ACM Web Science 2015 take-away

Here are some ideas and things I remember from the The 2015 ACM Web Science conference WebSci’15 held at the Oxford e-Research Centre and Keble College :

Membrane metphore

Markus Strohmaier used an intriguing metaphor for talking about the Web. He said it was a membrane. So the Web is  like thin pliable sheet that cover and connect us. This metaphor bring some biological, living connotation to the Web and how we see it.  This echo in my own research on everyday life and the Internet. Seigworth and Gardiner (2004) remind us that we must reintroduce “life” in everyday life studies. The authors argue that cultural studies have stiffened by only using part of the organic metaphor :the skeleton, and leaving aside the soft tissues. Seigworth and Gardiner (2004) propose to take into account the “soft tissue”: the imperceptible, flexible and  mobile circulation  in the body. Fully reintroduce the “life” in everyday life would then consider its moments, its movements, and its multiplicities different materials, not just the big rigid structure.

Best quote used in a presentation :

“Big data is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it.” – Dan Ariely

Prospography vs ANT theory

It is interesting to see how other discipline study the Web, for instance people in the humanities :

Archetypal Narratives in Social Machines: Approaching Sociality through Prosopography Segolene Tarte, Pip Willcox, Hugh Glaser and David De Roure

In this paper, they used prosopography. According to wikipedia it is an investigation of the common characteristics of a historical group, whose individual biographies may be largely untraceable, by means of a collective study of their lives, in multiple career-line analysis.[1] Prosopographical research has the goal of learning about patterns of relationships and activities through the study of collective biography; it collects and analyses statistically relevant quantities of biographical data about a well-defined group of individuals. This makes it a valuable technique for studying many pre-modern societies.

Instead of opening the black box and analyze what all the actors are doing, those researcher build the archetypal narrative using a Jungian approach. So they do a biography of the infrastructure.

A need to understand the contexts

The big take away from the conference, is that the issue of context. A lot of data is over-analyzed and under-contextualized.

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Seigworth, G., & Gardiner, M. (2004). Rethinking everyday life: And then nothing turns itself inside out. Cultural Studies, 18(2-3), 139-159. doi: 10.1080/0950238042000201455

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