Digital Methods Summer School 2017: Get the Picture. Digital Methods for Visual Research
The 2017 Digital Methods Summer School is held in cooperation with RMeS, the Netherlands Research School for Media Studies.
Get the Picture. Digital Methods for Visual Research
Gillian Rose employs the term visual methodologies for “researching with visual materials” (2016). Iconography, semiotics, framing analysis and multimodal analysis are among the approaches that may be applied to digital materials. One may also ask, does the online make a difference to the study of the visual? That is, with which approaches is the image considered primarily, or secondarily, as a digital object embedded in online media? Apart from the change in the setting of the object, there may also be methods that emerge from the new media, engines and platforms. What kinds of so-called ‘natively’ digital methods can be repurposed productively for visual analysis? How to make use of the Google’s reverse image search?
More broadly, with the increasing focus on selfies and memes but also on Instagram stories, animated gifs, filters, stickers and emoticons, social media and digital communications are pushing for a visual turn in the study of digital culture. Such a push invites visual analysis into the realm of digital studies, too. One may begin to open the discussion of interplay by examining the new outputs such as journalists’ data visualisations as well as policy-makers’ dashboards like the open data city platforms. One may similarly compare visual literacies. Are there new ways of interpreting images through data, both substantively (which are the related materials?) and temporally (how do they develop over time? do they resonate? are they memes?). In digital methods, the image is not only a research object but also a research device. Making images “that can be seen and manipulated” (Venturini, Jacomy & Pereira 2015) enables scholars to access and actively explore datasets. How to make them and read them? At the same time, the technical properties of digital images both in terms of their color, resolution, and timestamp, as well as their ‘networkedness’, traceability and resonance, become available for research, allowing one to think with images (as visual guides and narratives) as well as through them (as data objects).
Novel visual methodologies then emerge. There is the ‘active’ data visualisation, which includes research protocol diagrams, data dashboards, visual network analysis, and issue mapping. Protocol diagrams (Figure 1) guide analysts, programmers and designers through their collaborative research project. Data dashboards offer a visual aid for data metrics and analytics, in side-by-side graphs and tables; or become critical tools (as in the People’s Dashboard . Visual network analysis offers a way into data that can be engaged with and requires an active research attitude (Venturini, Jacomy & Pereira 2015). Issue mapping renders legible the actors and substance of a (possibly controversial) issue (Rogers, Sánchez-Querubín & Kil 2015). In a second group of approaches, the image is treated as a digitised or natively digital object of study. This includes visual and cultural analytics, which provide distant visual reading techniques to explore and plot visual objects such as selfies and websites based on their formal properties (Manovich 2014; Ben-David, Amram & Bekkerman 2016). Networked visual content analysis, in which images may be queried ‘in reverse’ to study their circulation, can be used to critically assess questions of representation and cultural standing (Figure 2). Another group of approaches repurpose visual formats, where more playful explorations appropriate (and tweak) the templates and visual aesthetics of the web, creating research GIFs and critical social media profiles (Figure 3). In this 10th Digital Methods Summer School we will explore and expand such digital methods for visual research, and critically inquire into their proposed epistemologies.
We look forward to welcoming you to Amsterdam in the Summertime!
Summer School Philosophy
The Digital Methods Summer School is exploratory and experimental. It is not a setting for ‘just’ tool training or for principally tool-driven research. Substantive research projects are conceived and carried out. Participants are encouraged to ‘span time with their issue’ and the materials. In other words, we heed Alexander Galloway’s admonition about data and tool-driven work: “Those who were formerly scholars or experts in a certain area are now recast as mere tool users beholden to the affordances of the tool — while students spend ever more time mastering menus and buttons, becoming literate in a digital device rather than a literary corpus” (Galloway 2014:127). We encourage device and corpus literacy! The device training we ask you to do prior to the Summer School through online tutorials, and at the Summer School itself, in a kind of flipped learning environment (if you'll excuse the overused phrase), we would like to believe that you have familiarised yourself already with the tools and completed the tutorials available online. During the Summer School we will discuss and tinker with the nitty-gritty, aim to invent new methods, techniques and heuristics and create the first iterations of compelling work to be shared.
About Digital Methods as a Concept
Digital methods is a term coined as a counterpoint to virtual methods, which typically digitize existing methods and port them onto the Web. Digital methods, contrariwise, seek to learn from the methods built into the dominant devices online, and repurpose them for social and cultural research. That is, the challenge is to study both the info-web as well as the social web with the tools that organize them. There is a general protocol to digital methods. At the outset stock is taken of the natively digital objects that are available (links, tags, threads, etc.) and how devices such as search engines make use of them. Can the device techniques be repurposed, for example by remixing the digital objects they take as inputs? Once findings are made with online data, where to ground them? Is the baseline still the offline, or are findings to be grounded in more online data? Taking up these questions more theoretically (but also practically) there is also a Digital Methods book (MIT Press, 2013) as well as a complementary Issue Mapping book (Amsterdam University Press, 2015), and other digital methods publications.
About the Digital Methods Summer School
The Digital Methods Summer School, founded ten years ago, in 2007, together with the Digital Methods Initiative, is directed by Prof. Richard Rogers, Chair in New Media & Digital Culture and Department Chair at Media Studies, University of Amsterdam. The Summer School is one training opportunity provided by the Digital Methods Initiative (DMI). DMI also has a Winter School which includes a mini-conference, where papers are presented and responded to. Winter School papers are often the result of Summer School projects. The Summer School is coordinated by PhD candidates in New Media at the University of Amsterdam, or affiliates. This year the coordinators are Sabine Niederer, Natalia Sánchez-Quérubin and Fernando van der Vlist. The Summer School has a technical staff as well as a design staff, drawn from the ranks of Density Design in Milan. The Summer School also relies on a technical infrastructure of some nine servers hosting tools and storing data, which recently (and intrepidly) moved to the cloud. In a culture of experimentation and skill-sharing, participants bring their laptops, learn method, undertake research projects, make reports, tools and graphics and write them up on the Digital Methods wiki. The Summer School concludes with final presentations. Often there are subject matter experts from non-governmental or other organizations who present their analytical needs and issues at the outset and the projects seek to meet those needs, however indirectly. For instance, Women on Waves came along during the 2010, Fair Phone to the 2012 Summer School and Greenpeace International and their Gezi Park project in 2013 as well as the COP21 Lima project in 2015. We have worked on the issue of rewilding eco-spaces with NGOs in the 2014 Summer School. More recently we have sought to repopulate city dashboards (Summer School 2015 and Winter School 2017).
What's it like?
- Digital Methods Summer School flickr stream 2012 and flickr stream 2013. There is also a 2015 flickr collection.
- Previous Digital Methods Winter Schools, 2009-2017, https://wiki.digitalmethods.net/Dmi/WinterSchool.
- Previous Digital Methods Summer Schools, 2007-2016, https://wiki.digitalmethods.net/Dmi/DmiSummerSchool.
- Most recently we have created Summer and Winter school shorts (thanks to Lisa Maier): Promo video about the Digital Methods Summer School (2014); Summer School in 2015. (tip!) and Winter School 2016 video.
- 2016 keynote lecture by Prof. Richard Rogers on Critical Analytics
About the Digital Methods Initiative
The Digital Methods Summer School is part of the Digital Methods Initiative (DMI), Amsterdam, dedicated to developing methods for Internet-related research. DMI was founded a decade ago with a grant from the Mondriaan Foundation, and the Summer School has been supported by the Center for Creation, Content and Technology (CCCT), University of Amsterdam, organized by the Faculty of Science with sponsorship from Platform Betatechniek. It also has received support from the Citizen Data Lab, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences as well as "Media of Cooperation," University of Siegen. The 2017 Summer School will be held in collaboration with the Netherlands Research school for Media Studies (RMeS).
Applications & Key Dates
To apply for the Digital Methods Summer School 2017, please use the University of Amsterdam Summer School form Or, please send a one-page letter explaining how digital methods training would benefit your current work, and also enclose a CV (with full postal address), a copy of your passport (details page only), a headshot photo as well as a 100-word bio (to be included in the Summer School welcome package). Mark your application "DMI Training Certificate Program," and send to summerschool [at] digitalmethods.net.
- The deadline for applications for the Summer School is 5 May 2017.
- Notifications will be sent on 8 May. Accepted participants will receive a welcome package, which includes a reader, a schedule, and a face book of all participants.
- The cost of the Summer School is eur 895 and is open to PhD candidates and motivated scholars as well as to research master’s students and advanced master’s students. Data journalists, artists, and research professionals are also welcome to apply. Accepted applicants will be informed of the bank transfer details upon notice of acceptance to the Summer School on 8 May.
- The fee must be paid by 16 June.
- University of Amsterdam students are exempt from tuition and should state on the application form (under tuition fee remarks) that they wish to apply for a fee waiver. Please also provide your student number.
- RMeS members participate in the first two days of the Summer School. To participate in the full Summer School the regular fee applies.
Any questions may be addressed to the Summer School coordinators Sabine Niederer, Natalia Sánchez-Querubín, and Fernando van der Vlist: summerschool [at] digitalmethods.net. Informal queries may be sent to this email address as well.
The Digital Methods Summer School is part of the University of Amsterdam Summer School programme which has a video giving a flavor of the Summer School experience. Students from universities (outside of the Netherlands) in the LERU and U21 networks are eligible for a scholarship to help cover the cost of tuition for the DMI Summer School. Please state LERU or U21 university affiliation under tuition remarks when applying to the Summer School. Dutch universities are not eligible.
Accommodations & Catering
The Summer School is self-catered, and there are abundant cafes and a university mensa nearby. For a map we made of nearby lunch (and coffee) places, see bit.ly/dmi17_ss_lunch.
Apply as early as possible to the reasonably priced Student Hotel. For those who prefer other accommodations, we suggest Airbnb or similar. For shorter stay, there is Hotel Le Coin, where you may request a university discount.
Successful Completion & Completion Certificates (incl. 6 ECTS when necessary)
To successfully complete the Summer School and receive a completion certificate (and 6 ECTS when necessary), you must complete a significant contribution to two Summer School projects (one in week one and the other in week two), evidenced by co-authorship of the project reports as well as final (joint) presentations. Templates for the project report as well as for the presentation slides are supplied.
The Summer School meets every weekday. Please bring your laptop. (An iPad is not enough.) We will provide abundant connectivity. We start generally at 9:30 in the morning, and end around 17:30. There are morning talks one to two days per week. All other time is devoted to project work with occasional collective and individual feedback sessions. On the second Friday we have a a festive closing with a boat trip on the canals of Amsterdam.
Preparations: Online Tutorials
For your Summer School to be especially successful we would recommend highly that you watch (or listen to) the Digital Methods tutorials. The DMI YouTube channel has preparatory materials, and we would very much like for you to watch the social media tool tutorials.
Social Media & Participant Face Book
- Twitter: #dmi17.
- Facebook: fb.me/dmisummer2017.
- We will have a list of Summer School participants and make an old-fashioned face book with the headshots and bios you send to us.