We are delighted to add an additional speaker to the Digital Society seminar series and to welcome David Moats to Edinburgh on Friday, November 23rd (11-1pm, Lister Learning and Teaching Centre – 2.14)

Seeing through data: On the promises and pitfalls of data visualisations for the social sciences

Semi-automated data analysis techniques like machine learning and artificial intelligence have made great strides in a variety of fields but they have also been accused by theorists, ethicists and qualitative social scientists of being reductionist, ‘black boxed’ or politically problematic. Data visualisations are often presented as an alternative because, while they involve algorithms and quantitative metrics, they foreground human interpretation in the process, potentially open up data analysis to a wider range of participants, and even, it is claimed, bridge the so called micro and macro scales. However, discussions of visualisations often gloss over practical tensions and negotiations between quantitative and qualitative methods, different disciplines and more or less technically-literate researchers.

This lecture is a reflection on a series of workshops held at Linköping University in 2017, one on the role of social media micro-targeting in elections, one on online patient feedback and one on academic rankings and metrics. The goal of these workshops was to encourage anthropologists, STS researchers and less technical topic experts to engage with simple digital tools and visualisations. While these encounters highlighted lots of problems with using these tools, they also suggested ways of rethinking inherited notions about visualisations and relations between different modes of research.

Speaker Bio:
David Moats is a researcher at TEMA T (Technology and Social Change), Linköping University, Sweden. David’s PhD, supervised by Noortje Marres, reflected on methodological dilemmas involved in using digital tools to explore public science controversies across online platforms like Wikipedia, Facebook and Twitter. He is broadly interested in the methodological implications of digital data for the social sciences, particularly how data visualizations can be used in conjunction with more open-ended, exploratory and interpretive styles of analysis.


Digital Society Calendar
Friday, Sept 28th: Zara Rahman (Data & Society, The Engine Room)
Friday, November 2nd: Natalie Nzeyimana (Oxford Internet Institute)
Friday, November 23rd: David Moats (Linköping University)
Friday, December 7th: Dave Young (University of Nottingham)

Categories: Events


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