A Field Guide to Algorithms

What are algorithms? Who and what do they involve? What do they do? What is at stake with them? How can we account for them? How can we respond to them?

Following on from the Field Guide to “Fake News”, A Field Guide To Algorithms aims to gather and curate different starting points, recipes, approaches, experiments in participation and activities for collective inquiry into algorithms and the collectives, cultures, infrastructures, imaginaries and practices associated with them.

COVID-19 Testing Situations on Twitter

A new challenge that the COVID-19 pandemic has ignited is testing – and not testing – for the virus, as a central concern among the population. Much of the debate has focused on the merits of different types of tests and testing infrastructures (PCR; anti-body; symptom-based testing through apps). However, equally remarkable about COVID testing is the locations in which it takes place and is expected to place, in everyday places beyond the laboratory, like the home, and the parking lots of superstores.

This project consists in a series of workshops for the collaborative interpretation of Twitter data relating to COVID-19 in order to facilitate a dialogue about the social life of testing, across expert – lay distinctions. The aim is to draw out from Twitter reporting on COVID-19 testing a social understanding of COVID-19 testing as everyday situation, and, potentially, as tests of society. We are also interested in developing and documenting approaches to curating and infrastructuring environments for collaborative interpretative data analysis, given the unusually large Twitter datasets that have been gathered across our institutions.

Digital Methods Recipes

How can we share different ways of doing things with digital data, methods and infrastructures? How can text, images, video, GIFs and other materials be used to provide accounts of digital methods, cultivate sensibilities towards interpretive work, surface tacit knowledge and encourage reflection on decisions, tools, devices, assumptions and materials?

This is a project to assemble and publish digital methods recipes and “how-tos” for research, teaching and collaborations from across the Public Data Lab.

You can see a preview of some of these here: http://recipes.publicdatalab.org/

A set of recipes developed as a collaboration between digital methods researchers at the Public Data Lab and digital journalists at First Draft can be found at: https://firstdraftnews.org/long-form-article/digitalrecipes/

Gabriele Colombo

Gabriele Colombo is a researcher in the field of Communication Design, with a focus on information visualisation and visual methods for social research. He is a postdoctoral research fellow in the European research project INCOMMON, hosted by IUAV, University of Venice. From 2019 to 2021, he has been a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Media Studies of the University of Amsterdam, In the context of the European project “ODYCCEUS – Opinion Dynamics and Cultural Conflict in European Spaces”. He is affiliated with DensityDesign, a research lab at the Design Department of Politecnico di Milano, he is part of the Visual Methodologies Collective at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, and he has a long-standing collaboration with the Digital Methods Initiative at the University of Amsterdam. He holds a PhD in Design from Politecnico di Milano (2018). At Politecnico di Milano he is also a lecturer in the Communication Design Master Degree, where he teaches Digital Methods and Communication Design. His research and teaching activities revolve around the design of visual tools in support of digital social research, focusing on the design of novel strategies for the communication, exploration, analysis and valorisation of collections of images and videos.