Tag Archives: Storycircle

ICA London 2013 and MEDIA@LSE 10 year anniversary

ica2013-aristeaThe photo on the left represents the materiality of ICA London 2013 – a small bag, an umbrella, the book, the identity card and notes, are the things I brought back from the conference on Thursday night last week. Our panel was The materiality of voice, chaired by Nick Couldry, and I talked about online content curation experiments in the Storycircle project – although the printed programme stated otherwise. Sigrid Kannengießer (University of Bremen) talked about Digital storytelling and empowerment of sex workers in South Africa; Richard MacDonald (on behalf of Wilma Clark and the Storycircle project) presented findings from a school-based digital story circle in the North of England, using a digital geomapping platform to save war memorials (Crossing time and space: geohistories and narrative exchange); Cigdem Bozdag (University of Bremen) explored love stories in Sharing Migrant Stories Online: The Case of a Moroccan Discussion Forum in Germany; and finally Hilde Stephansen (Storycircle, Goldsmiths) as respondent, talked about action research as a methdological choiceIt was a good panel and we got some intriguing questions – Sonia Livingstone asked about the ethical and ctritical dimensions of research practices of digital storytelling, in other words, whose stories we choose to talk about. And Knut Lundby asked about the materiality of technologies – which made me think and briefly talk about the mundane everyday reality of  failures and breakdowns, when setting up a digital infrastructure in the project.

Discussions about failures and making mistakes seem to have become popular lately, not only in media studies circles. Mark Deuze (U of Amsterdam) who presented a show/ paper (which I found very disturbing, although most of the audience seemed to have fun, which I found even more disturbing) at the 10th Anniversary event of MEDIA@LSE on Sunday 16th also talked about how ‘making mistakes is OK’ as allegedly people are shifting from homo faber to homo ludens (another idea gaining in popularity in media and cultural studies, or is it actually in marketing?). But there are clearly other more interesting takes on the matter, like Margaret Atwood about sewing yellow coats and falling off horses; and of course the Queer art of failure, by Halberstam. And Richard has just shown me this video by artist Jeremy Deller.

There was a lot of productive stuff that came out of the LSE event, and I’m still writing up my notes, part of which I intend to post here.

Culture of Connectivity lecture Jose van Dijck, Goldsmiths

On Thursday I attended Jose van Dijck‘s (University of Amsterdam) lecture, The Culture of Connectivity: A Critical History of Social Media, which was organised by the Centre for the Study of Global Media and Democracy at Goldsmiths. In this invited public lecture, Jose Van Dijck, who is one of the world’s leading authorities on digital memory practices and social media, talked about her new book, and Noortje Marres (CSISP, Goldsmiths), and Richard MacDonald (Storycircle Project, Goldsmiths), were respondents.The lecture was chaired by Professor Nick Couldry (Media and Communications, Goldsmiths).

I had read the book prior to the lecture and with my colleagues at Storycircle had discussed some of the intriguing themes that the book deals with – especially since in our work and in our upcoming publications we investigate how digital infrastructures may enable narrative processes between social actors. van Dijck’s new work also links to my personal research interests about the normalisation of ‘sharing’ data.

In the lecture, van Dijck drew a picture of how social media platforms have become an ecosystem – a socially ubiquitous system of connective media. Her project is a historiography of these platforms between 2001-2012 and she uses a combination of Actor Network Theory (ANT) and political economy in her approach. She explained what this methodological approach entails, and the six axes of analysis which result from this combination: content, usage, technological object, ownership, business models and governance.

In her response, Marres raised the issue of how the object of study can be defined when we study the sociotechnical and noted that a platform take on sociality could be complemented with other perspectives, towards an account of digital sociality.

MacDonald’s commentary dealt with the usefulness of ethnography as a way of understanding what users, as social actors, do with these platforms, as a complementary approach to political economy. He also asked how this history could be situated in a broader historical frame.

There was some time for discussion after this and I raised a question was about resistance and civil disobedience in relation to the digital – in particular I am interested in the differentiation between ‘implicit’ and ‘explicit’ user that van Dijck’s book returns to every once in a while, and especially when discussing practices of resistance. My interest is in the implications of this framing for imagining the possibilities for sustained (rather than one-off) resistances, beyond the ‘walled gardens’ of social media platforms – and some of this thinking I am developing in my writing at the moment.

Our engagement as Storycircle with many of the topics that van Dijck’s book analyses, will be published soon in a novel conceptualisation of ‘Social Analytics’, which we have collectively developed with Nick Couldry and Luke Dickens. This work will be introduced fully in forthcoming articles and presentations (see ICA London).

See also blog about The Culture of Connectivity published by Oxford University Press in March 2013. Jose Van Dijck’s previous books include Mediated Memories in a Digital Age (Stanford University Press 2007) and The Transparent Body (University of Washington Press 2005).

Telling the story of the stories: imaginaries and materialisations of digital engagement

Change of title and abstract for my ICA London paper, 20 June. I will present work that I’ve done in the Storycircle project (in case you were coming to hear about queer referential metaculture, I will still answer questions).

Paper 1. Telling the story of the stories: imaginaries and materialisations of digital engagement

Aristea Fotopoulou, Goldsmiths, University of London


This paper presents findings from action research conducted with a civil society media organization in the North of England. It examines how, in collaboration with staff in the organization, we planned and implemented the development of a digital infrastructure, which aimed to facilitate sustained digital engagement and narrative exchange. The development of a digital infrastructure was envisioned by the organization to enable a long term process: one of ‘telling the story of the stories’. The paper discusses how the aim of connecting communities of reporters and their stories was supported by a redesign of the website and by experiments on content curation and ‘community tagging’. The paper also reflects on some challenges that the organization and our fieldwork met. For example, the web design needed to be complemented with a programme of training and of building  the skills required for these digital experiments in community engagement to be successful. With limited resources and whilst operating within a sector-wide context of funding cuts, such training was difficult to happen. With focus on the potential and the hinderances of materializing voice, the paper discusses the project as an attempt to create a wider network of community reporters. The emergent story circle is contextualized within both the realities of limited resources and the broader narratives and imaginaries of digital engagement. As such, the paper provides a balanced account of the interplay between material contexts and these narratives, and suggests that both these need to be considered as conditions for sustaining voice.

Salford Lads Club and The Smiths

As part of the Storycircle research project (a multidisciplinary action research project based in the Dept of Media and Communications, Goldsmiths, University of London), I’m working in a fascinating case study which involves the Salford Lads Club. I thought I’d share here my excitement and some links to digital traces of the Club (their Facebook page is here). The Club holds a great archive of their contribution to the lives of Manchester’s working class boys (and nowadays, girls) and has developed an amazing digital timeline of the 100 Camps. But what is also special about the Club is its relationship to The Smiths – not only do they have a specially designated room (this charming shrine, as The Guardian wrote) for fans of the band, but there is an interesting Storify collection of photographs by fans photographed outside the Club (some posing a bit more convincingly than others as Morrissey, photographed by Stephen Wright for The Queen in Dead LP in-lay) that keep being uploaded – and of course the book. Amazing.