Category Archives: Conferences and papers

Fresh: two articles published

Two articles based on our collaborative work in the Storycircle project (Goldsmiths, completed July 2013) have just been published in March, Digital citizenship? Narrative exchange and the changing terms of civic culture, in Citizenship Studies, and News in the community? Investigating emerging inter-local spaces of news production/consumption in Journalism Studies.

In Digital citizenship we explored the possibilities for new forms of ‘digital citizenship’ currently emerging through digitally supported processes of narrative exchange. Using Dahlgren’s (Dahlgren, P. 2003. “Reconfiguring Civic Culture in the New Media Milieu.” In Media and the Restyling of Politics, edited by J. Corner, and D. Pels, 151–170. London: Sage; Dahlgren, P. 2009. Media and Political Engagement. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.) circuit of ‘civic culture’ as a model for exploring the interlinking preconditions for new acts of citizenship, we discuss the contrasting outcomes of research at three fieldwork sites in the North of England – educational (a sixth form college), civil society (a community reporters’ network) and social (a local club). Each site provided clear evidence of the elements of Dahlgren’s circuit (some depending on the intensive use of digital infrastructure, others predating it), but there were also breaks in the circuit that constrained its effectiveness. A crucial factor in each case for building a lasting circuit of civic culture (and an effective base for new forms of digital citizenship) is the role that digital infrastructure can play in extending the scale of interactions beyond the purely local.


In News in the Community we examined the emergence of new, inter-local spaces of news production and consumption, drawing again on our extensive fieldwork and interviews with community reporters trained by a community reporter organisation based in the north of England. Practices of news production and content generation are focused on people’s own communities and they are underpinned by an ethos of production, which is grounded in a critical consumption of news and collective processes of skill acquisition. Through an analysis of motivations and practices, we account for the values that sustain community reporter communities and discuss how such practices, while emerging from the place of local community, also extend across wider communities of interest. It is suggested that an evolving practice of skill sharing and mutual recognition could potentially stimulate the regrowth of democratic values.

‘All these emotions, all these yearnings, all these data’ tomorrow at UCSC

‘All these emotions, all these yearnings, all these data’: platform openess, data sharing and visions democracy’,

at Center for Cultural Studies, UC Santa Cruz, 5th February 2014


Digital culture has long focussed on the quality of content, which constitutes users and producers decisively different from platform owners who manage data quantity, metadata and behavioural profiling. But what happens when users and communities become interested in all these data, and become reflexive of their own practices? What kinds of knowledges are produced when they produce and share new types of data? This paper observes the emerging mediascape of wearable sensors and mobile technologies through utopian and dystopian narratives, and makes special mention to the Quantified Self culture; that is lay people who engage voluntarily in a range of practices of self-monitoring, data collection and analysis. Moving beyond the Panopticon model and questioning the notion of empowerment, the paper suggests that analysing user practices in specific locations can help us understand how the changing role of data in everyday life is symptomatic of shifts in the relationship between citizens and the state.

* slides to follow

** work leading to this paper has received funding from a) European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013) under the grant EPINET and b) RCUK Digital Economy NEMODE.

Starting at UCSC Science & Justice

This is my first weekend blogpost since moving to California from Brighton, for my research secondment at the Science and Justice Research Center, in Santa Cruz (while I still work on my postdoc in the EPINET project, University of Sussex). The programme of the Center looks really exciting, and I look forward to attending my first research event next Wednesday, January 22, with the President of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Peter Yu, as well as UCSC-based David Haussler, which opens up a series of discussions about Science and Justice in an Age of Big Data. At a later date, there will also be a screening of the movie FIXED: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement, which was created and produced by UCSC Social Documentary alum Regan Brashear. I also look forward to events organised by Science and Justice Fellows Gene A. Felice II, Sophia Magnone and Andy Murray, entitled Justice in the More-than-Human World: Fostering Care and Affinity in Emergent Collaborations.

My contribution as Visiting Scholar to this fascinating research culture and community will be an interdisciplinary workshop, on March 5th, addressing key issues about the sharing of personal biodata today, which will be co-organised with the Digital Arts & New Media programme and OpenLab. I will post more about this here soon.

Before that, I will be presenting work-in-progress on my project Tracking personal data for use in research: sharing and ownership (funded by RCUK Digital Economy Theme (DE) NEMODE), on February 5th, at Center for Cultural Studies (University of California, Santa Cruz), entitled All these emotions, all these yearnings, all these data’: platform openess, data sharing and visions of democracy‘. All welcome!

Event Report, YECREA meeting at DCC Bonn


Event Report, November 2013

‘Planning a non-conventional academic career in digital culture and communication: Challenges and opportunities’

YECREA meeting, Friday 5 October 2013, 16.30-17.45. DCC Annual Workshop, Bonn 2-5 October 2013.

Workshop overview:

img_6782aResearchers in the early stages of their career and young scholars share similar concerns that relate to the current state of insecurity in academic fields, throughout Europe. For scholars in the fields of digital media and digital culture in particular, this insecurity can be even more pressing, especially since questions around ‘big data’, internet and society are increasingly becoming the focus of other disciplines. At the same time, this spread of focus provides some new opportunities for digital media and communication scholars, to cross-fertilise their research and to work across conventional disciplinary boundaries, and seek alternative homes, practices and collaborations that can help their ideas grow. This much needed workshop was aimed at young and emerging scholars (Postgraduate students, Doctoral students and early career scholars) within the fields of Digital Culture and Communication.

img_6796aThe workshop addressed questions such as: How can I draw a career path that is responsive to the changing state of the field? How can I develop my first grant proposal in digital culture and communication? How can I write a CV which reflects my strengths to produce robust research? And what is the actual situation of professionals in the field – how do they see the opportunities and hindrances for a professional future in digital culture and communication? During the workshop we discussed how scholars in different stages of their careers confront specific challenges in our field. We tried to draw on similarities and differences that apply in different European contexts, as well as on experiences and strategies that scholars at different stages have followed in their personal careers. The plenary discussion provided helpful insights and helped to address questions, share thoughts and personal issues of participants, related to the state of the field. Invited speakers in the session were Prof Elisenda Ardevol (Chair of ECREA Digital Culture and Communication), Dr Veronica Barassi (Goldsmiths, University of London), Jessica Einspänner, MA (University of Bonn), Dr Kate O’Riordan (University of Sussex), Dr Lucia Vesnic-Alujevic (European Commission – JRC), and was chaired by Dr Aristea Fotopoulou (YECREA Representative in the DCC Section, University of Sussex).

img_6931After a brief introduction by the Chair, each of the participants gave a brief talk about:

  • Where they place themselves in relation to the wider disciplinary fields of digital culture and communication
  • What they see as some potential challenges and opportunities for (other) European young scholars in the fields of digital culture and communication.

Most speakers noted that digital media now seems to be everywhere, and not just in media studies departments. What becomes perhaps challenging is how to address the specificity of the digital, which is increasingly a question that students pose.

Kate O’Riordan noted that a challenge is to maintain a critical perspective within this context, and also identified precarious employment and the economic crisis as the challenging conditions for young scholars today.

img_6915Elisenda Ardevol talked about how studies and University Departments in digital culture and communication have transformed during the last 20 years and stressed that strictly speaking “digital culture is not a disciplinary field: it is an emerging object, which is complex and interdisciplinary in its constitution”. She saw opportunities for young and emerging scholars because they can develop their own expertise and research, coming from different disciplinary backgrounds. She gave the example of her own personal research, which was an anthropological study of Roma districts, and how this led her to internet study.

img_6919Similarly, Jessica Einspänner narrated how she started as a media practice professional, working in the radio, but her fascination with media led her to theoretical studies. She noted that for students digital media appears as an exciting direction and a potentially well-paid job, however their expectations for practical skills are not always met within theoretical University-study programmes. Jessica also found that there is currently more encouragement in Germany towards women to continue with postdoc projects, after obtaining their PhD.

Lucia Vesnic-Alujevic who has worked for four years as a postdoctoral researcher in media studies, focused on the additional dimensions to her work that were added once she moved on to engage in science studies projects, such as the JRC ethics and ICTs project.

img_6923Following the introductory talks, speakers engaged in plenary discussion reflected on their own practices, and to gave advice about how to think ‘outside the box’, following the questions posed by the Chair.

  • what was your first job entering academia,

  • what is your ideal non-conventional job,

  • how would you do things differently had you known what you know now (even if this is your first job),

  • how is your job now different to what you had expected as a Ph.D. student,

  • how has the recent focus on digital methods and big data influenced your research? Has it changed your research interests and practice?

img_6878Veronica Barassi advised young scholars to build networks at the early stages of their career. She noted that the early years of contractual employment are difficult and that, sometimes, there needs to be a Plan B in place. Kate O’Riordan suggested that young scholars should seek to publish their PhD thesis as a book, to work on collaborative projects and to move around different institutions. Lucia Vesnic-Alujevic stronlgy encouraged young scholars to participate in the ECREA summer school.

The audience asked questions about publication strategies, namely what the position of the speakers was when it comes to high impact journal vs. open access. Here speakers noted that the Research Excellence Framework (REF) shapes to a great extend the publishing strategies of academics in the UK. The audience discussion also concerned billingual pubishing, and the legal framework for publishing in Germany and how official approval is required before submission.

This report is also published in the YECREA website blog, see

For a report on the Digital Culture and Communication workshop as a whole, and photos, see

Smart publics? Mediation and public engagement with science and technology seminar

poster_seminarA4webSmart publics? Mediation and public engagement with science and technology

Thursday 5 December, 11:00 until 14:30
Silverstone Lecture Theatre 309, University of Sussex
Speakers: Jenn Barth, Aristea Fotopoulou, Tobie Kerridge

Part of the Travelling Seminars Series of the Publics then, now and beyond network, co-hosted by Centre for Material Digital Culture, Attenborough Centre for the Arts and Public Culture Hub, University of Sussex.

This research event focuses on the publics and public issues relating to emerging technologies, such as smart energy grids, wearable devices and the Cloud, and co-design for sustainable energy. Bringing together the work of three different research teams: EPINET (Sussex), CAST (Goldsmiths) and ECDC (Goldsmiths), the talks explore the imaginaries and mediation of emerging technologies; public engagement with behavioural tracking and the Human Cloud; and speculative design with energy communities respectively. In their own distinct way, the papers seek to address a range of questions: the different modes of making publics, the different kinds of knowledge and expertise, and the public issues that emerge in this field.

This second Travelling Seminar of the Publics then, now and beyond network is positioned within wider research questions posed by the stream Making/Doing/Being Publics. This research stream of the network focuses on the practices, infrastructures and forms of mediation through which publics are brought into being and through which things are made public.

The event is co-organised by two members of the Publics then, now and beyond network, Aristea Fotopoulou (Sussex) and Tobie Kerridge (Goldsmiths).


11.00 – 11.30 Introductions: Nick Mahony about the Publics then, now and beyond network, Hilde Stephansen & Aristea Fotopoulou on the Making/doing/being publics stream, David Hendy about the Public Culture Hub.

11.30 – 1.30 Talks. Chair: Sally-Jane Norman Discussant: Kate Lacey

  • Aristea Fotopoulou (University of Sussex) “Imaginaries of Smart Grids: Public Issues, Contradiction and Controversy”
  • Jenn Barth (Goldsmiths, University of London) “Digital Devices, Research and Social Experience”
  • Tobie Kerridge (Goldsmiths, University of London) “Energy Babble: Prototyping with energy demand reduction communities”

1.30-2.30 Lunch & Networking

All welcome. To register, please email

The Publics, then now and beyond network is an international and interdisciplinary network supported by the Creating Publics project, the Centre for Citizenship, Identities and Governance and the Faculty of Social Science at the Open University. For more information see


Aristea Fotopoulou ‘Imaginaries of Smart Grids: Public Issues, Contradiction and Controversy’

Smart grids are communicated in the public sphere in stories about the coming together of utilities and communications (gas, electricity/monitoring of data) into a network that can be managed for optimum use of resources. Imaginaries of smart grids address certain public issues, such as efficiency in responding to energy demand; environmental concerns, by integrating renewable forms of energy; and the empowerment of consumers. However, these imaginaries also point to possible controversies in the role of the public. The user is either largely invisible in large-scale images of the grid, or rendered very central within domestic settings. So where exactly is the public, as user or consumer, in these contradictory narratives of smart grids which circulate in the media? This paper traces the range of publicity and media images of smart grids and identifies the dominant and alternative visions and contradictions within these images. It draws from contemporary stories being told by diverse actors, across multiple media forms: energy policy research, distribution power operators, power companies, businesses and government, and shows how the public is constructed, and often absent, in visions of the future. The controversies and resistance of the smart grid are indicative of the levels of public engagement.


Aristea Fotopoulou (Sussex) is a postoc researching technological assessment of new emerging technologies, with a focus on media and digital culture. She currently also examines practices of data sharing and algorithmic living (Project Tracking biodata: sharing and ownership, RCUK Digital Economy NEMODE). Her work is at the intersections of media & cultural studies with science & technologies studies, and she has written about digital networks and feminism, and recently, on information politics, knowledge production, and digital engagement. The research leading to this talk has received funding from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013) under the grant EPINET (See: ).

Jenn Barth ‘Digital Devices, Research and Social Experience’

The flow of technology is fast and furious – the realm of the ‘digital’ and various digital devices change quickly and individuals experience the change sometimes without comment or without a chance to reflect. We asked individuals to become experimental subjects in The Human Cloud, that is, to wear and use behavioural tracking devices and always on wearable technologies and to blog about their experiences. This offers the research participants an opportunity to demonstrate their experience and to have a voice on the subject. Through these enterprising activities, they are shaping their environments, organisations and their everyday lives in terms of how they want to interact with what’s on offer. Drawing on this example as well previous research projects this talk details how we can harness human potential through research and work to shape our lives through knowledge and incremental change.


Jennifer Barth is a Lecturer in the Department of Computing and the Centre for Creative and Social Technologies (CAST) at Goldsmiths, University of London. After completing her DPhil at the University of Oxford in 2010 on coffee markets, she has been teaching and researching in the areas of digital research methods and digital sociology and how we might become hybrid social researchers moving across the physical and digital world.

Tobie Kerridge ‘Energy Babble: Prototyping with energy demand reduction communities’

The Energy Babble was designed as a tool to support research with energy demand reduction communities, where a batch of 30 technology prototypes are being deployed to practitioner groups across the UK. The prototypes are part of a system where software algorithms collect and process a variety of content including voicemail messages, SMS and tweets from practitioners, along with information published by a range of organizations including policy announcements from DECC and energy demand news form NGOs. This information is transformed into synthesized spoken audio files, which are pushed over a network to each device where the audio is played over a speaker. I offer an overview of the design and an initial account of the deployment, and discuss the forms of publicity that emerge there.


Tobie Kerridge is based at the Interaction Research Studio, Goldsmiths. This practice based research group led by William Gaver provides a product and interaction design lens for HCI. His PhD thesis explores the mixing of speculative design and public engagement with science and technology in two public engagement projects; Biojewellery and Material Beliefs. Kerridge has helped develop an innovative mixed method approach to design research, with a recent focus on community and energy reduction. Energy and Co-Designing Communities (ECDC), is a three-year RCUK project based in the Interaction Research Studio at Goldsmiths, University of London. The RCUK Energy Communities call was a response to government support for groups undertaking energy demand reduction measures. ECDC comprises of Matthew Plummer-Fernandez, Jennifer Gabrys, Bill Gaver,Tobie Kerridge, Noortje Marres, Mike Michael, Liliana Ovalle and Alex Wilkie.