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22 Oct - "Social Media Research after the Fake News Debacle" Lecture by Richard Rogers, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The visit of Richard Rogers is organised in collaboration with Giovanna Cosenza from the Department of Philosophy and Communication Studies.

Oct 22, 2019 from 05:30 PM to 07:30 PM

Where Sala Rossa, Palazzo Marchesini, via Marsala 26, Bologna (first floor)

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Social media, once heralded as a means to strengthen and extend social bonds and research about ‘tastes and ties’, has been critiqued for its commodification of the personal data they collect and the free labour they exploit. Its algorithms also have been the source of scrutiny for augmenting filter bubbles and the sharing of similar content among the like-minded. More recently, social media have been implicated in the debacle surrounding fake news and Russian influencing campaigns, where the platforms were said to aid in both the supercharging as well as the weaponisation of propaganda, often in the form of memes. Social media continues to be held accountable, as witnessed in compelling congressional and parliamentary testimony, for the abuse of their platforms, not only in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but through sophisticated audience segmentation and profiling that allows for the micro-targeting of ads. Through all the critique, diagnostics work (algorithmic auditing), ad platform deconstruction as well as repurposing research (digital methods) have been undertaken to study both how and for whom the media ‘work’ but also whether one can study social trends and cultural preferences through likes and shares, among other in-built indicators. The course provides a thorough review of the critique as well as the critical empirical study both of and with social media.  

 

Richard Rogers is the author of Digital Methods (MIT Press, 2013), which won ICA’s Outstanding Book Award in 2014, The End of the Virtual (Amsterdam University Press, 2009), Information Politics on the Web (MIT Press, 2004/2005), and most recently Doing Digital Methods (Sage, 2019). He is also director of the Digital Methods Initiative (DMI). DMI is one of the leading research groups within Internet Studies, and specialises in designing methods and tools for repurposing online devices and platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Google etc.) for research into social and political issues. Instead of migrating existing methods onto the web, DMI writes and repurposes tools specifically designed to run online. The DMI toolbox includes, among other things, tools that can extract URLs from different sources, scrape images, extract datasets from Facebook, scrape Pinterest for pins, capture tweets, extract data from YouTube, compare images across language versions of Wikipedia etc. One of the most well-known tools developed by DMI is the Issue Crawler, a server-side Web crawler, co-link machine and graph visualizer, which maps online networks working in the same issue area (cf. wiki.digitalmethods.net/Dmi/ToolIssueCrawler)