In this episode I am talking to Elinor Carmi who is a Postdoc Research Associate in Digital Culture & Society at the University of Liverpool. She tells me about how her experience of working in radio and music production and as a feminist has influenced her current analysis of digital media work. In particular we discuss her comparison and analysis of early 20th century telephone operators and contemporary online content moderators. Elinor suggests that there are similarities between the ways in which (usually female) telephone operators were not only responsible for connecting calls but for maintaining the smooth front end experience for callers. One of the key tasks required of them was to distinguish between "message" and "noise" and remove the latter. Content moderators have to make similar distinctions in with online content by removing violent, sexual and other content which doesn't fit with the values which the platform wishes to present. The power of this analysis is made stark through the example of how Facebook considers male nipples to be "message" and female nipples "noise".
You can follow Elinor on Twitter
You can read Elinor's article 'The Hidden Listeners: Regulating the Line from Telephone Operators to Content Moderators' in the International Journal of Communication
Elinor's article 'Cookies – More than Meets the Eye' in the journal Theory, Culture & Society
In this episode of the Digital Sociology Podcast I spoke to Susan Halford who is Professor of Sociology at the University of Bristol and the President of the British Sociological Association.
Amongst other things she explains the emergence "semantic web" to me and we discuss why this is of interest to sociologists and what sociology my have to offer in understanding it. If the web is a massive database of documents then the semantic web is a way of identifying and connecting "entities" within those documents (WolframAlpha is an example of a basic version of the semantic web). Susan says that this is a significant ontological task of identifying what kinds of things do and do not exist in this space. For the semantic web to develop huge amounts of data on all kinds of topics would need to be gathered and analysed which would also require decisions to be made about what kinds of data to include and exclude.
We also discuss about the benefits and challenges of working working across the social sciences and computer sciences.
I ask Susan about a paper she wrote with Mike Savage in which they outline a fascinating reading of the work of Thomas Piketty, Robert Putnam and Richard Wilkinson & Kate Pickett. They propose the approach taken by these authors can be applied as "symphonic social science" which could be used to approach big data.
Susan also offers some of her opinions on why sociologists are sometimes a bit scared to work with "big data" and how we might be able to overcome this.
In this episode of the Digital Sociology Podcast I am talking to Huw Davies who is a researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford.
Huw tells me about his research into young peoples' use of technology (and particularly the internet). His research has shown that there are significant social class differences between how young people of different social class backgrounds tend to use technologies. However, this doesn't always follow the patterns we might expect. He has found from his detailed research with young people that many might not be engaging with the school curriculum on digital literacy (for instance) but nevertheless have sophisticated skills and are quite entrepreneurial with online and creative activities.
The two papers of Huw's we discussed were:
Davies HC and Eynon R (2018) Is digital upskilling the next generation our ‘pipeline to prosperity’? New Media and Society. DOI: 10.1177/1461444818783102.
Davies HC (2018) Learning to Google: Understanding classed and gendered practices when young people use the Internet for research. New Media & Society 20(8): 2764–2780. DOI: 10.1177/1461444817732326.
Huw is one of the conveners of the British Sociological Associations's Digital Sociology study group (along with me and a few others) which you can follow on Twitter @bsadigitalsoc
On the latest Digital Sociology Podcast I am talking to Dr Jess Drakett who is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Leeds Beckett University. Jess shares some fun and fascinating insights from her PhD research into representations of gender in meme culture and sexism in the tech industry. She conducted qualitative, discourse analysis of probably the most commonly used memes - "image macros". These are usually an image with white writing overlaid at the top and bottom. The research looked into how humour is used in the very rule bound world of memes both by applying the format of a particular image macro to a new and context, subverting the form or commenting on it (as with the one above). A big part of the analysis was how memes create collective identities for those who know the rules and the references but are also exclusionary for those who don't and if they are the target of the memes with many being sexist and misogynistic. The other part of Jess's research was into the use of humour in a workplace context in the programming industry. She found similar kinds of humour used in the tech industry and memes themselves as facilitators of this with image macros being pasted up on workplace walls. Jess talks a bit about the challenges of conducting research on memes but also that some of the most useful resources are ones which academic researchers wouldn't usually draw on like the "Know Your Meme" database: https://knowyourmeme.com/ You can read Jess's paper on her meme research 'Old jokes, new media – Online sexism and constructions of gender in Internet memes' in the journal Feminism & Psychology https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0959353517727560 However, that version doesn't include images (due to the copyright concerns of the publishers) but the pre-print version of the paper does: http://eprints.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/4406/ You can follow Jess on Twitter @jessicadrakett You can listen to the podcast on Anchor or download and subscribe on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever else you get podcasts.
For this episode of the Digital Sociology Podcast I spoke to Nick Couldry who is Professor of Media, Communication and Social Theory at the London School of Economics
He suggests that digital platforms are appropriating "human life without limit" as all aspects of our life become transformed into data. Nick and his co-author Ulises A. Mejias describe this as a form of big data colonialism as it is a process through which our lives are deemed apt for extraction and appropriation without payment (like the raw materials of the new world were by colonisers).
We also talked about Nick's book The Mediated Construction of Reality, written with Andreas Hepp, which suggests ways in which we can take proper account of the role which media play in the ways in which we understand the world. In particular, we focused on how data is shaping our experience and understanding of reality.
Here is the website for Nick's forthcoming book is:
Nick Couldry and Ulises A. Mejias 'Data Colonialism: Rethinking Big Data's Relation to the Contemporary Subject' Television & New Media
Nick Couldry and Andreas Hepp The Mediated Construction of Reality
In this episode I am speaking to Frank Pasquale who is Professor of Law at the University of Maryland. We talk about his work which has addressed the impact of big data and algorithmic processing on reputation, search and finance. We discussed how the data we generate an hour every day lives has enabled a drive to assess, rank and judge ourselves and others. He offer some insight as to why and how credit rating agencies have become so powerful and what impact they have. Frank also warns that critiques of data driven analysis and ranking can often just lead to more surveillance.We talk about the how big data can create discrimination as conclusions from one type of data can be applied to other areas of our lives. Frank stresses The importance of keeping human input into rankings and ratings.
You can follow Frank on Twitter @FrankPasquale and see his website at http://www.frankpasquale.com/ The abstract to Frank's book The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms that Control Money and Information is here:
You can listen to the episode on the Anchor site and download or subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts or wherever you usually get podcasts.
For this episode I spoke with Tom Brock who is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Manchester Metropolitan University. He tells me about his research into e-sports and video games and how the changes in the political economy of video games leads to a more rational approach to games. Is this damaging to the experience of play if it becomes instrumentalised. He also suggests this potentially encourages a neo-liberal orientation to the self as we are encouraged to measure ourselves and our performance in terms of a vast array of metrics. It was fascinating to hear about the embodied experience of elite video game playing including the strains put on bodies in order to compete at a high level and the insecure lifestyles of those hoping for a share in the potential riches of prize money or sponsorship. As someone who is terrible at video games I really connected with they way in which Tom conceptualised the perverse pleasures of failure when playing games. You can read more about what Tom is doing on his website and follow him on Twitter @tgjbrock http://www.tgjbrock.co.uk/ The references for the articles of Tom's we discussed are below along with links. TGJ. Brock, E. Fraser (2018). Is Computer Gaming a Craft? Prehension, Practice and Puzzle-Solving in Gaming Labour. Information, Communication and Society. 21(9), pp.1219-1233. https://e-space.mmu.ac.uk/620399/ T. Brock (2017). Videogame consumption: The apophatic dimension. Journal of Consumer Culture.pp.146954051668418-146954051668418. https://e-space.mmu.ac.uk/617975/ TGJ. Brock (2017). Roger Caillois and e-Sports: On the Problems of Treating Play as Work. Games and Culture. 12(4), pp.321-339. https://e-space.mmu.ac.uk/617954/ You can listen to the podcast on Anchor or subscribe and download through iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you usually get podcasts.
In this episode of the Digital Sociology Podcast I am talking to Kylie Jarrett who is a lecturer in Department of Media Studies at the National University of Ireland Maynooth. She writes and researches on internet cultures and has written on the “culture of search” inspired by Google. But in this episode we are mainly talking about her feminist analysis of digital labour. This is a concept which has been developed to describe the value which users of the commercial internet (and particularly social media) generate through their interactions. Through a critique of some strands of “autonomist” Marxist analysis she suggests that he gendered character of this “digital labour” is often overlooked and the novelty of this situation is overplayed. Some people (usually women) have long been contributing “free labour” necessary to the functioning and maintenance of capitalism (broadly speaking social reproduction). Kylie has suggested the concept of the "digital housewife" to describe this. Social media companies have just found a particularly effective means of mobilising and monetising our everyday interactions and the maintenance of our relationships and communities. In a very entertaining discussion Kylie tells me about how an annoyance with some people overlooking the tradition of feminist work which had established these points and the dismissal of of her reading of digital labour incited her anger which she channeled into the book. Kylie Jarret's profile: https://www.maynoothuniversity.ie/people/kylie-jarrett Google and the culture of Search by Hillis, Petit and Jarrett: https://books.google.com/books/about/Google_and_the_Culture_of_Search.html?id=0X_1HS13FbsC Feminism, Labour and Digital Media: The Digital Housewife: https://books.google.com/books/about/Feminism_Labour_and_Digital_Media.html?id=yY34CgAAQBAJ
You can follow Kylie on Twitter @kylzjarrett
In what is likely the most fun episode I spoke to Penny Andrews. This started out as a chat about Penny’s research into current research information systems, institutional repositories and academic social networking services such as academia.edu. Penny gives some fascinating insights from her research into how people use these systems and the political economy around in which they are integrated. I found it particularly fascinating to hear about how people increasingly have little choice but to use these systems which generate data and enable control of academic life by multinational corporations. Along the way there are some diversions in our chat into the state of academia, the pressures created by systems of measurement, digital capitalism and even Doctor Who and Charlie from Casualty. Warning! This is a wide-ranging chat which I considered cutting down to something more focused but actually the charm of this episode is in the shambolic loose character of it. Penny also tells me plenty about one of her other great passions; Ed Balls gifs!
Also, I recorded this about a year ago and it has taken me ages to upload this (sorry Penny) but most of the political diversions we go down are still mostly pertinent which perhaps says a lot about the state we're in.
Penny has written about her fandom for Ed Balls and her role as the worlds most prominent producer of Ed gifs and read some of her articles on higher education and metrics at Wonkhe
You can follow Penny on Twitter @pennyb
In this episode of the Digital Sociology Podcast I spoke with Mark Carrigan. Because it has taken me ages to upload this podcast my introduction to Mark on the podcast is a bit out of date now. But Mark is the Digital Engagement Fellow at The Sociological Review and a researcher in the Culture Politics and Global Justice cluster in the Faculty of Education at the University of Cambridge where he works on research on the digital university. I also mention that he runs the Sociological Imagination website which has since been closed down.
Mark is on Twitter @mark_carrigan
I have just changed over my podcast host from Soundcloud to Anchor. If you listen on a podcast app this shouldn't make any difference and you should get new episodes as normal. But if you usually listen through a browser on Soundcloud you will just need to go to my profile on the Anchor site instead.
For episode 13 of the Digital Sociology Podcast I had a chat with Karen Gregory who is a digital sociologist at the University of Edinburgh. She tells me about her work on the exploitation enabled by the rise of digital labour. She tells me about the importance of challenging the individualised and empowering picture of digital technologies and platforms which are often claimed to enable empowerment for individuals. We also discuss the relationship between right wing politics and the increase of digital work. Karen explains the relationship between gender, work and social reproduction and how feminist thought can help us to understand this. She also emphasises the importance of labour history for understanding the contemporary digital economy.
A few times Karen mentions a book called Lower Ed: The troubling rise of for-profit colleges in the new economy by Tressie McMillan Cottom. She also discusses Kylie Jarrett’s book Feminism, Labour and Digital Media: The Digital Housewife
For this episode I spoke with Murray Goulden of the Horizon centre at the University of Nottingham and he told me about the projects he is working which, amongst other things, use digital traces as a memory aid as part of ethnographic research. To do this him and his colleagues have designed methods and technologies to extract data from people’s digital devices (with consent of course!) to present these data back to people. The participants were then encouraged to make sense of these data (which they wouldn’t usually see).
You can follow Murray on Twitter @murraygoulden
This episode was turning up in a lot of podcast apps in a shorter version so I have uploaded it again as a separate episode which will hopefully fix this. So if you have the first version as a 13 minute audio delete that one and download this (should be 39 minutes).
For this episode of the Digital Sociology Podcast I spoke to Harry Dyer about his work on online social platforms and identity. Harry tells me about his thoughts on the development and design of different platforms and how they make different actions and connections possible and restrict others.
Harry told me about what he has found from his research on the way in which young people use different platforms and the subtle ways they interpret and use platforms to present their identities. He tells me about the theoretical traditions he has drawn upon influenced by Erving Goffman and Karan Barad amongst others. I also here about the innovative way he has applied the analysis of comic books to social media. We also talk about
For this episode of the Digital Sociology Podcast I spoke to Harry Dyer about his work on online social platforms and identity. Harry tells me about his thoughts on the development and design of different platforms and how they make different actions and connections possible and restrict others.
Harry told me about what he has found from his research on the way in which young people use different platforms and the subtle ways they interpret and use platforms to present their identities. He tells me about the theoretical traditions he has drawn upon influenced by Erving Goffman and Karan Barad amongst others. I also here about the innovative way he has applied the analysis of comic books to social media. We also talk about whether communities are possible online and how the Facebook model of community differs from the “anonymous” one.
This is the first episode that I haven’t been able to edit properly. All of my previous episodes have included intro/outro music, stings and various bit
In this episode of the Digital Sociology Podcast I spoke to Mariya Stoilova who is working on a project called Global Kids Online. Mariya is based at the London School of Economics but the project is an international one which looks at the experiences, opportunities, risks and rights and how these relate to inequalities.
The project developed out of a previous one called EU Kids Online and Mariya has been working on developing an open source toolkit which is adaptable to countries in the global south. Central to their project is challenging the idea that the internet is a space dominated by risk but also one which provides opportunities for them. Conversely, there is also a "digital determinist" discourse which is equally simplistic which assumes that access to the internet will in itself produce more highly skilled and knowledgeable young people.
The research has produced findings which show a nuanced picture particularly around how risk is understood differently by children compare
In this episode I spoke to Rachel Thomson who is Professor of Childhood and Youth Studies at the University of Sussex. Rachel tells me about the “Everyday Childhoods” project (which is part of the long-running “Mass Observation Project”). This is a project which both archives young peoples’ lives and studies their use of digital media and devices. We talk about how this project fits with older forms of archiving and existing approaches to childhood studies and the significance of how children and watched and what happens when this becomes digitized.
For episode 8 of the Digital Sociology Podcast I had a chat with Warren Pearce who is the Faculty Fellow (iHuman) at the University of Sheffield. He is working on the “Making Climate Social” project which is investigating how climate change debate happens across the web. Warren tells me about some of the innovative digital methods he is using to understand how conversations about climate change take place on Youtube comments and other places online.
I hear about some research Warren has done about Koko the Gorilla and his dominance of one area of the climate change discussion online. Koko is a gorilla with a big online presence who lent his popularity to raising awareness of climate change but Warren and his colleagues found that the impact was not quite what it seems on the surface.
You can read more about some of Warren’s work on climate change discussion on Twitter and see a full list of his publications here. Also, you can follow Warren on Twitter @WarrenPearce
In episode 7 of the Digital Sociology Podcast I spoke to Justine Gangneux about her work on how social media users engage in the practice of “checking” and “Facebook stalking”. The empirical research she has conducted shows the importance of humour and of taking “guilty pleasure” in monitoring what others are doing. Justine told me about how people research one another to assess potential future romantic partners, the suitability of flatmates and possible friendships among colleagues. This practice Justine refers to as “scrutiny” rather than surveillance as it brings together issues of transparency, care, humour, monitoring and other elements.
Justine’s broader theoretical work can be found in her discussion of surveillance.
You can follow Justine on Twitter @JGgnx and see her blog https://justinegangneux.wordpress.com/
For episode 6 of the Digital Sociology Podcast I spoke to the world renowned sociologist Deborah Lupton. Deborah has been a leading figure in the sociology of health, public health, the body and risk as well as many other areas. More recently she has been a pioneer of digital sociology. Here we talk a bit about her biography and how she came to be researching “the digital” and how her early work on the virality of HIV paved the way for thinking about digital networks. We also discuss self-tracking of health and exercise and how this relates to metaphors of flows. Deborah tells me about how some of her work on risk has fed into her understanding of big data and health and how she believes there is a new kind of individualisation in public health discourse influenced by the use of self-tracking.
For more of Deborah’s insights on the Quantified Self and self-tracking see her book on that topic, she also has a recent book on digital sociology and new one on digital health. For even more s
Holly Powell-Jones is a PhD student at City University London and a former broadcast journalist and educator who is conducting research into the young peoples’ perceptions of risk and criminality online.
We talk about her methods of research and how her ethical position informed her approach. For instance, when conducting research she integrates educational aspects which help to inform young people about online criminality and how they can be recognised.
Holly tells me about how her participants have made sense of, and made judgements about “sexting” and “revenge porn” amongst other issues and we assess the effectiveness of current legal frameworks in the UK.
We touch on issues such as who is considered to be “risky” and what behaviours are considered to be “risky”. Often we assume that younger people are more likely to engage in risky behaviour due to being inexperienced but Holly found that younger people were more risk averse and often “hyper risk managers” who are highly aware of
In episode 4 of the Digital Sociology Podcast I spoke to Louise Reid from the School of Geography and Sustainable Development at the University of St Andrews about her research on energy demand, smart technology and wellbeing.
Louise told me about some of her findings about how people engage with and understand technologies which allow them to monitor their energy usage.
She told me about how she used analysis of Mumsnet discussions to explore how people use smart energy devices. This was really useful because it was a completely different kind of interaction compared to a traditional research interview. This generated much more detailed data on how participants’ interact with their technologies and enabled the researchers to observe the seemingly mundane reality of how people engage in energy practices.
We also talk about the differences between how research is done in digital sociology and digital geography and what the two are learning from one another.
You can follow Louise on
In this third episode I spoke to Nick Prior who is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh and a Visiting Fellow at Tokyo University of the Arts, Japan. We talk about the influence of digital technology on music consumption and production including midi formats and autotune. The discussion touches on Nick's work on how iPods have changed the way in which we experience public space. Nick also tells me about his latest work on the "crowdsourced" Japanese "virtual popstar" Hatsune Miku. You can find Nick on Twitter @nickprior4
In this episode I spoke to Sian Lincoln about her “Facebook Timelines” project in which they spoke to people about their use of the social network. We discuss the “scroll back method” of interviewing she used to explore the role of Facebook in young peoples’ lives. Sian and I reflect on Facebook etiquette and how people police each other’s behaviour online. We also talk about the central place which nostalgia takes in Facebook but how it structures perceptions of the future. Sian also suggests from her analysis that Facebook’s success (over other, like Myspace, which failed) was enabled by the simultaneous rise of smartphones and that Facebook use is becoming less public. Also, is Facebook cool any more? Was it ever cool?
More here: http://thisisnotasociology.blog/2017/07/27/digital-sociology-podcast-episode-2-sian-lincoln-facebook-identity-and-nostalgia
This is the first episode in my new Digital Sociology Podcast. In this series I will be talking to researchers doing work looking at the impact of digital technologies on society and culture. For this episode I spoke to Mike Saker from Southampton Solent University about his work on "locative media" such as Pokémon Go and Foursquare. We discussed the application of the notion of the flâneur to the digital realm. We questioned whether locative media enable a new commercialisation of space and commodification of play?
Mike questioned whether locative media create a performance of authenticity? We also discussed Mike’s tendency to study things just as they die!
For this final episode in the series I spoke to Aristea Fotopolou about her work on gender, data and self-tracking.
She told me about her work on fertility and pregnancy apps and how they construct and embody discourses of gender, capitalism and neoliberalism. We question the extent to which we are encouraged to be "good citizens".
In my view Aristea has some very interesting and useful ways of conceptualising the ways in which we engage with health and exercise tracking such as "biopedagogy" and focusing on the "micropractices" of using technology.
Aristea tells me about her experience of conducting an autoethnography of her use of self-tracking and how her identity as a researcher and a research participant blurred.
In the discussion Aristea connects the discussion of self-tracking to her other work on feminist activism and digital networks through suggesting that tracking is a form of gendered labour.
For this episode in the series I spoke to Btihaj Ajana who is a Senior Lecturer in Culture, Digital Humanities and Creative Industries at King’s College London and Associate Professor at Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies.
We talk about her work on biometrics and self-tracking. She suggests that when our bodies are transformed into data they are able to be distributed over networks and our bodily boundaries become more open and fuzzy. She sees this as a shift from body as flesh to body as data and this new ontology requires a new engagement with ethics politics and regulation.
In the sixth episode in the series I spoke to Liz McFall from the Open University.
Liz discusses some of her work on the history of insurance and how this relates to the contemporary impact which digital data is having on insurance. New sources of data are changing how data is calculated although sometimes the changes are not as big as we might expect. We discuss whether self-tracking technologies will create personalised insurance pricing based on exercise activities and speculate on the forthcoming changes to the Affordable Care Act in USA.
For this podcast I spoke to Lynne Pettinger about the work she has done with Ewen Speed and Andrew Goffey on the use of data in the NHS and its impact on how services are managed and understood and the role it plays in privatisation. A key issue she addresses is the impact of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 and how it signalled a shift in the role of the NHS. In particular there was a move from the role of the state being to "provider of care" to being a"promoter of care".
In episode 4 of the podcast I am talking to Will Davies, the author of The Happiness Industry and The Limits of Neoliberalism. Will tells me about his research into the history of economics and psychology and its influence on public policy. Why do governments and businesses want to make us happy? What's in it for them?
In episode 3 of the podcast I am speaking to Tamar Sharon about her work on self-tracking and the move of digital companies (such as Google, Facebook and Apple) into health research. Amongst other things we discuss the Apple HealthKit and Google's Baseline study and their implications for the political economy of health and how they are potentially skewing the direction of health research. We also think consider whether self-tracking should be seen as a manifestation of neoliberalism or as something with the potential for the development of different kinds of identities.
In the second episode of my Digital Health/Digital Capitalism podcast I spoke to Minna Ruckenstein about her work on various aspects of digital health and in particular how this is influenced by consumption. We discussed issues around "surveillance capitalism", "prosumption" in digital health technologies, direct to consumer genetic testing and the potential for self tracking devices to be used to establish social solidarity.
This is the first podcast in the series and I am speaking to Nick Fox about his work on personal medical devices and his analysis of digital health and digital capitalism more generally. I think this discussion works pretty well as a broad introduction to the themes of the series as Nick really clearly lays out some useful ways of approaching these things. He also offers some suggestions of how things might develop in the future and some propositions for how we can challenge some of the more damaging aspects of the digital health and capitalism. Can we reshape digital technologies to have more positive and collective affects? Can networked health devices enable solidarity and collective action?