Introducing forestscapes and open call for forest sounds

Soundscapes as method

How can soundscapes be used as a way to attend to forest life and the many different ways that we narrate and relate to forests, forest issues and forest protection and restoration efforts?

Forests and their wider ecologies are presented not only as sites of conservation and relaxation, but also as crucial infrastructures in addressing and building resilience against the effects of climate change; habitats for endangered species; hotspots of biodiversity; part of poverty alleviation programmes; sites for ecotourism, health and wellbeing; scenes of neocolonial afforestation; backdrops for corporate greenwashing; landscapes of danger, violence, destruction and resource conflicts; and places where different kinds of planetary futures may emerge. Forests are involved in collective life in many ways.

In this context, the forestscapes project will explore, document and demonstrate generative arts-based methods for recomposing collections of sound materials to support “collective inquiry” into forests as living cultural landscapes. It aims to facilitate interdisciplinary exchanges between natural scientists, social scientists, arts and humanities researchers, artists and public-spirited organisations and institutions working on forest issues.

While many previous works have explored sound as a medium for sensory immersion, (e.g. field recordings), forestscapes explores how recomposing sound material may explore forests as mediatised and contested cultural landscapes: diverse sites of many different (and marginalised) kinds of beings, relations, histories and representations. As part of the project we will co-create new sound works, as well as generative composition techniques using open source software and hardware.

Research on visual methods has explored how to work with “folders of images”, including formats for the re-arrangement of images for collective interpretation. Forestscapes will explore generative methods and techniques for working with “folders of sound” – whether folders of site-based recordings or collections of sounds associated with a particular place gathered from the web and social media.

Further details and materials from the project will be added here.

Call for folders of forest sounds

As part of the project we have an open call for folders of forest sounds. If you have a collection of forest sounds related to a particular site and you’d be interested in exploring soundscaping techniques, we’d love to hear from you.

What? We welcome sounds collected in different contexts, i.e. research projects involving forests in some ways (e.g. ecological restoration, study of climate change impacts, fieldwork, etc); sounds recorded during walks and trips; as well as material collected online. 

How? You can tell us about your folders of forest sounds here.

Who? We’re keen to hear from everyone with collections of forest sounds –  whether you’re a forest scientist with bioacoustic recordings; an environmental organisation exploring sound as a medium of community engagement; a new media researcher gathering online materials; an ethnographer working with sound materials;  a musician working with field recordings from a particular forest site; an artist interested in generative compositional techniques with ecological sounds; or a walker who has gathered a collection of sounds from a forest you often go to.

When? Please submit your files by 17th March 2023.

The forestscapes project is a collaboration between the Department of Geography, the Department of Digital Humanities and the Centre for Digital Culture at King’s College London, together with the Public Data Lab. It is supported by the National Environmental Research Council.

New article: Staying with the trouble of networks

A new article on “Staying with the trouble of networks” co-authored by Daniela van GeenenJonathan Gray, Liliana BounegruTommaso VenturiniMathieu Jacomy and Axel Meunier has just been published in Frontiers in Big Data. It is available open access in html and PDF versions. Here’s the abstract:

Networks have risen to prominence as intellectual technologies and graphical representations, not only in science, but also in journalism, activism, policy, and online visual cultures. Inspired by approaches taking trouble as occasion to (re)consider and reflect on otherwise implicit knowledge practices, in this article we explore how problems with network practices can be taken as invitations to attend to the diverse settings and situations in which network graphs and maps are created and used in society. In doing so, we draw on cases from our research, engagement and teaching activities involving making networks, making sense of networks, making networks public, and making network tools. As a contribution to “critical data practice,” we conclude with some approaches for slowing down and caring for network practices and their associated troubles to elicit a richer picture of what is involved in making networks work as well as reconsidering their role in collective forms of inquiry.

Exploring forest hashtags in COP27 Twitter with the European Forest Institute

The following is a cross-post from Rina Tsubaki at the European Forest Institute, drawing on digital methods recipes and approaches developed with the Public Data Lab as part a broader collaboration around the SUPERB project on upscaling forest restoration.

Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter has prompted confusion among its users and concerns about the platform’s future. Musk’s tweets are gathering daily attention due to large-scale layoffs and safety concerns around the new paid blue verification mark. To make things worse, as its engineers are on their way out of the door, users are also experiencing various technical glitches on the platform. Millions of users – including journalists, researchers and organisations – are already signing up on alternative platforms to be prepared for the platform’s deterioration and demise.

While no one can predict Twitter’s future, it remains widely used by politicians, scientists, companies, NGOs and influencers who are still busy posting on the platform. This includes COP27 in Egypt, where Twitter was one of the main platforms to report on the event. #cop27 has been tweeted over 2.85 million times since 5 November 2022. 

Social media platforms can give us additional insights into how broader publics make connections between forest restoration and other social, economic and environmental issues. To see which issues and narratives around forest restoration have been brought up on Twitter in the lead-up to the event, we’ve carried out a series of small explorations based on the digital methods recipes developed by our colleagues at the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London and the Public Data Lab who are part of the SUPERB consortium led by EFI. This has been a good way to see if EFI could use these methods independently to understand international events as they unfold.

We usually see a spike in hashtag usage a few days before global events like the COPs. Using #cop27we collected 217,189 tweets between 5 and 7 November 2022. We then examined the top 1000 hashtags to see which kinds of forest-related issues are present. 

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“What actually happened? The use and misuse of Open Source Intelligence (OSINT)”, Digital Methods Winter School and Data Sprint 2023

Applications are now open for the Digital Methods Winter School and Data Sprint 2023 which is on the theme of “What actually happened? The use and misuse of Open Source Intelligence (OSINT)”.

This will take place on 9-13th January 2023 at the University of Amsterdam. Applications are accepted until 1st December 2022.

More details and registration links are available here and an excerpt on this year’s theme and the format is copied below:

The Digital Methods Initiative (DMI), Amsterdam, is holding its annual Winter School on the ‘Use and Misuse of Open Source Intelligence (OSINT)’. The format is that of a (social media and web) data sprint, with tutorials as well as hands-on work for telling stories with data. There is also a programme of keynote speakers. It is intended for advanced Master’s students, PhD candidates and motivated scholars who would like to work on (and complete) a digital methods project in an intensive workshop setting. For a preview of what the event is like, you can view short video clips from previous editions of the School.

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EASST session on ‘quali-quantitative’ methods in STS

The following post is from Judit Varga, Postdoctoral Researcher on the ERC-funded project FluidKnowledge, based at the Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Leiden University.

We would like to invite the Public Data Lab and its network of researchers and research centres to join and contribute to our session about quali-quantitative, digital, and computational methods in Science and Technology Studies (STS) at the next EASST conference 6-9 July 2022.

Fitting with the Public Data Network’s activities, the session starts from the observation that engaging with digital and computational ways of knowing is crucial for STS and related disciplines to study or intervene in them. The panel invites contributions that attempt or reflect on methodological experimentation and innovation in STS by combining STS concepts or qualitative, interpretative methods with digital, quantitative and computational methods, such as quali-quantitative research.

Over the past decade, STS scholars have increasingly benefited from digital methods, drawing on new media studies and design disciplines, among others. In addition, recently scholars also called for creating new dialogues between STS and QSS, which have increasingly grown apart since the 1980s. Although the delineation of STS methods from neighboring fields may be arbitrary, delineation can help articulate methodological differences, which in turn can help innovate and experiment with STS methods at the borders with other disciplines.

We invite contributions that engage with the following questions. What do we learn if we try to develop digital and computational STS research methods by articulating and bridging disciplinary divisions? In what instances is it helpful to draw boundaries between STS and digital and computational methods, for whom and why? On the contrary, how can STS benefit from not drawing such boundaries? How can we innovate STS methods to help trace hybrid and diverse actors, relations, and practices, using digital and computational methods? How can methodological innovation and experimentation with digital and computational methods help reach STS aspirations, or how might it hinder or alter them? What challenges do we face when we seek to innovate and experiment with digital and computational methods in STS? In what ways are such methodological reflection and innovation in STS relevant at a time of socio-ecological crises?

The current deadline for abstract submissions is the 1st of February 2022 7th February 2022 (the deadline has been extended).

“Ways of Listening to Forests” workshop at Critical Zones exhibition, ZKM, 26th November 2021

There will be a free online workshop on 26th November 2021 featuring our forest listening project as part of the Critical Zones exhibition curated by Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel at the ZKM Center for Art and Media. This builds on a previous workshop in the summer. The sound pieces are now online as part of the Critical Zones exhibition and can be downloaded from the project website.

This piece is cross-posted from jonathangray.org.

“Data critique and platform dependencies: How to study social media data?”, Digital Methods Winter School and Data Sprint 2022

Applications are now open for the Digital Methods Winter School and Data Sprint 2022 which is on the theme of “Data critique and platform dependencies: How to study social media data?“.

This will take place on 10-14th January 2022 at the University of Amsterdam.

More details and registration links are available here and an excerpt on this year’s theme and the format is copied below.

The Digital Methods Initiative (DMI), Amsterdam, is holding its annual Winter School on ‘Social media data critique’. The format is that of a (social media and web) data sprint, with tutorials as well as hands-on work for telling stories with data. There is also a programme of keynote speakers. It is intended for advanced Master’s students, PhD candidates and motivated scholars who would like to work on (and complete) a digital methods project in an intensive workshop setting. For a preview of what the event is like, you can view short video clips from previous editions of the School.

Data critique and platform dependencies: How to study social media data?

Source criticism is the scholarly activity traditionally concerned with provenance and reliability. When considering the state of social media data provision such criticism would be aimed at what platforms allow researchers to do (such as accessing an API) and not to do (scrape). It also would consider whether the data returned from querying is ‘good’, meaning complete or representative. How do social media platforms fare when considering these principles? How to audit or otherwise scrutinise social media platforms’ data supply?

Recently Facebook has come under renewed criticism for its data supply through the publication of its ‘transparency’ report, Widely Viewed Content. It is a list of web URLs and Facebook posts that receive the greatest ‘reach’ on the platform when appearing on users’ News Feeds. Its publication comes on the heels of Facebook’s well catalogued ‘fake news problem’, first reported in 2016 as well as a well publicised Twitter feed that lists the most-engaged with posts on Facebook (using Crowdtangle data). In both instances those contributions, together with additional scholarly work, have shown that dubious information and extreme right-wing content are disproportionately interacted with. Facebook’s transparency report, which has been called ‘transparency theater’, demonstrates that it is not the case. How to check the data? For now, “all anybody has is the company’s word for it.”

For Facebook as well as a variety of other platforms there are no public archives. Facebook’s data sharing model is one of an industry-academic ‘partnership’. The Social Science One project, launched when Facebook ended access to its Pages API, offers big data — “57 million URLs, more than 1.7 trillion rows, and nearly 40 trillion cell values, describing URLs shared more than 100 times publicly on Facebook (between 1/1/2017 and 2/28/2021).” To obtain the data (if one can handle it) requires writing a research proposal and if accepted compliance with Facebook’s ‘onboarding’, a non-negotiable research data agreement. Ultimately, the data is accessed (not downloaded) in a Facebook research environment, “the Facebook Open Research Tool (FORT) … behind a VPN that does not have access to the Internet”. There are also “regular meetings Facebook holds with researchers”. A data access ethnography project, not so unlike to one written about trying to work with Twitter’s archive at the Library of Congress, may be a worthwhile undertaking.

Other projects would evaluate ‘repurposing’ marketing data, as Robert Putnam’s ‘Bowling Alone’ project did and as is a more general digital methods approach. Comparing multiple marketing data outputs may be of interest, and crossing those with CrowdTangle ‘s outputs. Facepager, one of the last pieces of software (after Netvizz and Netlytic) to still have access to Facebook’s graph API reports that “access permissions are under heavy reconstruction”. Its usage requires further scrutiny. There is also a difference between the user view and the developer view (and between ethnographic and computational approaches), which is also worth exploring. ‘Interface methods‘ may be useful here. These and other considerations for developing social media data criticism are topics of interest for this year’s Winter School theme.

At the Winter School there are the usual social media tool tutorials (and the occasional tool requiem), but also continued attention to thinking through and proposing how to work with social media data. There are also empirical and conceptual projects that participants work on. Projects from the past Summer and Winter Schools include: Detecting Conspiratorial Hermeneutics via Words & Images, Mapping the Dutchophone Fringe on Telegram, Greenwashing, in_authenticity & protest, Searching constructive/authentic posts in media comment sections: NU.nl/The Guardian, Mapping deepfakes with digital methods and visual analytics, “Go back to plebbit”: Mapping the platform antagonism between 4chan and Reddit, Profiling Bolsobots Networks, Infodemic everywhere, Post-Trump Information Ecology, Streams of Conspirational Folklore, and FIlterTube: Investigating echo chambers, filter bubbles and polarization on YouTube.

Organisers: Lucia Bainotti, Richard Rogers and Guillen Torres, Media Studies, University of Amsterdam. Application information at https://www.digitalmethods.net.

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New website and blog for the Public Data Lab

Welcome to the revamped website and new blog for the Public Data Lab, courtesy of Andrea Benedetti at DensityDesign Lab in Milan. ✨

What’s new?

  • ? In order to enable more people to post more easily about various projects and activities, we’re now using WordPress as the backend for the site (along with static site templates and materials for use by different lab projects).
  • ??‍? We have added a people page so we can highlight a much wider group of people, groups and collaborators who we work with at the Public Data Lab.
  • ? We’ve added an updated projects page which includes more of what we’ve been up to than had been on the previous site, along with a little updating network diagram to show who has been working on what and the different clusters of our activities 🙂
  • ? We’ll be using the blog to post short notes and updates on our various projects and activities across the Public Data Lab and its associated research centres, communities and institutions.
  • ? We have lightly revised our mission statement to better reflect what we do (in light of activities over the past few years)

As always you can follow our activities on Twitter at @PublicDataLab and also get in touch if you’re interested in contributing to or collaborating with the lab.

If you spot anything that should be added/amended on the new website, please let us know or leave an issue on Github.