Readings for SDP2014

Readings are not required, but recommended. They are intended to help you maximise what you can get out of each seminar, either as preparatory reading if you feel you have no knowledge of the subject at all, or as additional reading after the event to follow up on some of the themes raised.

Internet Geographies: Data Shadows and Digital Divisions of Labour [Monday 7th, 11:00]

Mark Graham, Oxford Internet Institute

Information is the raw material for much of the work that goes on in the contemporary global economy, and there are few people and places that remain entirely disconnected from international and global economic processes. As such, it is important to understand who produces and reproduces, who has access, and who and where are represented by information in our contemporary knowledge economy. This talk discusses inequalities in traditional knowledge and information geographies, before moving to examine the Internet-era potentials for new and more inclusionary patterns. It concludes that rather than democratizing platforms of knowledge sharing, the Internet seems to be enabling a digital division of labour in which the visibility, voice and power of the North is reinforced rather than diminished.

Graham, M., Hogan, B., Straumann, R. K., and Medhat, A. 2014. Uneven Geographies of User-Generated Information: Patterns of Increasing Informational Poverty. Annals of the Association of American Geographers (forthcoming).

Graham, M. 2014. The Knowledge Based Economy and Digital Divisions of Labour. In Companion to Development Studies, 3rd edition, eds V. Desai, and R. Potter. Hodder. 189-195.

Graham, M. and Shelton, T. 2013. Geography and the Future of Big Data; Big Data and the Future of Geography. Dialogues in Human Geography 3(3) 255-261. (open pre-publication version here)

Internet Research Ethics [Monday 7th, 15:45]

Rebecca Eynon, Oxford Internet Institute

The ethical issues surrounding Internet research have been discussed now for some time and some guidelines for researchers have been established (AoIR ethics committee 2012). Yet there is still considerable debate about the ethics of Internet research as new ways to study phenomena continue to emerge. The presentation will focus on ethical dilemmas for Internet researchers in the context of three predominant approaches to gathering Internet-based data: use of online methods to gather data directly from individuals, analyzing online interaction within virtual environments, and large-scale analysis of online domains. Using specific examples, this session will consider some of the main ethical issues that researchers are likely to encounter in Internet-related research. There will also be time for participants to talk about the dilemmas they are facing in their own research and to discuss ways of addressing these issues.

Recommended Reading

Eynon, R, Fry, J and Schroeder, R (2009) ‘New Techniques in Online Research: Challenges for Research Ethics’ 21st Century Society 4(2) 187-199

Markham, A. and Buchanan, E. (2012) Ethical decision-making and Internet research 2.0: Recommendations from the aoir ethics working committee. Available:

Additional Reading

Lewis, K., Kaufman, J., Gonzalez, M., Wimmer, A., and Christakis, N. (2008). Tastes, ties, and time: A new social network dataset using Social Networks, 30(4) 330-342

Nissenbaum, H. (1998) Protecting Privacy in an Information Age: The Problem of Privacy in Public, Law and Philosophy, 17: 559-596.

Slater M, Antley A, Davison A, Swapp D, Guger C, Barker, C., Pistrang, N., and Sanchez-Vives, M (2006) ‘A Virtual Reprise of the Stanley Milgram Obedience Experiments,’ PLoS ONE 1(1): e39.doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000039.

Thelwall, M. and Stuart, D. (2006) Web crawling ethics revisited: Cost, privacy and denial of service, Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. 57(13): 1771-1779

Towards Conceptualising Learning and Interaction in MOOCs [Wed 9th, 09:15]

Rebecca Eynon, Oxford Internet Institute

This session will contrast some of the hype and speculation about the role massive open online courses (MOOCs) may play in higher education, with empirical research that explores the realities of interacting and learning in these crowd-like settings. Drawing on a study that employed a mixed method approach, including analysis of digital trace data and online interviews, the session will also explore some substantive and methodological challenges with carrying out research in this area related to the scale of the activity, the informal / formal nature of these courses and the diversity of characteristics, experiences, skills and expectations amongst the participants.

Recommended Reading

Breslow, L., Pritchard, D. E., DeBoer, J., Stump, G. S., Ho, A. D., & Seaton, D. T. (2013). Studying learning in the worldwide classroom: Research into edX’s first MOOC. Research & Practice in Assessment, 8, 13-25.

Any project report that takes your interest from the recent MOOC Research Initiative:

Additional Reading

DeBoer, J., Ho, A. D., Stump, G. S., & Breslow, L. (2014). Changing “Course” Reconceptualizing Educational Variables for Massive Open Online Courses. Educational Researcher, 43(2), 74–84.

Gillani, N., Eynon, R., Osborne, M., Hjorth, I., and Roberts, S. (2014) Communication Communities in MOOCs. Working paper.

Haythornthwaite, C. (2009, January). Crowds and communities: Light and heavyweight models of peer production. In System Sciences, 2009. HICSS’09. 42nd Hawaii International Conference on (pp. 1-10). IEEE.

Global Censorship Analysis [Wed 9th, 11:00]

Joss Wright, Oxford Internet Institute

Internet censorship is an increasingly widespread phenomenon that is employed globally, from totalitarian states to modern liberal democracies. Researching this practice presents questions ranging from purely technical data gathering and experimental questions, through ethical concerns, to questions of appropriate means to analyse and compare the application of different forms of censorship around the world. In this talk I will discuss these questions and present results of ongoing experiments. We will explore appropriate tools for investigating and analysing censorship, consider which questions are key in understanding this practice and its future role in the internet, and ask to what use our eventual answers may be put.

Opinion Clashes and Conflicts in Mass Collaboration; from Data to Agent-Based-Modelling [Wed 9th, 15:45]

Taha Yasseri, Oxford Internet Institute

In this talk a short introduction to the agent-based-modelling (ABM) techniques will be given, followed by an example of such models used to explain empirical observations of Wikipedia “edit wars”. The empirical part is based on analysis of edit history of millions of articles in 13 different language editions of Wikipedia [1,2]. The theoretical model which builds on the empirical results, belongs to a class of opinion formation ABM’s named “bounded confidence” models. However, to be able to capture all the features observed in real world data, some modifications and additions to the pre-existing models are needed [3,4]. Some of these modifications and other possibilities will be discussed and presented in the talk.

[1] Yasseri, T., Sumi, R., Rung, A., Kornai, A., and Kertész, J. (2012) Dynamics of conflicts in Wikipedia. PLoS ONE 7(6): e38869.

[2] Yasseri, T., Spoerri, A., Graham, M. and Kertész, J. (2014) The most controversial topics in Wikipedia: A multilingual and geographical analysis. In: P.Fichman and N.Hara (eds) Global Wikipedia: International and cross-cultural issues in online collaboration. Scarecrow Press.

[3] Török, J., Iñiguez, G., Yasseri, T., San Miguel, M., Kaski, K., and Kertész, J. (2013) Opinions, Conflicts and Consensus: Modeling Social Dynamics in a Collaborative Environment. Physical Review Letters 110 (8).

[4] Iñiguez, G., Török, J., Yasseri, T., Kaski, K., and Kertész, J. (2014) Modeling Social Dynamics in a Collaborative Environment. To appear in EPJ Data Science.

Are There Too Many Things?: Gender and New Media [Thur 10th, 09:15]

Caroline Bassett, University of Sussex

‘Technology itself cannot be fully understood without reference to gender’ (Cynthia Cockburn, 1994 [1992]: 33).

This session sets out to explore new media from a perspective informed by feminism, and by feminist debates around epistemological, methodological, and critical issues concerning technology.

The session will partly consist of tracing the history of an entanglement; I will ask what feminism had to say about gender in the earlier years of the internet. I will also explain why that history is important, what it can tell us about the instantiation of a collective memory of the internet, and how it can inform an analysis of the contemporary situation.

Using this as a starting point I will then move on to ask what are the key questions to think about in terms of gender in today’s digital or ‘post-digital’ situation?

Finally, I will make an intervention. I will suggest that the contemporary focus on technology ‘itself’, evidenced for instance in software studies, code studies, medium theory, and in object orientated aesthetic theory of various kinds, is productive in many ways, but has also produced a climate of inquiry that tends to set aside questions of technology, gender, and social power – despite the fact they are more relevant than ever. In our obsession with objects and things are we forgetting about human actors in these socio-technological circuits – and about their different situated positions?

Suggested Reading:

Bassett, Caroline (2013). ‘Feminism, Expertise and the Computational Turn’ in Thornham, Helen, & Weissmann, Elke (ed.) Renewing Feminism: Narratives, Fantasies and Futures. London: IB Tauris. Pp.199-214.

See also the fembot collective and ADA, a journal of gender, media and technology.

Digital Humanities [Thur 10th, 11:00]

Kathryn Eccles, Oxford Internet Institute

The Digital Humanities grew out of Humanities Computing, technology to support the work of ‘real’ Humanities scholars, c.2004. Since then, it has evolved into an independent multi-disciplinary field, forging new methodological approaches, new epistemologies, new critical insights and new tools for pushing Humanities research forward. The growth of this new field has not always been positively received, resulting in a backlash from the traditional Humanities disciplines. Is literature data? Can and should we treat it as such? This seminar will introduce students to the field, describing some recent OII work in the Digital Humanities, including; how new technologies are changing the way that Humanities scholars work; the ways in which new technologies are supporting increased public and scholarly access to cultural heritage, and how inviting the public in to the academy through crowdsourcing projects in the Humanities can give us insights into the impacts of such access on education, wellbeing and community.


Stephen Marche, Literature is Not Data: Against Digital Humanities. Los Angeles Review of Books, October 2012.

David M. Berry (ed.) Understanding Digital Humanities, (Palgrave 2012), Introduction.

Andrew Prescott, ‘Consumers, Creators or Commentators? Problems of Audience and Mission in the Digital Humanities’, in Arts and Humanities in Higher Education: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice (Sage, 2012).

Social Theory after the Internet [Friday 11th, 11:00]

Ralph Schroeder, Oxford Internet Institute

This talk will address several shortcomings in current theories about the internet and digital media from across the social sciences, including the failure to situate new media in a comparative-historical context. The talk will examine recent research about four countries (the United States, Sweden, India and China), and specifically how search engines, microblogging, social networking sites and mobile internet are used, and the implications of these for politics and everyday life. The talk will challenge theories of the network society and constructivist theories, and propose an alternative that focuses on ritual and consumption, and on political agenda setting and a limited attention space. It will examine new digital divides, putting these into the context of larger patterns of inequality and of how digital media complement traditional media in the four countries. The talk will also revisit questions of globalization, and how new technologies shape possibilities for social change.

Big Data and the Future of Knowledge [Monday 14th, 09:15]

Eric Meyer, Oxford Internet Institute
Ralph Schroeder, Oxford Internet Institute

Big data research has already transformed business, governance, and research. This presentation will argue that the most important changes are yet to come. The reason for this is that we can rethink the very nature of knowledge and its sources, and this topic will be explored with various examples. To date, much big data research has been about social media. These analyses provide a good illustration of how the spread of information can be analysed, and highlight the enormous amounts of data available. Here we can also see the power of data, as well as its limits, since these data tell us how populations interact in a particular modality, and only in the context of the wider media landscape. The same applies to the use of big data in business, where the data insights provide competitive advantage and are at the same time bounded by the attention economy. Government, too, can respond more effectively to public inputs, perhaps most dramatically in the case of disaster response with location based data. The promise of big data is thus omniscience, based on an increasing amount of life spent online. For researchers, this represents enormous opportunities. More importantly in terms of social implications, knowledge is now driven by the availability of data, expanding rapidly, yet always embedded in interactions.

Collecting Social Media Data with the Python Programming Language [Monday 14th, 11:00]

Jonathan Bright, Oxford Internet Institute

In the space of a few years social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have come to occupy an important place in social science research. Their astonishing uptake around the world, and the relatively open, structured nature of the data they produce, offer the tantalizing possibility of studying a wide variety of different social research questions in a way that previously would have been impossible. Already a number of interesting studies have used data from such platforms to shed new light on diverse concepts such as information diffusion, political behaviour and mobilization in social movements..
This methods session offers an introduction to how to start collecting social media data using the Python programming language, which is becoming the language of choice for digital social researchers. This is a short session and those participating should not expect to become experts in computer programming straight away. Nevertheless researchers should leave with a basic programming environment installed on their laptop and an idea of how to develop these skills further if they want to. The sessions will also offer some consideration of the theoretical, ethical and legal challenges involved in using social media data in social science research.

These readings may provide some food for thought on the subject but are not a requirement for the workshop:

Savage, M., and Burrows, R., (2007), The Coming Crisis of Empirical Sociology. Sociology, 41(5): 885

Lazer, D., Pentland, A., Adamic, L. et al. (2009), Life in the network: the coming age of computational social science. Science, 323(5915), 721–723.

This is the best practical text book in the area at the moment. Again, not a requirement, but may be useful for people who wish to keep learning after the course:

Matthew Russell, Mining the Social Web, Second Edition. 2013. Pasadena, CA: O’Reilly Media.

Theoretical Modelling [Tuesday 15th, 09:15]

Greg Taylor, Oxford Internet Institute

This session will examine how the method of formal analytic modelling can be used as a powerful tool for creating and expressing social theory. It will explore ways in which the formal toolbox of mathematics can be used to guarantee that theory is logically consistent, analytically precise, and clearly communicated. We will also see how formal models can be used to bridge between research questions and thus contribute to the construction of a coherent, unified body of knowledge. No prior knowledge is necessary.

Arrow, Kenneth J., “Mathematical Models in the Social Sciences.” In H.D. Lasswell and D.T. Lerner, eds., Policy Sciences in the United States, Stanford University Press, 1951, pp. 129-154.

Transdiegetic Information: What it is and Why it Matters [Tuesday 15th, 11:00]

Luciano Floridi, Oxford Internet Institute

Data is one of the few resources that is not only renewable and repurposable, it is also expandable and pervasive. As a result, we increasingly live in a world of information (infosphere). Borrowing some technical vocabulary from film studies and game design, in this lecture I shall argue that new Information and Communication Technologies are breaking the boundaries between diegetic and non-diegetic information, in favour of a transdiegetisation of the infosphere. The talk does not presuppose any previous knowledge and all technical concepts will be clearly and simply explained during the lecture.

Cultures of Me: Considering the Digital Selves Across Media and Identity [Wed 16th, 11:30]

Bernie Hogan, Oxford Internet Institute

In this talk, I discuss how to best consider the performance of identity in online spaces. Traditional theories of performances make strong assumptions about individuals as being in the same place and the same time. Online spaces, by contrast, allow for the continual reconfiguration of social connections. Some individuals report high degrees of satisfaction and social capital from this, while others feel exempt or troubled by the threats of online connectivity. I take a network-based approach to consider how multiple statuses lead to “collapse contexts” across social groups. I further elaborate on the responses to collapse contexts and posit consequences of a variety of potential responses for social cohesion and political engagement.

Davis, J. L., & Jurgenson, N. (2014). Context collapse: theorizing context collusions and collisions. Information, Communication & Society, 17(4), 476–485. doi:10.1080/1369118X.2014.888458

Marwick, A. E., & Boyd, D. (2010). I Tweet Honestly, I Tweet Passionately: Twitter Users, Context Collapse, and the Imagined Audience. New Media & Society (0), 1–20. doi:10.1177/1461444810365313

Privacy, Data Protection and Cloud Computing [Wed 16th, 14:00]

Ian Walden, Queen Mary, University of London

With the rise of multi-tenanted, location-independent cloud computing solutions, the handling of personal data has raised new concerns for privacy and data protection authorities. This presentation will examine whether European data protection rules are fit for purpose in a cloud environment and will consider the implications of the new draft regulation, as well as other regulatory initiatives, including evaluative standards, codes of conduct and model contracts.

Kuan Hon: ‘Cloud Computing: Geography or Technology – Virtualisation and Control (

Hon, Millard and Walden: ‘Personal Data in Cloud Computing – What Information Is Reguated?’ (

Methods/Tools 3: Online Ethnography [Wed 16th, 15:45]

Eric Meyer, Oxford Internet Institute

Ethnographic approaches to research are often employed in the study of ICTs, particularly since they are well suited to the study of leading-edge developments. They also provide a means for complementing more quantitative survey research and experimental studies through the collection of more in-depth and contextualized observations.

This session will: 1) provide a brief overview of the ethnographic tradition; 2) explore the new opportunities and challenges the Internet has presented for those interested in carrying out ethnography; 3) examine the more practical aspects of how to go about an ethnographic study; 4) discuss novel methods that are being used to analyse web based data and how using these methods may actually be changing what ethnography originally set out to be; and 5) explore the ethical considerations of online ethnography.

Required Readings

Prolog, Chapter 1, and Chapter 2 in Bonnie Nardi, My Life as a Night Elf Priest: An Anthropological Account of World of Warcraft.

Available by for free online reading at:

Miller, D., Horst, H. (2012). Chapter 1: The Digital and the Human: A Prospectus for Digital Anthropology. In Digital Anthropology. 2012. London: Berg.

Available online:

Additional Readings

Burrell, J. (2009). The Field Site as a Network: A Strategy for Locating Ethnographic Research. Field Methods 21(2): 181-199.

Marcus, George E. (1995). “Ethnography in/of the world system: the emergence of multi-sited ethnography.” Annual Review of Anthropology 24: 95-117.

Tales from the Field, Reflections on a Studying Data Archives across Time, Technologies and Continents [Thursday 17th, 09:15]

Kristin R. Eschenfelder, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Kalpana Shankar, University College Dublin

Eschenfelder and Shankar will describe methodological challenges related to their research project on social science data archives (SSDA) and their sustainability over time. SSDAs, around since the 1940’s, provide a unique opportunity for the longitudinal examination of data and institutional sustainability.  Eschenfelder and Shankar will discuss four elements of their study: (1) the pros and cons of a priori versus an emergent definition of “sustainability;” (2) triangulation of data across different sources: organizational records, retrospective and contemporary interviews, conference proceedings of related professional organizations, and secondary literature; (3) negotiations with case sites for participation, including coping with being ignored and rejected; and (4) technologies and practices employed and abandoned trying to coordinate data storage, data analysis, and just plain thinking across an ocean.

Ember, C.; Hanisch, R. (2013) Sustaining Domain Repositories for Digital Data, A White Paper (

National Academy of Sciences, Board on Research Data and Information (2014) Strategies for Economic Sustainability of Publicly Funded Data Repositories: Asking the Right Questions (

Making Sense of Geosocial Media: Asking Questions and Escaping Mental Ruts [Thursday 17th, 11:00]

Matt Zook, University of Kentucky

For the past several years I have researched the production and practices surrounding user-generated, geotagged data – placemarks, tweets, Wikipedia, pricing reports — in order to understand the interaction of code, space and place as people navigate through their everyday, lived geographies. Given the recentness of the phenomenon it was relatively straightforward at first to ask interesting questions, provide meaningful and useful answers and highlight some of the issues with doing this kind of research. To some extent I continue to ask these same questions in different contexts but also seek to break out of mental ruts — in my case looking a static spatial density patterns — and include new vectors for analysis such relational networks and mobility. I also have been working on answering some of the more difficult methodological problems (how do we quantify the bias within social media) and conceptual issues (what does a piece of social media represent? What factors shape its production) encountered. Using the experience of a series of papers published over the past year and one paper currently under revision, I work to make explicit some of the processes and decisions of research – topic and question formation, data selection, evaluation of results, working and writing with multiple co-authors.

Jeremy W. Crampton, Mark Graham, Ate Poorthuis, Taylor Shelton, Monica Stephens, Matthew W. Wilson and Matthew Zook. (2013). Beyond the Geotag? Deconstructing “Big Data” and Leveraging the Potential of the Geoweb. Cartography and Geographic Information Science (CaGIS) 40 (2), 130-139.

Shelton, T., Poorthuis, A., Graham, M. and M. Zook. 2014. Mapping the Data Shadows of Hurricane Sandy: Uncovering the Sociospatial Dimensions of ‘Big Data’. Geoforum.

See also The Bro-ughnut of New York.