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Compromised Data 2013

The Problematic Rise of Read Receipts in Social Media

The final presenter at "Compromised Data" is Kamilla Pietrzyk, whose interest is in the user experience of social media platforms which provide read receipts - as in Facebook chat, iMessage, or Snapchat. Very little research has been done about this so far, but there is growing unease about this functionality, which notifies the sender of a message that the message was opened and (presumably) read.

Email offers this functionality as well, but here the read receipt is a per-case opt-in facility; recipients can choose not to send read receipts as they read the email. Underlying this, though, there are also message delivery notifications in email, which confirm that the email was delivered to the recipient's mailserver, although this does not guarantee that the recipient themself will have read the message.

Online Backchannels to Television Broadcasts in Spain

The next "Compromised Data" is Mariluz Sánchez, who is taking a socio-semiotic approach to the intersection between television and the Internet. This transforms the concept of interactivity, revolutionising reception and enabling the development of transmedia storytelling where viewers develop relationships with the content through various platforms.

Various resources are available to viewers online, promoting consumption and building loyalty towards the programming. Industry is now providing direct access to audiences, and viewers' ability to provide direct feedback can be seen as a form so social empowerment. Mariluz analysed these resources by examining the resources listed on the first five pages of Google search results for specific TV shows, excluding BitTorrent and other download resources.

Coverage of Mental Illness in Mainstream News and on Twitter

The next session at "Compromised Data" is the last I'm going to be able to liveblog, as I'll have to go to the airport this afternoon to head to my next destination on this trip (apologies to the presenters in the final session, whose papers I'll miss). We start with Gavin Adamson, whose interest is in the circulation of mental health news on Twitter. Generally, the journalistic coverage of mental illness in Canada and elsewhere is poor: mental illness is covered mainly in the context of (as a reason for) crime and violence; there are few good news stories being covered.

Do social media amplify or redress that problem? Gavin took a mixed-methods approach which builds on recent research to show that in five years of news coverage, in some 90% of articles nobody with a lived experience of mental illness was quoted; 75% don't even quote healthcare professionals! opting instead for police or people in the justice system. Other studies have shown an overemphasis on risk-based coverage (discussing escapees with mental illness, etc.), and a reliance on the justice system as a frame for mental illness coverage.

Distinguishing Chain and Name Networks in Social Network Analysis

The final speaker in this "Compromised Data" session is Anatoliy Gruzd, whose interest is in the automated discovery and visualisation of communication networks from social media data. (He's also just launched a new journal in this field, Big Data and Society.) How can such networks be discovered and visualised, and how can we evaluate the sense of community which may exist in them?

Social network analysis enables us to investigate the connections between users in social networks. It reduces large quantities of messages to a smaller number of nodes exchanging communication; it can track longitudinal developments over time; it can show the social dynamics of interaction around specific topics and events; and it can differentiate between different types of network formation in social interaction.

Reverse-Engineering Twitter?

The next speaker at "Compromised Data" is Robert Gehl, whose interest is in critically reverse-engineering social media as a form of critiquing and producing alternatives to current social media platforms. This builds on reverse-engineering approaches in engineering, economics and law, on science and technology as well as software studies, and on critical humanism.

Reverse-engineering is a method of producing knowledge by dissociating human-made artefacts. Such knowledge is then used to produce new associated artefacts that bear some relation to the old. Some reverse-engineering has merely functional and pragmatic reasons, but in other cases reverse-engineering takes a more critical perspective, using for example in actor-network theory or conducting an ethnography of the infrastructure by following the actors.

Bottom-Up Measurements of Network Performance

The next session at "Compromised Data" starts with Fenwick McKelvey, who begins with a reference to the emergence of digitised methods for the study of the Web during the mid-2000s. This was the time around which the latest generation of social media emerged, enabling us to begin thinking about society through the study of the Internet, requiring the development of new research methods by repurposing computer science methods for social science research.

In Toronto, Infoscape Labs developed a number of tools for the exploration of political discourse in Web 2.0, including the Blogometer. This is the emergence of platform studies, paying attention to the platform itself - but this also introduces challenges about how to study the platform, as the core object of research itself intervenes in its study, e.g. through the politics of APIs. This work also required compromises around data access and utilisation, and a growing bifurcation between scholarly and commercial research activities emerged.

Archiving Our Personal Digital Milieux

The final presenter in this morning session at "Compromised Data" is Yuk Hui, who will present a social media self-archiving project. He has worked for years on audiovisual archives, but much of the work on this field has focussed on institutional rather than personal archives, with the latter often concerned mainly with privacy issues.

But another set of problems relates to data management instead: we are working with multiple cloud-based systems, but rarely archive our digital objects effectively - archiving is not just about storing, but about preserving the context of digital objects as well: the digital milieu.

Social Media Data and Their Utopian Assumptions

The next speaker at "Compromised Data" is Ingrid Hoofd, whose interest is in how new technologies make certain types of representation possible or impossible. The neoliberalisation of universities, for example, leads to a quantification of research data which generates poor research. This is the violence of numbers: how do we assess the way new media technologies change the face of social sciences research, then?

Social media data mining methodology provides an allegory of the technological apparatuses that use it. This hinges on these technologies' propensity to speed up, and on the associated notion of change. There is a strong emphasis on objectivity, generating more true as well as more questionable coverage of the conditions of the real. Social science via datamining tools is implicated in a push towards an idealised data-driven utopia.

Haunted Data in Cross-Media Controversies

The second day of "Compromised Data" starts with Lisa Blackman, who is tracking social media controversies and mapping information contagion. Can we use quantitative methods in non-positivist ways to understand these processes?

Lisa introduces the idea of haunted data, and suggests that we need to think about digital methods as performative: we need to move behind infographics when thinking about visualising data. Part of this is about priming: creating an experimental apparatus that makes people feel that their actions are self-directed, but actually generates such actions through the interventions of the apparatus. Such research is controversial because of its early ties to research into psychic phenomena, however. It is useful, however, to explore information contagion and virality, especially in the context of social media controversies.


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