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Lecture Series: Data Practices

30. Oktober 2018 - 29. Januar 2019

Tuesdays, 6-8pm in AH-A 217/18

The lecture series explores how study data “in motion”, both theoretically, empirically and methodology. Sensor media capture environments and movements in the background, social media platforms assemble data across all online practices, drones offer alternative maps and logistical media render work calculable. The proliferation of data-intensive media requires researchers to develop their conceptual vocabulary and socio-technical understanding of data production, calculation and their underlying practices and infrastructures. The value of data, so Adrian Mackenzie argued, does not lie in the individual data points but in the relations data can enter. Throughout the lecture series, we ask how a praxeological account can enable us to account for the movement and transformation of data. We consider data practices as those practices involved in the making, calculation, storage, accounting and valuation of data among others which are socio-material and entangled with infrastructures. Data practices particularly pose the challenge how to account for situatededness and distributedness of media and require researchers to operate on different scales. The talks will unfold an interdisciplinary perspective on different data practices and will inquire into the methodological sensibilities needed to account for them.

The lecture series is jointly organised by the DFG graduate school “Locating Media” and the DFG cooperative research centre “Media of Cooperation”.

30.10. Marcus Burkhardt (Siegen) Learning in the Wild: On the Problem of Adaptivity in Machine Learning

6.11 Timo Kaerlein (Siegen) Social Bots and the Formalization of Sociality on Platforms

13.11 Hendrik Bender & Magdalena Götz (Siegen) Distributed Research: Drones, Media Art & Collecting Data

20.11 Helena Karasti & Gaia Mosconi (Siegen) Open Science, Data Practices and Infrastructure: Two Multidimensional Empirical Accounts
The Open Science (OS) agenda aims to promote cultural, organizational and infrastructural changes across academia, potentially massive and pervasive in scope. In fact, OS intends to make scientific research and data “accessible to all” by removing barriers to sharing, regardless of the type of output, resources, data, methods or tools used and independently from the actual research process. To satisfy OS-driven policies (pushed by funding bodies and other stakeholders), Institutionally-based Repositories have proliferated, within which researchers are expected to publish their scientific data. Significant research has been devoted to studying the issues associated with managing Open Research Data. In particular, Digital Curation, as it is typically known, seeks to address the (cyclic) process of data management to ensure (1) its long-term value (digital preservation) and (2) encourage secondary use. While we believe that “openness” will ultimately help to increase the quality of research, improve research methods and enhance reflexivity in scientific work, in this talk, we want to address the drastic gap that still exists between the OS grand vision and actual researchers’ data practices, though also some functioning examples of data management and sharing exist. We suggest that interdisciplinary research contexts offer a perspicuous opportunity to understand better the Data Curation and Research Data Management issues that can problematise uptake and practices. These relate to obvious discrepancies between Open Research Data policies and subject-specific research practices and needs. We present two empirical accounts of interdisciplinary research contexts in order to discuss which steps need to be undertaken to pursue the OS agenda and realize its benefits. We also aim to encourage researchers to join this discussion and actively engage in shaping the future of science.

27.11 Tobias Röhl (Siegen) Distributing Accountability. Data Practices in Public Transport
In the field of public transport questions of accountability are often raised. This becomes especially apparent in the case of breakdowns and other disruptions. Actors in and beyond transport companies make themselves accountable and are held accountable by others: Who is responsible for the disruption? Who can be held accountable for repair? Who is in charge of organising repair and other means of rectifying disruptions? Drawing on STS and ethnomethodology, I will argue for a praxeological concept of accountability. Accountability is not a fixed state of individual or collective actors but a practically accomplished and technologically mediated relationship. Transport companies rely on various data practices and data infrastructures that distribute accountability between different actors within and beyond the organisation. Following this distributed normative work shows that data (practices) are the object of negotiations and conflicts between various actors. What is at stakes is the scale and scope of data and media.

4.12 Rafal Zaborowski (London) Holograms, Platforms and Glowsticks: The Challenges of Capturing Music Experiences as Data
Drawing on original empirical data from Japan, in this paper I engage with changing cultural practices surrounding music, and with that, the methodological challenges in approaching music experiences as data. Specifically, I look at unintended consequences accompanying the move from the analogue to the digital, which play a salient role in contemporary audiences’ experiences of music.
While the materiality of music was never fully denied, everyday listening is increasingly experienced through streaming and online storage. This, combined with the portability of phones and new participatory concert practices, has opened up a new range of music uses but also conflated the private with the public, the personal with the social. As music is increasingly consumed digitally and ubiquitously, listeners’ attention strays away from textual cues and the social aspect of music seems less pronounced than ever – arguably becoming almost odourless (cf. Iwabuchi 2002).
And yet, despite the organised infrastructure of digital music platforms, listening and storing practices surrounding music remain often accidental and reflecting the chaos of social life. Datafication and digitalisation transform music from texts and practices to a meta-system of platforms, streams and formats, where, in the words of a listener, “music is not just music anymore – it’s a whole thing”. With the increasing technological capabilities of online platforms, this metafication of music becomes crucial to understanding methodological and epistemological challenges surrounding listening. If the blurring of texts and contexts shows critical limitations in the circuit of culture (du Gay et al 1997), how can we update it?

11.12 Clancy Wilmott (Manchester) Para-Site: Tables, Topologies and Treachery in Everyday Data Practices
This seminar focuses on the in-between of everyday data practices: the space between cells of the horizontal rows and vertical columns, GPS way points and time stamps. This space is one of indeterminacy and agitation, where the fallibilities and fugitives of a data driven culture seek refuge. Focusing specifically on the situated use of GPS data on mobile phones in Sydney and Hong Kong, and using experimental digital methods, this paper analyses the relationship between ethnographic data and digital data of everyday mobile mapping practices. In doing so, it analyses what is lost to what Serres (2002) terms ‘the parasites’, or the systems of filtration that shift, steal and leech from messages. Thus, as everyday lived spaces of movement are punctuated and reduced to tabular and topological forms, this paper focuses on where these losses may reside, where their more-than-data immanence may appear and how they may be found through a critical data approach.

18.12 Eva-Maria Nyckel & André Sekulla (Siegen) Data Practices in Infrastructural Media – The Case of Blockchain
Ronja Trischer: The paper discusses practices of cooperation via blockchain technology and the practical challenges which occur if the socio-technical conditions of cooperation are decentralized by the use of blockchain. The ongoing industrialization of blockchain technology produces different cooperative formats and actors: rather than thinking about „the“ blockchain, we should assume „blockchains“ in the plural when looking at the conditions of cooperation. Thus, the paper asks on the basis of contrasting case studies: which practices produce and organize decentralization in each case? How can social actors and actants participate in these practices – and how can researchers observe them?

André Sekulla: With the publication of the Bitcoin, blockchain technology gained the interest of many people. Decentralized organizations and structures could be supported with it and act as an alternative to centralized platforms. Furthermore, blockchain technology could possibly introduce new kinds of collaboration. In this lecture, an introduction to the blockchain technology will be given, with a focus on how data is created and stored in the blockchain. Additionally, a use case will be explained with a view on socio-technical aspects.

8.01 Annet Dekker (Amsterdam) Archiving (in) Processes
Values that drive data management and the creation of collections, interfaces and infrastructures often are characterized in terms such as re-use, openness, interoperability, relationality, interdisciplinarity, and, in some cases, even post-disciplinarity. By following the proverb, “the more data, the more sharing, the more knowledge”, decisions about what texts, objects, and artefacts deserve preservation oftentimes only consider the needs and practicalities of the now.
Such a focus on the present, however, neglects that archiving is first and foremost about the collection and dissemination of knowledge for future generations whose needs are impossible to predict. 

Yet, most archives today merely function as rear-view mirrors; their methods are built on conventional infrastructures. In such cases active and dynamic data loses its performative nature. If the goal of an archival institution is to plan, produce and shape the future, what would happen if archival design embraces uncertainty and encourages speculation to create a stage where these very virtues could be performed and co-created with all those involved?
In this talk I explore different archival practices. Tracing the value of data I’ll move from performative data to archiving (in) processes to show that archival methods need to change if they want to maintain their relevance in the future.

15.01 Shintaro Miyazaki (Basel) Below the Data is the Signal – A (Marxist) Rhythmanalysis of Data in Motion
In the lecture I will update my work based on the notion of algorhythmics – which was inspired by the context of German media archaeology (Wolfgang Ernst) and was extended towards the notion of media ecology – with new aspects inspired by Henri Lefebvre’s concept of rhythmanalysis and Wendy Hui Kyong Chun’s work on pattern discrimination and habitual media. The lecture is thus highly preliminary and builds an important step for me in order to extend media archaeology towards a critique of techno-capitalism and media (design) activism.

22.01 Cristina Alaimo (Surrey) Infrastructures of Automation: Data Objects, Metrics and Practices in the Programmatic Advertising Ecosystem

29.01 Louise Amoore (Durham) Cloud Ethics: Algorithms and the Attributes of Others
The techniques deployed in deep neural net algorithms to condense the features of a scene to an output of meaning – “a man is throwing a Frisbee in a park”, “a woman is standing at the border fence with a crowd in the background” – give an account of the ethico-politics of algorithms for our times. The output of the algorithms reduces the intractable difficulties and duress of living, the undecidability of what could be happening in a scene, into a single human-readable and actionable meaning. We have ethical and political relationships with other beings in the world because the meaning of those relations, their mediation through every scene of life, cannot be condensed. It is precisely irreducible. And so, at the very moment that the algorithm outputs a single meaning from an irreducible scene, there is also at this border limit a “clause of nonclosure”, as Derrida describes the opening of context. How does one begin to locate the points of nonclosure within the algorithm’s programme of meaning-making? In contrast to the widespread search for ethical limits of the actions of algorithms, I propose a cloud ethics that is concerned with the formation of relations to oneself and to others. Are there counter-methods of attention available to us that could resist the frameworks of attention of machine learning? Amid the technologies of the attribute, what remains of that which is unattributable in the scene?


30. Oktober 2018
29. Januar 2019