Affect & Social Media 3.0 CFP

Via Tony Sampson

Affect and Social Media#3 2nd CFP

main2Call for presentations and artworks

Affect and Social Media#3




Including the Sensorium Art Show (the sequel)

Event Date: Thurs 25th May, 2017

Venue: University of East London, Docklands Campus

Confirmed keynote: Prof Jessica Ringrose (UCL)

Call for 15min presentations and artworks

The organizers of A&SM#3 welcome proposals for 15min presentations and artworks that interpret and explore the affective, feely and emotional encounters with social media grasped through the following themes:

  1. Experience
  2. Engagement
  3. Entanglement 

Presentations and artworks can widely interpret each theme, but preference will be given to proposals that respond in two ways.

Firstly, the organizers are particularly interested in creative responses (academic and artistic) to recent social media events – the US election, for example. So proposals might address how the Trump win allows us to develop a fresh understanding of shared experiences, emotional engagements or new entanglements with social media.

Secondly, we ask presenters and artists to consider how their approach to affect and social media can be put to work in an education context. For example, how can the potential of affect theory reach out across teaching practices and develop novel understandings of the political nature and transformative possibilities of teaching.

The academic part of this call is open to experienced scholars, new researchers and postgrad students from across the disciplinary boundaries of affect studies and related areas of study interested in theorizing and working with emotion and feelings in a social media context. We welcome a good mixture of innovative conceptual and methodological approaches.

The Sensorium Art Exhibit will interweave the conference proceedings and bring it to a close with a special show, alongside free drinks and nibbles.

15min presentations and artwork proposals to:

Please include 200 word max description and short bio including academic affiliation and relevant links to previous work and/or website profile.

DEADLINE: Tues 28th Feb 2017.

Full registration details will be made available from 27th Jan via UEL event page.

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.

A political economy of twitter data?

Over on our Contagion project website, I have written a blog post concerning some issues around whether or not and how we can or should access and use Twitter data in research.

Here’s the beginning:

Many of the research articles and blogs concerning conducting research with social media data, and in particular with Twitter data, offer overviews of their methods for harvesting data through an API. An Application Programming Interface is a set of software components that allow third parties to connect to a given application or system and utilise its capacities using their own code. Most of these research accounts tend to make this process seem rather straight forward. Researchers can either write a programme themselves, such as, or can utilise one of several tools that have emerged that provide a WYSIWYG interface for undertaking the connection to the social networking platform, such as implementing yourTwapperKeeperCOSMOS or using a service such as ScraperWiki (to which I will return). However, what is little commented upon is the restrictions put on access to data through many of the social networking platform APIs, in particular Twitter. The aim of this blog post is to address some of the issues around access to data and what we are permitted to do with it.


VIDEO> Algorithms, performativity and governability – Introna

Excellent critical reflection on ‘algorithms, performativity and governability’ by Lucas Introna – very helpful for a bunch of things I’m currently thinking about…

Lucas Introna: “Algorithms, Performativity and Governability” from Media, Culture, Communication on Vimeo.

Taking this discussion a few steps on, you can (and I intend to today) read David Beer’s article Power through the algorithm? and Daniel Neyland’s article On organising algorithms.

Reblog> Steve Hinchliffe on the ‘badger politics’ played out on twitter

Over on our nice shiny new website for the Contagion project, the PI, Professor Steve Hinchliffe, has written a timely blogpost concerning the formations and formulations of concerned publics with regard to the 2013 ‘pilot’ cull of badgers in the South West of England.

In the blogpost Steve highlights the social networking analysis being undertaken as a part of the broader Contagion project, through some interesting case studies, to work through how we can understand the data available in relation to particular issues, the tools that can be used to interrogate them, and the theoretical frames we can use to epistemologically anchor and deepen what can be said about these data.

Steve is also writing, in part, in response to a recent presentation/report by the IpsosMORI Social Research Unit, who are engaging in research around ‘social listening’, which focuses on fracking and the badger cull. The social network analysis undertaken by the Contagion project team arguably deepens and nuances the broad brushstrokes of the temporal analysis undertaken by IpsosMORI and highlights the messiness of the ‘modularity’ of the network convened around the topic of concern – the badger cull. As Steve suggests:

…issues are performed or issue-led publics are generated in ways that involve a key role for social media and for twitter in particular.  What we are starting to explore is how those publics are constituted – they aren’t always partisan, they tend to be heterogeneous rather than homogeneous (a standard assumptiion in social network theory is that people of like minds clump together, but this homophilly as it is called, is not so clear cut in public issues – clumping is somewhat conditional on other relations and roles).  Moreover, there are suggestions here of key actors and sub-groups that confound any simple sense that social media simply relays a message – communication is messier than that.  There is a roughness or spatiality to the social.


Reblog > Deleuze in Southend-on-Sea (Tony Sampson)

In a very cogent performance of Deleuzian theory through a discussion of Southend-as-assemblage, Tony D. Sampson (author of, amongst other things, Virality) gave one of the opening talks of Club Critical Theory, a really lovely idea for bringing about public engagement with critical theory–resolutely beyond the ‘ivory towers’ (or concrete slabs in some cases) of academia. Definitely worth a read:

Deleuze in Southend-on-Sea

Applying Deleuze to Southend in the context a Club Critical Theory discussion is a doubly difficult task. To begin with Deleuze introduces a new vocabulary that sits atop of an already complex layer of philosophical debate. We will need to grapple with complexity theory and a strange incorporeal materialism. Then there are personal reasons that make this task problematic relating to my own situation here as a Southender. Deleuze, for me, represents an escape from certain aspects of my early working life in Southend at the local college and particularly my time spent in what we referred to then as the School of Media and Fascism. Deleuze was part of my escape plan from this horror, so returning to Southend with him in mind presents all kinds of problems, but let’s put those aside for a moment and see where Deleuze in Southend takes us.

Read more>>

Tweets about Ernesto Laclau

[Amended: 15/04/2014 22:24 to reflect better stats on the links being shared]

As a number of other bloggers have highlighted, and as I noted on Twitter, the political philosopher Ernesto Laclau sadly passed away on the 13th of April. There is an excellent obituary on the publisher Verso’s blog, which is worth reading.

Like, I think, a lot of others I discovered this news on Twitter and, as is the modus operandi of the tweeter, I re-tweeted the tweets through which I discovered the news. I certainly do not intend to trivialise this news, but what is quite interesting about the spread of this sad news is that while the English spread of the news on twitter was largely driven by retweets, a lot of which linked to a story in the English language Buenos Aires Herald, the Spanish spike in tweets was not wholly driven by retweets.

There was, therefore, a muted version of a @BBCBreaking sort of effect in English tweets, in the way that there was for example with the news about the death of Peaches Geldof (again, I’m not seeking to trivialise that news or intervene in the discussions about whether or not there was genuine grief being expressed). So, for a ‘concerned public’ (in this case those who are at least partly familiar with Laclau, his work and the topics it addresses) social media became a conduit and key actor in the movement of the information in different ways.

I ran a quick search on ScraperWiki, from yesterday, that encompasses the relevant dates and used some of the tools we have been developing for the Contagion project to look at the time series of tweets and in particular the movement of the news between Spanish and English. We can see how the initial spike of tweets in Spanish leads the spike in English by approximately an hour (please bare in mind that the Spanish tweets are more numerous by an approximate multiple of ten).

Now, the spike in tweets in English can be mostly, but not quite wholly, attributed to retweets of the link to an English language article posted on the Buenos Aires Herald. Yet, there remains a majority of the tweets in the Spanish spike that are a case of other forms of ‘passing it on‘. Tweets featuring a direct link (some as shortened URLs) to the Buenos Aires Herald article account for over a half (at various moments in the spike) of all English tweets between 8pm and midnight on 13th April, and a few more of these tweets link to Stuart Elden’s blog post that links on to the Buenos Aires Herald.

So, its interesting to see how the combination of an emergent ‘public’ convened around that news and the somewhat phatic interaction of re-tweeting once the movement of easily shared links begins (this is related to what Martin Thayne discussed in a paper about Facebook in the issue of Culture Machine I co-edited with Patrick Crogan). This speaks to what Steve Hinchliffe and I have been trying to get at with the definition of ‘contagion’, inspired by Tony Sampson’s Thrift-ian reading of Tarde, as the ‘movement of movement’ – the sense in which the various intersecting constituents of a public / a network, propagate and in some senses ‘accelerate’ the iteration and mutation, hence difference, in repetition.

Obviously, there’s more to what we do, and, indeed, more to do, in this kind of critical theory-inflected analysis of virality in social media and that’s what I’m busy working out with both Steve and our diligent research fellow Rebecca Sandover, who has recently presented some initial ideas from the project at the AAG (the abstract linked here isn’t quite what was presented but it gives you a flavour!).

Latour – The whole is always smaller than its parts

In 2012 Latour gave a version of the paper “The Whole is Always Smaller than its Parts: A Digital Test of Gabriel Tarde’s Monads“, published in the British Journal of Sociology, for MOMA, a joint research group from the Paris IdF Complex Systems Institute and the Center for Research in Applied Epistemology (CNRS/Ecole Polytechnique). The video of the talk is quite entertaining, as usual Latour is a witty speaker…

The paper makes the argument that digital systems have realised a model for testing Tarde’s theorisation of the monad: ‘not a part of a whole but a point of view on all the other entities taken severally and not as a totality’ (Latour et al. 2012, 598) – the sense of which, in ANT language, is that all actors are simultaneously networks and vice versa. In this way, if we consider the ways in which coded entities are arrayed and structured in digital systems we can trace out the relationships between different kinds of entities through digital systems in something like a ‘scale-free’ manner. The example Latour gives is that, if you search for a particular academic you will find various kinds of information about them on a digital profile (on their web page, on or ResearchGate): so you find that they work at a particular university, in a particular discipline and have written particular papers and so on. Thus, from one entity ‘academic’ you extrapolate others, ‘university’, ‘department’, ‘paper’ and so on. Likewise, this is a uni-directional relation – collapsing scale. (You can sort of see why Graham Harman identifies Latour as a metaphysician here.)

If you do not begin either from the micro or the macro but instead focus on ‘the practice of slowly learning about what an entity ‘is’ by adding more and more items to its profile’ (Latour et al. 2012, 598-99) then we do not begin with substitutable individual entities but instead individualise an entity by tracing its attributes. Latour argues ‘the farther the list of items extends, the more precise becomes the viewpoint of the individual monad’ (ibid, 599). In this way, we might see the practice of tracing intersecting attributes as the performance of what Bernard Stiegler (following Gilbert Simondon) has called ‘co-individuation’ through categorisation. As the tracings of attributes metastabilise in the sharing of meanings (i.e. entity x is understood as the intersection of attributes y and z) they become formalised as the ‘rules’ by which an entity is understood and somewhat concretised as recorded knowledge, and then reinterpreted – constituting what Stiegler has called transindividuation. This is a metastabilisation of co-constituted knowledge – the monad is only possible in the performance of its observation, that observation can be more or less concretised.

Now, Latour et al. highlight that it may not always be feasible to ‘move from particular to particular’  – the data to do this ind of tracing is often not available, or even possible: as Latour et al. argue, even the most sophisticated tracking devices cannot detect the differences between atoms in a large body of gas. What Latour et al. suggest is that ‘every time it is possible to use [entity] profiles, then the monological principle will obtain’ (600). Instead of being a structure more complex than its individual components (the idea of lots of ‘micro’ entities aggregated into a ‘macro’ whole) the monadological ‘whole’ becomes a simpler set of attributes whose inner composition is constantly changing according to the viewpoint – the tracing. ‘Wholes’ are ‘nothing more than several other ways of handling the interlocking of [attributes]’ (Latour et al. 2012, 609).

This theorisation, by Latour, of the monad (according to Tarde), as in some sense ‘smaller’ than the sum of its (observable) parts, leads on to another aspect of Tarde’s philosophy: imitation. For ‘imitation’ is not a psychological phenomenon, its not simply mimesis, it is (as Deleuze observes following Tarde) the difference in repetition.

Its worth reading the paper in full, its quite a rich version of Latour’s monad argument, which he has rolled out in a number of ways at various points in his career – this is of particular interest to me because of the resonances with Stiegler’s reading of Simondon and its relevance to the Contagion project I am working on with colleagues at Exeter.

Friction – an interdisciplinary conference on technology & resistance

Over on the Virality blog, Tony Sampson highlights this recent and rurally interesting call for papers for a conference concerning technology and resistance. I have reproduced the CFP below but see the original blog for Tony’s take…

Friction: An interdisciplinary conference on technology & resistanceUniversity of Nottingham
Thursday 8th May & Friday 9th May, 2014Keynote talk by Pollyanna Ruiz (LSE)

With workshops led by: Matthew Fuller and Andrew Goffey; University of Leicester Technology Group; Jen Birks and John Downey; and Rachel Jacobs (Active Ingredient).

Current workshop themes include: evil media; data, digital leaks and political activism; hacklabs and artistic uses of data.

More TBC

Workshop and talk abstracts, and information about speakers will be appearing on our blog in the forthcoming weeks:

[mass noun]
The resistance that one surface or object encounters when moving over another:
· the action of one surface or object rubbing against another
· conflict or animosity caused by a clash of wills, temperaments, or opinions

Oxford English Dictionary, 2013

We are now living in a frictionless economy in which money, jobs and products can move around the world in the blink of an eye. And yet we have not moved to a frictionless society. Rather, many of the technologies that support the frictionless economy create various forms of friction in society. Taking a lead from the University of Nottingham’s Centre for Critical Theory’s Technology and Resistance research strand, we are interested in proposals for papers and workshops that explore the concept/metaphor of ‘friction’ as a starting point for exploring the relationship between everyday technologies and resistance; with resistance understood in both a politically empowering and an inhibitory sense. On the one hand, we’re interested in modes of organised resistance: of activist movements making use of, or reacting against, technological developments. However we’re concerned with resistance in a second sense: of technologies resisting their intended function, breaking down, being exploited by hackers or triggering unexpected socio-economic complications.

We invite people to use the concept of ‘friction’ as a route into exploring these themes, with potential topics for discussion including (but not limited to):

· Data and ethics
· Cultural shifts relating to the capture of data
· The vulnerability of software to hacking and surveillance
· Resistance to surveillance and data harvesting
· Activist uses of data, particularly the circulation of leaked material
· The politics of hacking
· The exploitation of ambiguity in software design by hackers
· Activist and everyday contestations of technological developments
· The sociological and cultural factors required for technologies to ‘work’
· Everyday and/or activist reappropriations of technology
· Tensions between new technologies and existing infrastructures

We are an interdisciplinary group of researchers, including academics from Geography, Business, Critical Theory, Cultural Studies and Media & Communications: so we welcome a diverse range of perspectives and approaches to this theme.

We encourage interactive presentation formats, and will allocate longer time-slots to workshops to accommodate these, but also have space for shorter 20 minute position papers.

Extended deadline for proposals: 1st March 2014

If you are interested in participating please submit a 250 word proposal for a workshop or paper, along with your name and current email address, to

Please also feel free to contact us with more general enquiries, follow the Centre for Critical Theory’s Twitter account @criticaltheory