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Political Bots, Subverting Twitter, and the Online Political Practices of Estonian Youth at AoIR16

Political Work Panel

This is a liveblog from the “Political Work" panel at AoIR16 on October 24, 2015 in Phoenix, AZ. This is not a transcript but recreation of people’s comments. Any errors are my own.

Architecture for Understanding the Automated Imaginary: A Working Qualitative Methodology for Research on Political Bots
Norah Abokhodair, Samuel Woolly, Philip Howard & David McDonald

This paper is led by Norah Abokhodair, is developing a working method for qualitative analyzing political bots. Summarized here: http://politicalbots.org/?p=314. Their research question: How are bots being used for political purposes?

They started with a set of definitions:

  • Bot = a software program that automates ‘human’ tasks on the web
  • Political bot = social bots, engage with human users. They mainly function on social media and are used to further specific political causes (for good, ill, or in-between)

The project has a three part research process: 1) comparative event data set, 2) international fieldwork with bot coders, and 3) computational theory building. The international field work involves interviews with people who build bots and track bots as well. We’ve looked into government contractors that track bots to combat activism online.

This paper focuses on stage one of the research: building the comparative event data set. They are documenting cases of political bot usage. They gather all media coverage of bot use around the world, and then use multi-coder content analysis of the media reports. They started in Hungary with students at Central European University, and triple coded all the media. They developed a Google Form that the coders would follow when coding each course.

The output of this is the contextual understandings of 100+ unique cases of political bot usage across 40+ countries. They noticed that anytime there was a political crisis or election there was use of political bots to manipulate public opinion. 

Private Platforms under Public Pressure at AoIR16

This is a liveblog from the “Private Platforms under Public Pressure" roundtable at AoIR16 on October 23, 2015 in Phoenix, AZ. This is not a transcript but recreation of people’s comments. Any errors are my own.

This roundtable featured scholars J. Nathan Matias, Tarleton Gillespie, Christian Sandvig, Mike Ananny, and Karine Nahon working on both critical and constructive appropriates to defining the roles and responsibilities of platforms, the governance of those systems by users, corporations, algorithms, and states, and the question of where we are at our public consciousness of what it means to have a new definition for or new socio-technical system called a platform.

Each panelist reflected on what brought them to the research topic and also on the panel theme: What happens to private platforms when they are put under public pressure? They found much left to explore in the topic: many questions were raised and the need for more research and new approaches was clear. 

#StopEbola: What Nigeria Got Right (liveblog)

This is a liveblog (not a transcription) of the talk "#StopEbola: What Nigeria Got Right" delivered February 17, 2015 by Aimee Corrigan at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Cambridge, MA.

Aimee Corrigan is the Co-Director of Nollywood Workshops, "a hub for filmmakers in Lagos, Nigeria that supports and delivers movie production and distribution, training, and research". Nollywood Workshops uses entertainment for various social goals, and was involved in Nigeria's response to ebola. Aimee is also developing a long-form documentary about Ebola in Nigeria.

In July 20, 2014, Nigerian-American Patrick Sawyer landed in Lagos, Nigeria; he was the "index case" of ebola for Nigeria. Lagos has a population equal to Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia combined. There was the chance for an "apocalyptic urban outbreak" in lagos. Nigeria contained it, suffering only 20 cases and 8 deaths. The WHO called Nigeria's response a "spectacular success story." 

How to Identify Gender in Datasets at Large Scales, Ethically and Responsibly

A practical guide to methods and ethics of gender identification

For the past three years, I've been using methods to identify gender in large datasets to support research, design, and data journalism, supported by the Knight Foundation, with an amazing group of collaborators. In my Master's thesis, used these techniques to support inclusion of women in citizen journalism, the news, and collective aciton online. Last February, I was invited to give a talk about my work at the MIT Symposium on Gender and Technology, hosted by the MIT Program in Women's and Gender Studies. I have finally written the first part of the talk, a practical guide to methods and ethics of gender identification approaches.

Diversity and Contention Online: Talks by Anselm Spoerri and Jisun An

On Friday, November 22nd, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society's Cooperation group and MIT Center for Civic Media hosted two speakers—Anselm Spoerri and Jisun An—to talk about their research into diversity and contention online. This is a liveblog of those talks authored by Erhardt Graeff, Dalia Othman, Catherine D'Ignazio, Chelsea Barabas, and Nathan Matias.

Anselm Spoerri

Anselm Spoerri: Visualizing Controversial and Popular Topics in Wikipedia across Languages
Anselm is a Swiss-born information visualization researcher. He did his PhD at MIT in computational vision, and is now a lecturer and assistant professor at the Rutgers School of Communication and Information. His latest work looks at contention in Wikipedia.

The project he shares with us, on Edit Wars in Wikipedia, presents a fascinating visualization of a dataset prepared by Taha Yasseri and Janos Kertesz of the "most controversial" topics in 10 different language versions of Wikipedia. 

Tweets and the streets with Paolo Gerbaudo


Last Wednesday we had Pablo Gerbaudo presenting his book Tweets and the streets: Social Media and Contemporary Activism at the Center for Civic Media. It was a great opportunity to share ideas, and research, about the use of social networking sites in social mobilizations in the: Arab Spring (in Egypt), Indignados (Spain), Occupy (USA).

Platforms and Affordances: From Pamphleteers to Peer to Peer

This week in the Introduction to Civic Media class, we focused in exploring the 'continuity and change within and between media and communication technologies as tools for civic engagement and social change.' The premise proposed by the set of readings was to move beyond digital media in order to be critical around the 'relationship of 'old' media technologies to social change.'
How development in media impact or acompanies social shifts.

This week, the facilitators and scribes for the discussion was Rogelio, Callahn and myself. Rogelio started the discussion by reviewing James Carey's "Technology and Ideology: the Case of the Telegraph."

He explains the three major shifts, that came about with the telegraph. As told by Carey, the telegraph is the first example of communication and transportation being disaggregated. In a broad overview, we discussed how the telegraph impacted the industrial world, changing management techniques, organizational structure, etc. 

The Magic School Bus Goes Link Spamming

At the end of our last Intro to Civic Media class, we split up into groups to develop models of theory of change. And for the second time doing this type of activity in this class, I was in the group that came up with a reference to nature — this time, we modeled change with... the water cycle.

And since water cycles remind me of one of my favorite childhood books — The Magic School Bus At the Waterworks —, I’m going to describe a method of change and how it relates to my semester-long project through The Magic School Bus (by Joanna Cole — oh wait, I mean Joanna Kao).

[Imagine Magic School Bus intro music]

Ms. Frizzle seemed a little different the other day. She’s normally a little different, but that day, she was even more different. When she walked into the classroom, she didn’t say her normal “Good morning, class!” and “Are you ready to learn about...” Instead, she just walked to her desk and stared off into space.

Analyzing newspapers' front pages

Surface dedicated in Newspapers front pages vs. Twitter about #ows #Occupy #occupywallstreet Nov 17th

Surface dedicated in Newspapers front pages vs. Twitter about #Occupy Nov. 17th after Occupy Wall Street eviction.

The Long March Online--Huma Yusuf in Pakistan

Ed. note: Our research affiliate Huma Yusuf is in Karachi covering the political protests in Pakistan, and she is blogging about Pakistanis' uses of citizen journalism on The Dawn Blog, from which we'll quote as Huma posts more.

Pakistan, a developing nation with 17 million internet users in a population of over 150 million people, seems like an unlikely place for internet activism to thrive. But ongoing political turmoil (and a propensity for arbitrary arrests) has made this South Asian country one of the most politically active nations online.

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