowler, Professor of Climate Change Impacts, Newcastle University cannot be with us today. But Chris Kilby has stepped in for Hayley.

Chris Kilby, Newcastle University – What can we expect with climate change? 

Today is 29th June, which means that four years ago today we had the “Toon Monsoon” –  around 50mm in 2 hours and the full city was in lockdown. We’ve seen some incidents like this in the last year, in London, and people are asking about whether that is climate change. And that incident has certainly changed thinking and practice in the flood risk management community. It’s certainly changed my practice – I’m now working with sewer systems which is not something I ever imagined.

Despite spending millions of pounds on computer models, the so-called GCMs, these models seem increasingly hard to trust as the academic community realise how difficult to predict flooding risk actually is. It is near impossible to predict future rainfall – this whole area is riven with great uncertainty. There is a lot of good data and thinking behind them, but I now have far more concern about the usefulness of these models than 20 years ago – and that’s despite the fact that these models are a lot better than they were.

So, the climate is changing. We see some clear trends both locally and globally. A lot of these we can be confident of. Temperature rises and sea level rise we have great confidence in those trends. Rainfall seasonality change (more in winter, less in summer), and “heavy rainfall” in the UK at least, has been fairly well predicted. What has been less clear is the extremes of rainfall (convective), and extremes of rainfall like the Toon Monsoon. Those extremes are the hardest to predict, model, reproduce.

The so called UKCP09 projections, from 2009, are still there and are still the predictions being used but a lot has changed with the models we use, with the predictions we are making. We haven’t put out any new projections – although that was originally the idea when UK CP09 projections came  out. So, officially, we are still using UKCP09. That produced coherant indications of more frequent and heavy rainfall in the UK. And UKCP09 suggests 15-20% increased in Rmed in winter. But these projections are based on daily rainfall, what was not indicated here was the increased hourly rate. So some of the models looking at decreased summer rainfall, which means a lower mean rainfall per hour, but actually that isn’t looking clear anymore. So there are clear gaps here, firstly with hourly level convective storms, and all climate models have the issue of when it comes to “conveyer belt” sequences of storms, it’s not clear models reliably reproduce these.

So, this is all bad news so far… But there is some good news. More recent models (CMIP5) suggest some more summer storms and accommodate some convective summer storms. And those newer models – CMIP5 and those that follow – will feed into the new projections. And some more good news… The models used in CP09, even high resolution regional models, ran on a resolution of 25km and downscaled using weather generator to 5km but no climate change information beyond 25km. Therefore within the 25km grid box the rain fall is averaged and doesn’t adequately resolve movement of air and clouds, adding a layer of uncertainty, as computers aren’t big/fast enough to do a proper job of resolving individual cloud systems. But Hayley, and colleagues at the Met Office, have been running higher resolution climate models which are similar for weather forecasting models at something like a 1.5km grid size. Doing that with climate data and projecting over the long term do seem to resolve the convective storms. That’s good in terms of new information. Changes look quite substantial: summer precipitation intensities are expected to increase by 30-40% for short duration heavy events. That’s significantly higher than UKCP09 but there are limitations/caveats here too… So far the simulations are on the South East of England only, simulations have been over 10 years in duration, but we’d really want more like 100 year model. And there is still poor understanding of the process and of what makes a thunderstorm – thermodynamic versus circulation changes may conflict. Local thermodynamics are important but that issue of circulation, the impacts of large outbreaks of warm air from across the continent, and that conflict between those processes is far from clear in terms of what makes the difference.

So, Hayley has been working on this with the Met Office, and she now has an EU project with colleagues in the Netherlands which is producing interesting initial results. There is a lot still to do but it does look like a larger increase in convection than we’d previously thought. Looking at winter storms we’ve seen an increase over the last few years. Even the UKCP09 models predicted some of this but so far we don’t see a complete change attributable to climate change.

Now, is any of this new? Our working experience and instrumental records tend to only go back 30-40 years, and that’s not long enough to understand climate change. So this is a quick note of historical work which has been taking place looking at Newcastle flooding history. Trawling through the records we see that the Toon Monsoon isn’t unheard of – we’ve had them three or four times in the last century:

  • 16th Set 1913 – 2.85 inches (72mm) in 90 minutes
  • 22nd June 1941 – 1.97 inches (50mm) in 35 minutes and 3.74 inches (95mm) in 85 minutes
  • 28th June 2012 – 50mm in 90 minutes

So, these look like incidents every 40 years or so looking at historic records. That’s very different from the FEH type models and how they account for Fluvial flooding, storms, etc.

In summary then climate models produce inherently uncertain predictions but major issues remain with extremes in general, and hourly rainfall extremes. Overall picture that is emerging is of increasing winter rainfall (intensity and frequency), potential for increased (summer) convective rainfall, and in any case there is evidence that climate variability over the last century has included similar extremes to those observed in the last decade.

And the work that Hannah and colleagues are working on are generating some really interesting results so do watch this space for forthcoming papers etc.

Q&A

Q1) Is that historical data work just on Newcastle?

A1) David has looked at Newcastle and some parts of Scotland. Others are looking at other areas though.

Q2) Last week in London on EU Referendum day saw extreme rainfall – not as major as here in 2012 – but that caused major impacts in terms of travel, moving of polling station etc. So what else is taking place in terms of work to understand these events and impacts?

A2) OK, so impacts wise that’s a bit difference. And a point of clarification – the “Toon Monsoon” wasn’t really a Monsoon (it just rhymes with Toon). Now the rainfall in London and Brighton being reported looked to be 40mm in an hour, which would be similar or greater than in Newcastle so I wouldn’t downplay them. The impact of these events on cities particularly is significant. In the same way that we’ve seen an increase in fluvial flooding in the last ten years, maybe we are also seeing an increase in these more intense shorter duration events. London is certainly very vulnerable – especially with underground systems. Newcastle Central here was closed because of water ingress at the front – probably wouldn’t happen now as modifications have been made – and metro lines shut. Even the flooding event in Paris a few weeks back was most severely impacting the underground rail/metro, road and even the Louvre. I do worry that city planners have build in vulnerability for just this sort of event.

Q3) I work in flood risk management for Dumfries and Galloway – we were one of the areas experiencing very high rainfall. We rely heavily in models, rainfall predictions etc. But we had an event on 26th/27th January that wasn’t predicted at all – traffic washed off the road, broke instrument peaks, evacuations were planned. SEPA and the Met office are looking at this but there is a gap here to handle this type of extreme rainfall on saturated ground.

A3) I’m not aware of that event, more so with flooding on 26th December which caused flooding here in Newcastle and more widespread. But that event does sound like the issue for the whole of that month for the whole country. It wasn’t just extreme amounts of daily rainfall, but it was the fact that the previous month had also been very wet. That combination of several months of heavy rainfall, followed by extreme (if not record breaking on their own) events really is an issue – it’s the soul of hydrology. And that really hasn’t been recognised to date. The storm event statistics tend to be the focus rather than storms and the antecedent conditions. But this comes down to flood managers having their own rules to deal with this. In the North East this issue has arisen with the River Tyne where the potential for repurposing rivers for flood water retention has been looked at – but you need 30 day predictions to be able to do that. And if this extreme event following a long period of rain really changes that and poses challenges.

Comment – Andy, Environment Agency) Just to note that EA DEFRA Wales have a programme to look at how we extend FEH but also looking at Paleo Geomorphology to extend that work. And some interesting results already.

Phil Younge, Environment Agency – The Future of Flood Risk Management

My role is as Yorkshire Major Incident Recovery Manager, and that involves three things: repairing damage; investing in at-risk communities; and engaging with those communities. I was brought in to do this because of another extreme weather event, and I’ll be talking about the sorts of things we need to do to address these types of challenges.

So, quickly, a bit of background on the Environment Agency. We are the National flood risk agency for England. And we have a broad remit including risk of e.g. implications of nuclear power stations, management of catchment areas, work with other flood risk agencies etc. And we directly look after 7100 km of river, coastal and tidel raised defences; 22,600 defences, with assets worth over 20 billion. There are lots of interventions we can make to reduce the risk to communities. But how do we engage with communities to make them more resiliant for whatever the weather may throw at them? Pause on that thought and I’ll return to it shortly.

So I want to briefly talk about the winter storms of 2015-16. The Foss Barrier in York is what is shown in this image – and what happened there made national news in terms of the impact on central York. The water levels were unprecedentedly high. And this event was across the North of England, with record river levels across the region and we are talking probably 1 metre higher than we had experienced before, since records began. So the “what if” scenarios are really being triggered here. Some of the defences built as a result of events in 2009 were significantly overtopped, so we have to rethink what we plan for in the future. So we had record rainfall, 14 catchments experienced their highest ever river flow. But the investment we had put in made a difference, we protected over 20,000 properties during storms Desmond and Eva – even though some of those defences have been overtopped in 2009. We saw 15k households and 2,600 businesses flooded in 2009, with 150 communities visited by flood support officers. We issued 92 flood warnings – and we only do that when there is a genuine risk to loss of life. We had military support, temporary barriers in place, etc. for this event but the levels were truly unprecedented.

Significant damage was done to our flood defences across the North of England. In parts of Cumbria the speed and impact of the water, the force and energy of that water, have made huge damage to roads and buildings. We have made substantial work to repair those properties to the condition they were in before the rain. We are spending around £24 million to do that and do it at speed for October 2016.

But what do we do about this? Within UK PLC how do we forecast and manage the impact and consequence of flooding across the country? Following the flooding in Cumbria Oliver Letwin set up the Flood Risk Resilience Review, to build upon the plans the Environment Agency and the Government already has, to look at what must be done differently to support communities across the whole of England. The Review has been working hard across the last four months, and there are four strands I want to share:

  • Modelling extreme weather and stress testing resilience to flood risk – What do we plan for? What is a realistic and scalable scenario to plan for? Looking back at that Yorkshire flooding, how does that compare to existing understanding of risk. Reflecting on likely extreme consequences as a yardstick for extreme scenarios.
  • Assessing the resilience of critical local infrastructure – How do we ensure that businesses still run, that we can run as a community. For instance in Leeds on Boxing Day our telecommunications were impacted by flooding. So how can we address that? How do we ensure water supply and treatment is fit for these events? How can we ensure our hospitals and health provision is appropriate? How can we ensure our transport infrastructure is up and running. As an aside the Leeds Boxing Day floods happened on a non working day – the Leeds rail station is the second busiest outside London so if that had happened on a working day the impact could have been quite different, much more severe.
  • Temporary defences – how can we move things around the country to reduce risk as needed, things like barriers and pumps. How do we move those? How do we assess when they are needed? How do we ensure we had the experience and skills to use those temporary defences? A review by the military has been wrapped into this Resilience Review.
  • Flood risk in core cities – London is being used as a benchmark, but we are also looking at cities like Leeds and how we invest to keep these core key cities operating at times of heightened flood risk.

So, we are looking at these areas, but also how we can help our communities to be more resilient. The Environment Agency are looking at community engagement and that’s particularly part of what we are here to do, to develop and work with the wider FCERM community.

We do have an investment programme from 2015-2021 which includes substantial capital investment. We are investing significantly in the North of England (e.g. £54 per person for everyone in Yorkshire, Lancashire, and Cumbria, also East Midlands and Northumbria. And that long planning window is letting us be strategic, to invest based on evidence of need. And in the Budget 2016 there was an additional £700 million for flood risk management to better protect 4,745 homes and 1,700 businesses. There will also be specific injections of investment in places like Leeds, York, Carlisle etc. to ensure we can cope with incidents like we had last year.

One thing that really came out of last year was the issue of pace. As a community we are used to thinking slowly before acting, but there is a lot of pressure from communities and from Government to act fast, to get programmes of work underway within 12 months of flooding incidents. Is that fast? Not if you live in an affected area, but it’s faster than we may be used to. That’s where the wealth of knowledge and experience needs to be available to make the right decisions quickly. We have to work together to do this.

And we need to look at innovation… So we have created “Mr Nosy”, a camera to put down culverts(?) and look for inspect them. We used to (and do) have teams of people with breathing apparatus etc. to do this, but we can put Mr Nosy down so that a team of two can inspect quickly. That saves time and money and we need more innovations that allow us to do this.

The Pitt  Review (2008) looked at climate change and future flood and coastal risk management discussed the challenges. There are many techniques to better defend a community, we need the right blend of approach: “flood risk cannot be managed by building ever bigger “hard” defences”; natural measures are sustainable; multiple benefits for people, properties and wildlife; multi-agency approach is the way forward. Community engagement is also crucial to inform the community to understand the scale of the risk, to understand how to live with risk in a positive way. So, this community enables us to work with research, we need that community engagement, and we need efficiency – that big government investment needs to be well spent, we need to work quickly and to shortcut to answers quickly but those have to be the right answers. And this community is well placed to help us ensure that we are doing the right things so that we can assure the communities, and assure the government that we are doing the right things.

Q&A

Q1) When is that Review due to report?

A1) Currently scheduled for middle of July, but thereabouts.

Q2) You mentioned the dredging of watercourses… On the back of major floods we seem to have dredging, then more 6 weeks lately. For the public there is a perception that that will reduce flood risk which is really the wrong message. And there are places that will continue to flood – maybe we have to move coastal towns back? You can’t just keep building walls that are bigger and bigger.

A2) Dredging depends so much on the circumstances. In Calderdale we are making a model so that people can understand what impact different measures have. Dredging helps but it isn’t the only things. We have complex hydro-dynamic models but how do we simply communicate how water levels are influenced, the ways we influence the river channel. And getting that message across will help us make changes with community understanding. In terms of adaptation I think you are spot on. Some communities will probably adapt because of that, but we can’t just build higher and higher walls. I am keen that flood risk is part of the vision for a community, and how that can be managed. Historically in the North East cities turned their backs on the river, as water quality has improved that has changed, which is great but brings its own challenges.

Q3) You mentioned a model, is that a physical model?

A3) Yes, a physical model to communicate that. We do go out and dredge where it is useful, but in many cases it is not which means we have to explain that when communities think it is the answer to flooding. Physical models are useful, apps are good… But how do we get across some of the challenges we face in river engineering.

Q4) You talked about community engagement but can you say more about what type of engagement that is?

A4) We go out into the communities, listen to the experiences and concerns, gathering evidence, understanding what that flooding means for them. Working with the local authorities those areas are now producing plans. So we had an event in Calderdale marking six months since the flood, discussing plans etc. But we won’t please all the people all of the time, so we need to get engagement across the community. And we need that pace – which means bringing the community along, listening to them, bringing into our plans… That is challenging but it is the right thing to do. At the end of the day they are the people living there, who need to reassured about how we manage risk and deliver appropriate solutions.

The next section of the day looks at: Research into Practice – Lessons from Industry:

David Wilkes – Global Flood Resilience, Arup – Engineering Future Cities, Blue-Green Infrastructure

This is a bit of an amalgam of some of the work from the Blue-Green Cities EPSRC programme, which I was on the advisory board of, and some of our own work at Arup.

Right now 50% of the global population live in cities – over 3.2 billion people. As we look forward, by the middle of this century (2050) we are expecting growth so that around 70% of the world population will live in cities, so 6.3 billion.

We were asked a while ago to give some evidence to the Third Inquiry of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment info flood migration and resilience, and we wanted to give some clear recommendations that: (1) Spatial planning is the key to long term resilience; (2) Implement programme of improved surface water flood hazard mapping; (3) Nurture capacity within professional community to ensure quality work in understanding flood risk takes place, and a need to provide career paths as part of that nurturing.

We were called into New York to give some support after Hurricane Sandy. They didn’t want a major reaction, a big change, instead they wanted a bottom up resilient approach, cross cutting areas including transportation, energy, land use, insurance and infrastructure finance. We proposed an iterative cycle around: redundancy; flexibility; safe failure; rapid rebound; constant learning. This is a quantum shift from our approach in the last 100 years so that learning is a crucial part of the process.

So, what is a Blue-Green city? Well if we look at the January 2014 rainfall anomaly map we see the shift from average annual rainfall. We saw huge flooding scarily close to London at that time, across the South East of England. Looking at the December 2015 we see that rainfall anomaly map again showing huge shift from the average, again heavily in the South East, but also South West and North of England. So, what do we do about that? Dredging may be part of this… But we need to be building with flood risk in mind, thinking laterally about what we do. And this is where the Blue-Green city idea comes in. There are many levels to this: Understand water cycle at catchment scale; Align with other drivers and development needs; identify partners, people who might help you achieve things, and what their priorities are; build a shared case for investment and action; check how it is working and learn from experience.

Looking, for instance, at Hull we see a city long challenged by flooding. It is a low lying city so to understand what could be done to reduce risk we needed to take a multi faceted view across the long term: looking at frequency/likelihood of risk, understand what is possible, looking at how changes and developments can also feed into local development. We have a few approaches available… There is the urban model, of drainage from concrete into underground drainage – the Blue – and the green model of absorbing surface water and managing it through green interventions.

In the Blue-Green Cities research approach you need to work with City Authority and Community Communications; you need to Model existing Flood Risk Management; Understand Citizens Behaviour, and you need to really make a clear Business Case for interventions. And as part of that process you need to overcome barriers to innovation – things like community expectations and changes, hazards, etc. In Newcastle, which volunteered to be a Blue-Green city research area, we formed the Newcastle Learning and Action Alliance to build a common shared understanding of what would be effective, acceptable, and practical. We really needed to understand citizens’ behaviours – local people are the local experts and you need to tap into that and respect that. Please really value Blue-Green assets but only if they understand how they work, the difference that they make. And indeed people offered to maintain Blue-Green assets – to remove litter etc. but again, only if they value and understand their purpose. And the community really need to feel a sense of ownership to make Blue-Green solutions work.

It is also really important to have modelling, to show that, to support your business case. Options include hard and soft defences. The Brunton Park flood alleviation scheme included landscape proposals, which provided a really clear business case. OfWATT wanted investment from the energy sector, they knew the costs of conventional sewerage, and actually this alternative approach is good value, and significantly cheaper – as both sewer and flood solution – than the previous siloed approach. There are also Grey-Green options – landscaping to store water in quite straightforward purposes, more imaginative purposes, and the water can be used for irrigation, wash down, etc. Again, building the business case is absolutely essential.

In the Blue-Green Cities research we were able to quantify direct and indirect costs to different stakeholders – primary industry, manufacturing, petroleum and chemical, utilities sector, construction, wholesale and retail, transport, hotels and restaurants, info and communication, financial and professional, other services. When you can quantify those costs you really have a strong case for the importance of interventions that reduce risk, that manage water appropriately. That matters whether spending tax payers money or convincing commercial partners to contribute to costs.

Commission of Inquiry into flood resilience of the future: “Living with Water” (2015), from the All Party Group for Excellence in the Built Environment, House of Commons, talk about “what is required is a fundamental change in how we view flood management…”

Q&A

Q1) I wanted to ask about how much green we would have to restore to make a difference? And I wanted to ask about the idea of local communities as the experts in their area but that can be problematic…

A1) I wouldn’t want to put a figure on the green space, you need to push the boundaries to make a real difference. But even small interventions can be significant. If the Blue-Green asset interrupts the flood path, that can be hugely significant. In terms of the costs of maintaining Blue-Green assets, well… I have a number of pet projects and ideas and I think that things like parks and city bike ways, and to have a flood overflow that also encourages the community to use it, will clearly be costlier than flat tarmac. But you can get Sustrans, local businesses, etc. to support that infrastructure and, if you get it right, that supports a better community. Softer, greener interventions require more maintenance but that can give back to the community all year round, and there are ways to do that. You made another point about local people being the experts. Local people do know about their own locality. Arguably as seasoned professionals we also know quite a bit. The key thing is to not be patronising, not to pretend you haven’t listened, but to build concensus, to avoid head to head dispute, to work with them.

Stephen Garvin, Director Global Resilience Centre, BRE – Adapting to change – multiple events and FRM

I will be talking about the built environment, and adaptations of buildings for flood resilience. I think this afternoon’s workshops can develop some of these areas a bit. I thought it would be good to reflect on recent flooding, and the difficulty of addressing these situations. The nature of flooding can vary so greatly in terms of the type and nature of floods. For instance the 2007 floods were very different from the 2012 flooding and fro the 2014 floods in terms of areas effected, the nature of the flood, etc. And then we saw the 2015/16 storms – the first time that every area at risk of flooding in Scotland and the North of the UK flooded – usually not all areas are hit at once.

In terms of the impact water damage is a major factor. So, for instance in Cumbria 2015, we had record rainfall, over-topped defences, Rivers Eden and Petrol, Water depth of 1.5m in some properties in Carlisle. That depth of flooding was very striking. A lot of terraced properties, with underfloor voids, were affected in Carlisle. And water was coming in from every direction. We can’t always keep water from coming in, so in some ways the challenge is getting water out of the properties. How do we deal with it? Some of these properties had had flood resilience measures before – such as raising the height of electrical sockets – but they were not necessarily high enough or useful enough in light of the high water. And properties change hands, are rented to new tenants, extensions are added – the awareness isn’t consistently there and some changes increase vulnerability to flooding.

For instance, one property had, after 2005 less severe floods had led to flood prevention measures being put in place – door surrounds, airbrick covers, and despite those measures water inundated the property. Why? Well there had been a conservatory added which, despite best efforts to seal it, let in a great deal of water. They had also added an outdoor socket for a tumble dryer a few feet off the ground. So we have to think about these measures – are they appropriate? Do they manage the risk sufficiently? How do we handle the flood memory? You can have a flood resilient kitchen installed, but what happens when it is replaced?

There are two approaches really: Flood resilience essentially allows the water to come in, but the building and its materials are able to recover from flooding; by comparison Flood resistance is about keeping water out, dry proof materials etc. And there are two dimensions here as we have to have a technical approach in design, construction, flood defences, sustainable approaches to drainage; and non-technical approaches – policy, regulation, decision making and engagement, etc. There are challenges here – construction are actually very small companies on the whole – more than 5 people is a big company. And we see insurers who are good at swinging into action after floods, but they do not always consider resilience or resistance that will have a long term impact so we are working to encourage that approach, that idea of not replacing like for like but replacing with better more flood resilient or resistant options. For instance there are solutions for apertures that are designed to keep water out to high depths – strong PVC doors, reinforced, and multi-point lockable for instance. In Germany, in Hamburg they have doors like this (though perforated brick work several feet higher!). You can also use materials to change materials, change designs of e.g. power sockets, service entries, etc.

Professor Eric Nehlsen came up with the idea of cascading flood compartments with adaptive response, starting from adaptation to flooding dry and wet-proofing (where we tend to work) through to more ambitious ideas like adaptation by floating and amphibious housing… Some US coastal communities take the approach of raising properties off the ground, or creating floating construction, particularly where hurricanes occur, but that doesn’t feel like the right solution in many cases here… But we have to understand and consider alternative approaches.

There are standards for floor repair – supported by BRE and industry – and there are six standards that fit into this area, which outline approaches to Flood risk assessment, planning for FRR, Property surveys, design and specification of flood resilient repair, construction work, maintenance and operation (some require maintenance over time). I’m going to use those standards for an FRR demonstration. We have offices in Watford in a Victorian Terrace, a 30 square metre space where we can test cases – have done this for energy efficiency before, have now done for flooding. This gives us a space to show what can be achieved, what interventions can be made, to help insurers, construction, policy makers see the possibilities. The age of the building means it is a simple construction – concrete floor and brick walls – so nothing fancy here. You can imagine some tests of materials, but there are no standards for construction products for repair and new builds for flood resistance and resilience. It is still challenging to drive adoption though – essentially we have to disrupt normal business and practice to see that change to resistant or resilient building materials.

Q&A

Q1) One of the challenges for construction is that insurance issue of replacing “like by like”…

A1) It is a major challenge. Insurance is renewed every year, and often online rather than by brokers. We are seeing some insurers introducing resilience and resistance but not wide-scale yet. Flood resilience grants through ECLG for Local Authorities and individuals are helpful, but no guarantee of that continuing. And otherwise we need to make the case to the property owner but that raises issues of affordability, cost, accessibility. So, a good question really.

Jaap Flikweert – Flood and Coastal Management Advisor, Royal HaskoningDHV – Resilience and adaptation: coastal management for the future

I’m going to give a practitioners perspective on ways of responding to climate change. I will particularly talk about adaptation which tends to be across three different areas/meanings: Protection (reduce likelihood); Resilience (reduce consequence); and Adaptation, which I’m going to bluntly call “Relocation” (move receptors away). And I’ll talk about inland flooding, coastal flooding and coastal erosion.. But I tend not to talk as much on coastal erosion as if we focus only on risk we can miss the opportunities. But I will be talking about risk – and I’ll be highlighting some areas for research as I talk.

So, how do we do our planning to think about how we do our city planning to manage the risk. I think the UK – England and Wales especially – are at the lead here in terms of Shoreline Management Plans – they are long term and broad scale view, there is a policy for coastal defence (HtL (Hold the Line)/MR (Managed Realignment)/NAI (No Active Intervention), Strong interaction with other sectors. Scotland are making progress here too. But there is a challenging to be flexible, to think about the process of change.

Setting future plans can be challenging – there is a great deal of uncertainty in terms of climate change, in terms of finances. We used to talk about a precautionary approach but I think we need to talk about “Managed-adaptive” approaches with decision pathways. For instance The Thames Barrier is an example of this sort of approach. This isn’t necessarily new work, there is a lot of good research to date about how to do this but it’s much more about mainstreaming that understanding and approach.

When we think about protection we need to think about how we sustain defences in a future with climate change? We will see loading increase (but extent uncertain); value at risk will increase (but extent uncertain); coastal squeeze and longshore impacts. We will see our beaches disappear – with both environmental and flood risk implications. An example from the Netherlands shows HtL feasible and affordable up to about 6m in sea level rise; with sandy solutions (also deal with coastal squeeze), and radical innovation is of vital importance.

We can’t translate that to the UK, it is a different context, but we need to see this as inspirational. In the UK we won’t hold the line for ever… So how do we deal with that? We can think about the structures, and I think there is research opportunity here about how we justify buying time for adaption, and how we design for short life (~20 years), and how we develop adaptable solutions. We can’t Hold the Line forever, but some communities are not ready for that change so we have to work on what we can achieve and how.

In terms of Resilience we need to think about coastal flooding – in principle not different from inland flooding, design to minimise impact, but in practice that is more difficult with lower change/higher consequence raising challenges of less awareness, more catastrophic if it does happen. New Orleans would be a pertinent example here. And when we see raised buildings – as David mentioned – those aren’t always suitable for the UK, they change how a community looks which may not be acceptable… Coastal erosion raises its own challenges too.

When we think of Adaptation/Relocation we have to acknowledge that protection is always technically possible but what if it was unaffordable or unsustainable. For example a disaster in Grahamstown, Queensland saw a major event in January 2011 lead to protective measures but the whole community moving in land in December 2011. There wasn’t a delay on funding etc. as this was an emergency, it forced the issue. But how can we do that in a planned way? We have Coastal change Pathfinders. This approach is very valuable including actual relocation, awareness, engagement lessons, policy innovation. But the approach is very difficult to mainstream because of funding, awareness, planning policy, local authority capacity. And here too I see research opportunities around making the business case for adaptation/relocation.

To take an example here that a colleague is working on. Fairbourne, Gwynedd, on the West Coast of Wales, is a small community, with a few buildings from the 1890s which has grown to 400 properties and over 800 people. Coastal defences were improved in 1981, and again in 2012. But this is a community which really shouldn’t be in that location in the long term, they are in the middle of flood plans. The Parish Council have adopted an SMP policy which has goals across different timings: in the short term to Hold the Line; medium term – Managed Realignment, and long term – No Active Intervention. There is a need to plan now to look at how we move from one position to another… So this isn’t dissemination needed here, it is true communication and engagement with the community, identifying who that community is to ensure that is effective.

So, in closing I think there is research needed around design for short life; consultation and engagement – about useful work done, lessons learned, moving from informing to involving to ownership, defining what a community is; Making the business case for supporting adaptation/relocation – investment in temporary protection to buy time; investment in increasing communities’ adaptive capacity; value of being prepared vs unprepared – damage (to the nation) such as lack of mobility, employability, burden on health and social services. And I’d like to close with the question: should we consider relocation for some inland areas at risk of flooding?

Q&A

Q1) That closing question… I was driving to a settlement in our area which has major flood risk, is frequently cut off by snow in the summer. There are few jobs there, it is not strategically key although it has a heritage value perhaps. We could be throwing good money after bad to protect a small settlement like that which has minimal contribution. So I would agree that we should look at relocation of some inland properties. Also, kudos to the parish council of Fairbourne for adopting that plan. We face real challenges as politicians are elected on 5 year terms, and getting them persuaded that they need to get communities to understand the long term risks and impacts is really challenging.

A1) I think no-one would claim that Fairbourne was an easy process. The Council adopted the SMP but who goes to parish meetings? But BBC Wales picked it up, rather misreported the timelines, but that raised interest hugely. But it’s worth noting that a big part of Gwynedd and mid Wales faces these challenges. Understanding what we preserve, where investment goes… How do we live with the idea of people living below sea level. The Dutch manage that but in a very different way and it’s the full nation who are on board, very different in the UK.

Q2) What about adopting Dutch models for managing risk here?

A2) We’ve been looking at various ways that we can learn from Dutch approaches, and how that compares and translates to a UK context.

And now, in a change to plans, we are rejuggling the event to do some reflection on the network – led by Prof. Garry Pender – before lunch. We’ll return with 2 minute presentations after that. Garry is keen that all attending complete the event feedback forms on the network, the role of the network, resources and channels such as the website, webinars, events, etc. I am sure FCERM.net would also welcome comments and feedback by email from those from this community who are not able to attend today. 

Sharing Best Practice – Just 2-minutes – Mini presentations from delegates sharing output, experience and best practice

 

I wasn’t able to take many notes from this session, as I was presenting a 2 minute session from my COBWEB colleague Barry Evans (Aberystwyth University), on our co-design work and research associated with our collaboration with the Tal-y-bont Floodees in Mid-Wales. In fact various requirements to re-schedule the day meant that the afternoon was more interactive but also not really appropriate for real time notation so, from hereon, I’m summarising the day. 

At this point in the day we moved to the Parallel Breakout sessions on Tools for the Future. I am leading Workshop 1 on crowd sourcing so won’t be blogging them, but include their titles here for reference:

  • Workshop 1 – Crowd-Sourcing Data and Citizen Science – An exploration of tools used to source environmental data from the public led by Nicola Osborne CSCS Network with case studies from SEPA. Slides and resources from this session will be available online shortly.
  • Workshop 2 – Multi-event modelling for resilience in urban planning An introduction to tools for simulating multiple storm events with consideration of the impacts on planning in urban environments with case studies from BRE and Scottish Government
  • Workshop 3 – Building Resilient Communities Best-practice guidance on engaging with communities to build resilience, led by Dr Esther Carmen with case studies from the SESAME project

We finished the day with a session on Filling the Gaps– Future Projects:

Breakout time for discussion around future needs and projects

I joined a really interesting Community Engagement breakout session, considering research gaps and challenges. Unsurprisingly much of the discussion centred on what we mean by community and how we might go about identifying and building relationships with communities. In particular there was a focus on engaging with transient communities – thinking particularly about urban and commuter areas where there are frequent changes in the community. 

Final Thoughts from FCERM.net – Prof. Garry Pender 

As the afternoon was running behind Garry closed with thank yous to the speakers and contributors to the day. 

Jun 272016
 
This afternoon I’m at the eLearning@ed/LTW monthly Showcase and Network event, which this month focuses on Assessment and Feedback.
I am liveblogging these notes so, as usual, corrections and updates are welcomed. 
The wiki page for this event includes the agenda and will include any further notes etc.: https://www.wiki.ed.ac.uk/x/kc5uEg
Introduction and Updates, Robert Chmielewski (IS Learning, Teaching and Web)
Robert consults around the University on online assessment – and there is a lot of online assessment taking place. And this is an area that is supported by everybody. Students are interested in submitting and receiving feedback online, but we also have technologists who recognise the advantages of online assessment and feedback, and we have the University as a whole seeing the benefits around, e.g. clarity over meeting timelines for feedback. The last group here is the markers and they are more and more appreciative of the affordances of online assessment and feedback. So there are a lot of people who support this, but there are challenges too. So, today we have an event to share experiences across areas, across levels.
Before we kick off I wanted to welcome Celeste Houghton. Celeste: I an the new Head of Academic Development for Digital Education at the University, based at IAD, and I’m keen to meet people, to find out more about what is taking place. Do get in touch.
eSubmission and eFeedback in the College of Humanities and Social Science, Karen Howie (School of History, Classics & Archaeology)
This project started about 2-3 years back in February 2015. The College of Humanities and Social Sciences wants 100% electronic submission/feedback where “pedagogically appropriate” by 2016/17 academic year. Although I’m saying electronic submission/feedback the in-between marking part hasn’t been prescribed. The project board for this work includes myself, Robert and many others any of whom you are welcome to contact with any questions.
So, why do this? Well there is a lot of student demand for various reasons – legibility of comments; printing costs; enabling remote submission. For staff the benefits are ore debatable but they can include (as also reported by Jisc) increased efficiency, and convenience. Benefits for the institution (again as reported by Jisc) include measuring feedback response rates, and efficiencies that free up time for student support.
Now some parts of CHSS are already doing this at the moment. Social and Political Studies are using an in-house system. Law are using Grademark. And other schools have been running pilots, most of them with GradeMark, and these have been mostly successful. But we’ve had lots of interesting conversations around these technologies, around quality of assessment, about health and safety implications of staring at a screen more.
We have been developing a workflow and process for the college but we want this to be flexible to schools’ profiles – so we’ve adopted a modular approach that allows for handling of groups/tutors; declaration of own work; checking for non-submitters; marking sheets and rubrics; moderation, etc. And we are planning for the next year ahead, working closely with the Technology Enhanced Learning group in HSS. We are having some training – for markers it’s a mixture of in-School and is with College input/support; and for administrators by learning technologies in the school or through discussions with IS LTW EDE. To support that process we have screencasts and documentation currently in development. PebblePad isn’t part of this process, but will be.
To build confidence in the system we’re facing some myth busting etc. For instance, anonymity vs pastoral care issues – a receipt dropbox has been created; and we have an agreement with EUSA that we can deanonymise if identification is not provided. And we have also been looking at various other regulations etc. to ensure we are complying and/or interpreting them correctly.
So, those pilots have been running. We’ve found that depending on your preocesses the administration can be complex. Students have voiced concerns around “generic” feedback. Students were anxious – very anxious in some cases. It is much quicker for markers to get started with marking, as soon as the deadline has passed. But there are challenges though – including when networks go down, for instance there was an (unusual) DDOS attack during our pilots that impacted our timeline.
Feedback from students seems relatively good. 14 out of 36 felt quality of marking was better than on paper – but 10 said it was less good. 29 out of 36 said feedback was more legible. 10 felt they had received more feedback than noral, 11 less. 3 out of 36 would rather submit on paper, 31 would would rather submit online. In our first pilot with first year students around 10% didn’t look at feedback for essay, 36% didn’t look at tutorial feedback. In our second pilot about 10% didn’t look at either assignments submissions.
Markers reported finding the electronic marking easier, but some felt that the need to work on screen was challenging or less pleasant than marking on paper.
Q&A
Q1) The students who commented on less or more feedback than normal – what were they comparing to?
A1) To paper-based marking, which they would have had for other courses. So when we surveyed them they would have had some paper-based and some electronic feedback already.
Q2) A comment about handwriting and typing – I read a paper that said that on average people write around 4 times more words when typing than when hand writing. And in our practice we’ve found that too.
A2) It may also be student perceptions – looks like less but actually quite a lot of work. I was interested in students expectations that 8 days was a long time to turn around feedback.
Q2) I think that students need to understand how much care has been taken, and that that adds to how long these things take.
Q3) You pointed out that people were having some problems and concerns – like health and safety. You are hoping for 100% take up, and also that backdrop of the Turnitin updates… Are there future plans that will help us to move to 100%
A3) The health and safety thing came up again and again… But it’s maybe to do with how we cluster assignments. In terms of Turnitin there are updates but not all of those emerge rather slowly – there is a bit more competition now, and some frustration across the UK, so looking likely that there will be more positive developments.
Q4) It was interesting that idea that you can’t release some feedback until it is all ready… For us in the Business School we ended up releasing feedback when there was a delay.
A4) In our situation we had some marks ready in a few days, others not due for two weeks. A few days would be fair, a few weeks would be problematic. It’s an expectation management issue.
Comment) There is also a risk that is marking is incomplete or partially done it can cause students great distress…
Current assessment challenges, Dr. Neil Lent (Institute for Academic Development)
My focus is on assessment and feedback. Initially the expectation was that I’d be focused on how to do assessment and feedback “better”. And you can do that to an extent but… The main challenge we face is a cultural rather than a technical challenge. And I mean technical in the widest sense – technological, yes, but also technical in terms of process and approach. I also think we are talking about “cultures” rather than “culture” when we think about this.
So, why are we focussing on assessment and feedback? Well we have low NSS scores, low league table position and poor student experience reported around this area. Also issues of (un)timely feedback, low utility, and the idea that we are a research-led university and the balance of that and learning and teaching. Some of these areas are more myth than reality. I think as a university we now have an unambiguous focus on teaching and learning but whether that has entirely permeated our organisational culture is perhaps arguable. When you have competing time demands it is hard to do things properly, and the space to actually design better assessment and feedback.
So how do we handle this? Well is we look at the “Implementation Staircase” (Reynolds and Saunders 1987) we can see that it comes from senior management, then to colleges, to schools, to programmes, to courses, to students. Now you could go down that staircase or you can go back up… And that requires us to think about our relationships with students. Is this model dialogic? Maybe we need another model?
Activity theory (Engestrom 1999) is a model for a group like a programme team, or course cohort, etc. So we have a subject here – it’s all about the individual in the context of an object, the community, mediating tool, rules and conventions, division of labour. This is a classic activity theory idea, with modern cultural aspects included. So for us the subject might be the marker, the object the assignment, the mediating tool something like the technological tools or processes, rules and conventions may include the commitment to return marks within 2 weeks, division of labour could include colleagues and sharing of marking, community could be students. It’s just a way to conceptualise this stuff.
A cultural resolution would see culture as practice and discourse. Review and reflection need to be embedded and internalised way of life. We have multiple stakeholders here – not always the teacher or the marker. And we need a bit of risk taking – but that’s scary when we are thinking about risk taking. That can feel at odds with the need to perform at a high level but risk taking is needed. And we need best practice to share experience in events such as this.
So there are technical things we could do better, do right. But the challenge we face is more of a collective one. We need to create time and space to genuinely reflect on their teaching practice, to interact with that culture. But you don’t change practice overnight. And we have to think about our relationship with our students, and thinking about how we encourage and enable them to be part of the process, and building up their own picture of what good/bad work looks like. And then the subject, object, culture will be closer together. Sometimes real change comes from giving examples of what works, inspiring through those examples etc. Technological tools can make life easier, if you have the time to spend time to understand them and how to make them work for you.
Q&A
Q1) Not sure if it’s a question or comment or thought… But I’m wondering what we take from those NSS scores, and if that’s what we should work to or if we should think about assessment and feedback in a different kind of paradigm.
A1) When we think about processes we can kid ourselves that this is all linear, it’s cause and effect. It isn’t that simple… The other thing about concentrating on giving feedback on time, so they can make use of it. But when it comes to the NSS it commodifies feedback, which challenges the idea of feedback as dialogic. There are cultural challenges for this. And I think that’s where risk, and the potential for interesting surprises come in…
Q2) As a parent of a teenager I now wonder about personal resilience, to be able to look at things differently, especially when they don’t feel confident to move forwards. I feel that for staff and students a problem can arise and they panic, and want things resolved for them. I think we have to move past that by giving staff and students the resilience so that they can cope with change.
A2) My PhD was pretty much on that. I think some of this comes from the idea of relatively safe risk taking… That’s another kind of risk taking. As a sector we have to think that through. Giving marks for everything risks everything not feeling like a safe space.
Q3) Do we not need to make learning the focus.
A3) Schools and universities push that grades, outcomes really matter when actually we would say “no, the learning is what matters”, but that’s hard in the wider context in which the certificate in the hand is valued.
Comment) Maybe we need that distinction that Simon Riley talked about at this year’s eLearning@ed conference, of distinguishing between the task and the assignment. So you can fail the task but succeed that assignment (in that case referring to SLICCs and the idea that the task is the experience, the assignment is writing about it whether it went well or poorly).
Not captured in full here: a discussion around the nature of electronic submission, and students concern about failing at submitting their assignments or proof of learning… 
Assessment Literacy: technology as facilitator, Prof. Susan Rhind (Assistant Principal Assessment and Feedback)
I’m going to talk about assessment literacy, and about technology as a facilitator. I’m also going to talk about something I’m hoping you may be able to advise about.
So, what is assessment literacy? It is being talked about a lot in Higher Education at the moment. There is a book all about it (Price et al 2012) that talks about competencies and practices. For me what is most important is the idea of ensuring some practical aspects are in place, that students have an understanding of the nature, meaning and level of assessment standards, that they have skills in self and peer assessment. The idea is to narrow the gap between students and teaching staff. Sadler (1989,2010) and Bod and Molloy (2013) talk about students needing to understand the purpose of assessment and process of assessment. It means understanding assessment as a central part of curriculum design (Medland 2016, Gibbs and Dunbar-Goddet, 2009). We need assessment and feedback at the core, at the heart of our learning and teaching.
We also have to understand assessment in the context of quality of teaching and quality of assessment and feedback. For me there is a pyramid of quality (with programme at bottom, individual at top, course in the middle). When we talk about good quality feedback we have to conceptualise it, as Neil talked about, as a dialogic process. So there is individual feedback… But there is also course design and programme design in terms of assessment and feedback. No matter how good a marker is in giving feedback, it is much more effective when the programme design supports good quality feedback. In this model technology can be a facilitator. For instance I wanted to plug Fiona Hale’s Edinburgh Learning Design Roadmap (ELDeR) workshops and processes. This sort of approach lets us build for longer term improvement in these areas.
Again, thinking about feedback and assessment quality, and things that courses can do, we have a table here that compares different types of assessment, the minimum pre-assessment activity to ensure they have assessment literacy, and then enhancement examples. a minimum requirement for feedback and some exemplars for marking students work.
An example here would be work we’ve done at the Vet School around student use of Peerwise MCQs – here students pushed for use in 3rd year, and for revision at the end of the programme. By the way if you are interested in assessment literacy, or have experience to share, we now have a channel for Assessment and Feedback, and for Assessment Literacy on MediaHopper.
Coming back to that exemplars of students work… We run Learning to be an Examiner sessions which students could take part in, and which includes the opportunity to mark exemplars of students work. That leads to conversations, and exchange of opinions, to understand the reasons behind the marking. And I would add that any place we can bring the students and teaching staff closer together only benefits us and our NSS scores. The themes coming out of this work was that there was real empathy for staff, and quelling fears. Students also noted that as they took part, the better they understood the requirements, the less important feedback felt.
There have been some trials using ACJ (Adaptive Comparative Judgement), which is the idea that with enough samples of work you can use comparison to put work into an order or ranking. So you present staff several assignments and they can rank them. We ran this as an experiment as it provides a chance for students to see others’ work and compare to their own as well as others. We ran a survey after this experiment but students felt seeing others’ responses, and also to understand others’ approaches to comparison and marking.
So, my final point here is a call for help… As we think about what excites and encourages students I would like to find a Peerwise like system for free text type questions. Student feedback was good, but they wanted to do that for a lot more questions than just those we were able to set. So I would like to take Peerwise away from the MCQ context so that students could see and comment and engage with each others work. And I think that anything that brings students and staff closer together in their understanding is important.
Q&A
Q1) How do we approach this in a practical way. We’ve asked students to look at exemplar essays but we bump into problems doing them. It’s easy to persuade those who wrote good essays and have moved to later years, but it’s hard to find those with poorer.
A1) We were doing this with short questions, not long essays. Hazel Marzetti was encouraging sharing of essays and they were reluctant. I think there’s something around expectation management – creating the idea up front that work will be available for others… That one has to opt out rather than opt out. Or you can mock up essays but you lose that edge of it being the real thing.
Q2) On the idea of exemplars… How do we feel about getting students to do a piece of work, and then sharing that with others on, say, the same topic. You could pick a more tangental topic, but that risks being less relevant, that a good essay is properly authentic… But for others there is a risk of copying potential.
A2) I think that it’s about understanding risk and context. We don’t use the idea of “model answers” but instead “outline answers”. Some students do make that connection… But they are probably those with a high degree of assessment literacy who will do well anyway.
Q3) By showing good work, showing a good range with similar scores, but also when you show students exemplars you don’t just give out the work, you annotate it, point out what makes it good, features that make it notable… A way to inspire students and help them develop assessment literacy when judging others’ work.
And with that our main presentations have drawn to a close with a thank you for all our lovely speakers and contributors.  We are concluding with an Open Discussion on technology in Assessment and Feedback.
Susan: Yeah, I’m quite a fan of mandatory activities but which do not carry a mark. But I’d seriously think about not assigning marks for all feedback activities… 
Comment: But the students can respond with “if it’s so important, why doesn’t this carry credit?”
Susan: Well you can make it count. For instance our vet students have to have a portfolio, and are expected to discuss that annually. That has been zero credits before (now 10 credits) but still mandatory. Having said that our students are not as focused on marking in that way.
Comment: I don’t want to be the “ah, but…” person here… But what if a student fails that mandatory non marked work? What’s the make-up task?
Susan: For us we are able to find a suitable bespoke negotiated exercise for the very few students this applies to…
Comment: What about equity?
Susan: I think removing the mark actually removes that baggage from the argument… Because the important thing here is doing the right tasks for the professional world. I think we should be discussing this more in the future.  
And with that Robert is drawing the event to a close. The next eLearning@ed/LTW monthly meet up is in July, on 27th July and will be focused on the programme for attaining the CMALT accreditation.