First Contagion paper – Translating social media: promises and problems for critical human geography

As one or two readers of this blog will know, I was a Co-I on the Contagion project led by Prof Steve Hinchliffe between September 2013 and May of this year (2015). The project investigated the idea and the performances of ‘contagion’ across several domains, including in relation to social media and in relation to disease. The first paper from the work on social media was recently completed and I’m happy to share some information here…

Those who found my brief post for the LSE’s ‘Impact’ blog concerning what I called the ‘political economy of Twitter data’ may find this paper of particular interest.

The paper’s title is Translating social media: promises and problems for critical human geography – ‘translation’ here addresses the (positive and negative) methodological potentials of the adaption and adoption of social media data and techniques (some of which are ‘black-boxed’) and their attendant epistemological assumptions.

The authors of the paper are myself, Rebecca Sandover (who was RA on the project and wrote some interesting blogposts concerning cognate issues) and Steve Hinchliffe.

Here is the abstract:

This article interrogates the promise as well as the critical implications of how social media reshape geographical research and in doing so offers an intervention into the emerging geographies of social media. The article is structured in three substantive parts: First, we introduce the promise of social media research through an initial exploration of how those media are ineluctably entangled in changes within social, economic and political fields. Second, the translations of data in social media research are addressed through the applications and techniques involved. Third, we focus upon issues relating to access to data and the ethics of gathering and interrogating social media data. This provides a basis for subsequent discussion of the theoretical implications of digital data methods and the performances of socialities online. This article signals how, through the exploration of different techniques, critical social media studies can speak to Rose’s (2015) challenge to chart the complexities of digitally–mediated cultural performances, interpretations and movements through the investigation of data attributes.

We have submitted this paper for review, so we’ll have to see what happens…

If you’d like to know more or would like a copy of the paper please feel free to get in touch.

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