Julian’s Databyte #3: New Research on Data Journalism. And More.

This is a new issue of Julian’s Databyte, an occasionally published compilation of links, news and reviews from the world of open data, data journalism, internet research and political entertainment.

#Aufschrei: A dynamic Co-Hashtag Analyis (Updated)

In the past weeks, I have been working together with Christian on a Twitter analyis that focuses on the agency of hashtags in political debates. Below are the slides of our talk we gave at DGPuK 2014, the annual conference of the German Communication Association (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Publizistik- und Komunikationswissenschat). Update: Yay, our contribution won the “Best Paper Award” at the conference.

Here is also the full-length video of six days of the #Aufschrei(outcry) debate on Twitter. By mapping all co-hashtags in a dynamic network we were able to understand the development of the debate:

We would like to thank Stefan Emrich, Stefan Kasberger and Cornelius Puschmann for their support.

Rektor Pfeiffer bei einem Tee mit… Julian Ausserhofer

Bei meinem Arbeitgeber, der FH Joanneum, gibt es den so genannten Rector’s Blog, in dem Rektor Karl Pfeiffer aus seiner Arbeit berichtet. Immer wieder werden dort auch MitarbeiterInnen und ihre Tätigkeiten vorgestellt. Vor kurzem hatte ich die Ehre, auf einen Tee mit dem Rektor zu gehen. Und weil der Blog nicht öffentlich zugänglich ist, reposte ich hier das Interview.

Rektor Karl Peter Pfeiffer und Julian Ausserhofer

Rektor Pfeiffer und Julian Ausserhofer, Mitarbeiter am Studiengang „Journalismus und Public Relations (PR)“, trafen sich am Campus Graz auf einen Tee.

Seit wann sind Sie an der FH JOANNEUM und was haben Sie davor beruflich gemacht?

2004, nach meiner Matura und dem anschließenden Zivildienst, habe ich begonnen, an der FH JOANNEUM „Journalismus und Unternehmenskommunikation” zu studieren. Während meines Studiums habe ich Erfahrungen in verschiedenen Medien, NGOs und in Kulturinstitutionen gesammelt. Mein Auslandssemester habe ich in Oslo absolviert, mein „Abschlusspraktikum” in Brüssel. 2008, mit Ende meines Studiums, wurde ich für ein Jahr als Studiengangsassistent beschäftigt.

Welche Funktion haben Sie an der FH JOANNEUM?

Ich bin als wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter am Institut für „Journalismus und Public Relations (PR)” beschäftigt. Im dortigen Transferzentrum, das Web Literacy Lab heißt, arbeiten wir an Projekten im Bereich der Onlinekommunikation. Unser Ziel: Organisationen fit zu machen für das digitale Zeitalter und die Onlinekompetenzen der dort arbeitenden Menschen zu verbessern. Dabei gehen wir nach den Methoden der Content Strategie vor.
Neben Forschungs- und Entwicklungsarbeiten ist es eine meiner Kernaufgaben, neue Projekte an das Transferzentrum zu bringen. Dazu schreibe und koordiniere ich regelmäßig Forschungsförderungsanträge.
Gelegentlich unterrichte ich auch, insbesondere wenn es um meine Forschungsinteressen geht: Techniksoziologie, Datenjournalismus oder der politische Einsatz von Social Media.

Was machen Sie außerhalb der FH JOANNEUM?

Ich schreibe an meiner Dissertation am Institut für Publizistik- und Kommunikationswissenschaft der Universität Wien. Des Weiteren engagiere ich mich bei der Open Knowledge Foundation Österreich, einer Organisation, die sich für offenes Wissen und offene Daten einsetzt.
Als Teil des VJ-Kollektivs montage sauvage visualisiere ich elektronische Musik in Clubs, Museen und auf Festivals. In den vergangenen acht Jahren haben wir Leinwände von New York über Shanghai bis zum Salzburger Kitzsteinhorn mit bewegten Bildern bespielt.
Privat mag ich Theater, Reisen, Sport, Lesen und natürlich gutes Essen.

Könnten Sie frei wählen, welches Studium der FH JOANNEUM würden Sie gerne absolvieren?

Den Master in „Content Strategie”, den wir hoffentlich ab Herbst 2014 regulär bei uns am Institut anbieten können. Sonst interessieren mich diverse Bachelor- und Masterprogramme in den Fachbereichen „Angewandte Informatik”, „Medien & Design” sowie „Management”. Am liebsten würde ich mir überall die eine oder andere Lehrveranstaltung herauspicken können.

Was gefällt Ihnen an der FH JOANNEUM besonders gut?

Dass ich meine Forschungsschwerpunkte relativ frei wählen kann und die Zusammenarbeit mit meinen Kolleginnen und Kollegen am Institut so großartig funktioniert.

I Did Not Know How a Researcher Can Pack Words Like Sachertorte, #Aufschrei, Wanderlust and Paradigm Shift into Five Paragraphs. And Then I Read This Text.

I spent last summer in Berlin as a visiting research fellow at Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) (documented here and here). They now asked me to contribute to their annual report with a short account of my experiences. The challenge: It would have to include the following words: Sachertorte, fellowship, hiig, berlin, paradigmshift, currywurst, #Aufschrei, Wanderlust. This is what I submitted. 

Gruppenfoto-Summer-Fellows

The visiting research fellows Han-Teng Liao (Oxford Internet Institute), Ulrike Klinger (University of Zurich), me and Giovanni Navarria (University of Sydney) (f.l.t.r.) in front of the Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society. Photo: Elena Pfautsch.

If this publication would be Buzzfeed, Upworthy or another one of the countless websites that seek our attention with touching stories and incredible videos, the headline above would just fit. But this is not a new Reddit thread or the next lifehacking tip collection. Instead, I will briefly recapitulate my last summer in Berlin as one of four visiting research fellows at HIIG, where I stayed from July to September.

Some of my friends call me the “the permanent tourist”. That is because I use to spend my spare weekends in Vienna like a visitor (although I have been living in that city for years). I read newspapers in cafes, on every possible occasion I order Austria’s most famous boiled beef, the Tafelspitz, and I go to the former imperial zoo as often as possible. And, above all, I love Sachertorte, probably the world’s best cake.

My addiction to Sachertorte also found me a room in Berlin last summer. Getting a suitable accommodation in Berlin can be difficult. I wanted to avoid nerve-tracking castings, complicated landlords and sharing an apartment only on economic reasons. Therefore I set up a Tumblr, introducing myself and a competition: I would give away two original Sachertorten; one would be for my new interim flatmates, one for the “broker” who would find me the apartment. The result was astonishing: Dozens of people shared my offer via mail, Twitter and Facebook. I received e-mails from people I had never met before. And few days later I had found a room and even a bike – right in the heart of Hipster-Kreuzkölln.

Although I had seen a lot of Berlin during my previous trips to the city, I stayed a “permanent tourist” during my three months as a fellow, strolling through the streets and backyards without aim, purely driven by wanderlust. My workplace at HIIG also contributed to  that feeling: From where I sat, I could see the TV tower and the German flag on top of the Federal Foreign Office. Berlin visitor, what can you want more?

Apart from the touristic aspects: What is it like to spend a summer at HIIG? We research fellows were welcomed with tremendous hospitality and were quickly integrated into the institute’s teams and routines. When we did not work on our own research projects we participated at the weekly journal club or took part at one of the many excursions that were organized for us. Not to forget: The many spontaneous meetings at lunch where we discussed data-driven paradigm shifts in the social sciences, calculated publics like #Aufschrei and – the best Currywurst in town. Summa summarum: An unforgettable summer.

Julian’s Databyte #2: Das österreichische Parteienspektrum, Ideas for Journalism Developers, a Horse. And more.

Recently, I started with a new series: Julian Databyte. This is the second edition of this occasionally published compilation of eight links from the world of data culture and beyond. Read more about the Databyte.

Here we go:

Where do you stand in Austria's domestic politics? This visualization helps you to find your place.

Where do you stand in Austria’s domestic politics? This visualization helps you to find your place.

  • Five project ideas for news technology: Friedrich, currently Knight-Mozilla-Fellow at Spiegel Online, has collected ideas that would make the life of data journalists much easier.
  • The Geojournalism Handbook hosts a number of tutorials tailored for topics dealing with environmental data.
  • Die Stadt Wien hat über den Sommer ihre Open-Data-Plattform überarbeitet und sie im Kontext von “Open Government” platziert. Durchaus sehenswert, das neue Portal.
  • Christopher Clay, der bei der Nationalratswahl vergangenen Sonntag für die Piraten angetreten ist, hat die beste Orientierungshilfe für ebendiese geschaffen. Mit den Daten der Wahlkabine, des Wahlhelfers der Wiener Zeitung sowie von Politikkabine.at hat er errechnet, wie die Parteien zueinander stehen. Weiters kann man damit auch noch die eigene Position im Parteienspektrum sehen. Einfach und großartig.
  • Acht Thesen zur Zukunft: Schon einige Tage alt: Stefan Plöchinger, Chefredakteur von Süddeutsche.de, will die Gräben zwischen Print und Online zuschütten. Ein beherzter Essay, der inzwischen viel geteilt und diskutiert wurde.
  • Die digitale Geldrevolution entlässt ihre Kinder Die FAZ berichtet über Bitcoins und alternative Onlinewährungen. – für mich als Laien aufschlussreich.
  • Until it was demolished in 1992, Kowloon Walled City in China used to be one of the most densely populated places on Earth, with 50,000 people crammed into only a few blocks. Incredible pictures.
  • Goodbye, Horse: I had to learn that Horse ebooks, one of the best Twitter accounts of all time, is not a robot.

Julian’s Databyte #1: Twitterpolitik, Datenjournalismus zur Bundestagswahl, Noah. And More.

I am starting with a new series here: Julian’s Databyte. An occasionally published compilation of eight bits (= 1 byte) of information: Links, news and reviews from open data, data journalism, digital media, politics, internet research. And: entertainment. Every Databyte will also feature pieces that are worth consuming when you look for distraction.

The Databyte is in English and German, depending on the source that it links to. I launch this series because Facebook and Twitter make it so difficult to retrieve content that you have shared a while ago. Databyte is also a tribute to the beginning of blogging, when people logged their tours on the web.

Here we go:

Screenshot from Twitterpolitik 2013.

For distraction:

Metaphors of Data

When scientists and practitioners try to explain matters about data, they very often refer to metaphors from the physical world. Most of the terms have been established long before the digital era, they come from commerce (“data storage”, “data retrieval”, “data mining” or “data harvesting”) and nature (“data explosion”, “data is the new oil”, “Datenberg” (in German)). Han-Teng likes to speak of “data massage”. He uses the term to describe the manual effort of getting raw data (!) into the right shape before it can be further processed.

The terminology of data is full of metaphors. And – as it lies in the nature of metaphors – they are never never precise, because the words are taken out of context, they stem from another sphere of meaning and should explain entities that are difficult to understand otherwise. For instance, the “new oil” comparison is inadequate because data is (usually) not a finite resource.

In need for a visual for data? A picture with ones and zeros is the worst to use.

In need for a visual for data? A picture with ones and zeros is the worst to use.

But explaining data without metaphors is also very hard. I usually speak about structured information or values in (MS Excel) tables. Video makers and news reporters also face that problem when they produce films on data issues. Usually they show the physical repositories of data: screens with visualizations, server farms and crowds on the streets. This rather new BBC documentary on big data is a perfect example for that. At the same time I find the animated data flows in the intro an appealing idea:

The human face of data

Very often, data metaphors are so common, we do not even realize they are metaphors. The trekkies here cerainly know an officer called Data. Until recently I did not associate Data with structured information. To me, Data was just a normal name. But Data is called Data because he is an android. As one of the leading officers on Picard’s Enterprise, he has impressive computational capabilities. He is also a know-it-all, more like an encyclopedia. But I guess that name would not have been so sexy. Take this example, where Data explains complex systems:

Data saves the enterprise on numerous occasions. His biggest problem is that he does not understand human behavior. He is unable to feel emotions. One thread that continues through the whole TV show is that Data tries to find a chip that would bring him human feelings. Until that is the case, Data is very slow on the uptake of getting jokes and habits:

Although Star Trek plays in the 24th century, Data is not able to differentiate between an idiom and a factual expression – something computers are already very close to understanding today.

In the following clip I found another note-worthy anthropomorphism of data. The video is an episode of a mini web show by Oracle to advertise their data processing solutions.

The video reminded me of The Internet Party, another short film, where services become humans to better understand their nature. Although very old, I still find that representation of persons can explain abstract concepts very well, especially when it comes to data.

Do you know other metaphors or visual representations for data? Please post them in the comments.

I gave this talk in a “Big Data, Small Data” YouTube Cinema that I organized during my fellowship at the Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society. On 11 September 2013 the other fellows and I showed videos and talked how data, big and small, interfered with our lives and our research. 

The Relevance of Algorithms and Calculated Publics

Recently, Tarleton Gillespie wrote an excellent article on “the relevance of algorithms” [PDF]. I presented a summary of his paper at the weekly journal club at the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (as you probably know, I am currently a fellow at the institute). For the journal club we are not supposed to discuss our own’s work but to present one interesting publication by other researchers. Below are the slides that summarize the talk and also Tarleton’s paper.


Another summer fellow, Han-Teng Liao, picked up one idea of the paper up and wrote a blogpost about it: Calculated publics? Hazards of meritocracy in promising efficiency and rationalism. What Gillespie argues is that “the algorithmic presentation of publics back to themselves shape a public’s sense of itself”. I found this to be one of the smartest ideas of the paper. Han-Teng argues that the idea is not so new:

“However, I believe the answer to that question does not have to be loaded with computer science vocabularies because at the core of the question is the social construct of meritocracy and its hazards for political experiments broadly defined. […] ’calculability’ for governance is way before the Internet and computers. The issue of “calculability” in human societies have been associated with modernity, modernity, rationality and bureaucracy in classical sociology.”

Although not calling it calculated publics, I recently recently wrote a book chapter in German on the same matter.

BarCamp Alpbach: We’re live

Together with Robert and a few other engaged people I organize a BarCamp at the European Forum Alpbach. It will take place on the evening of August 14 and is free and open to everyone.

I am happy that the BarCamo Alpbach website is now online and the registration is open. Jürgen is responsible for the logo and the design. If you happen to be in the area in at the time or you haven’t made any summer plans, think about spending a few days in one of the most beautiful and active villages of the Alps.

BarCamp Alpbach

New Publication: Assessing Barcamps

Screenshot from the paper.

A Barcamp is a place for low-threshold exchange of concepts and ideas.

Since 2008, I have been organizing a number of unfonferences, so-called Barcamps in Austria: At these types of events people gather and agree upon the schedule at the beginning. Everybody is expected to contribute to the unconference, either by presenting, by leading a discussion or by documenting the event. Heinz and I co-organized the first camp on political online communication in the German-speaking area. This year, I will organize a Barcamp at the European Forum Alpbach.

As Barcamps differ substantially from regular conferences, we at Wissensmanagementforum Graz decided to investigate this further and to conduct a research project about the Barcamp in Graz. This conference paper to be presented at I-KNOW in September is the first result of our research. 

You can download the full paper in the publication section. Here is the abstract:

Dennerlein, S., Gutounig, R., Kraker, P., Kaiser, R., Rauter, R., & Ausserhofer, J. (2013, forthcoming). Assessing Barcamps: Incentives for Participation in Ad-Hoc Conferences and the Role of Social Media. Presented at the I-KNOW 13th International Conference on Knowledge Management and Knowledge Technologies, Graz.

Barcamps are conferences without predefined content, often referred to as ad-hoc conferences or unconferences. Therefore, the outcomes of a barcamp are largely unknown before the event. This raises the question of participants’ motivations to attend and contribute. To answer this question, we conducted an exploratory empirical study at the Barcamp Graz 2012. We applied a mixed-method approach: first we used a sociodemographic questionnaire (n=99) which allowed us to characterize the ’typical barcamper’. Second, we conducted qualitative interviews (n=10) to get a deeper understanding of the participants’ motivations to attend, ex- pectations and the use of social media in that context. We identified three concepts, which could be deducted from the interviews: people, format and topics. We found that the motivation to attend and even a common identity is quite strongly based on these three factors. Furthermore, the results indicate that participants share a set of activities and methods by following the barcamp’s inherent rules and make extensive use of social media.

I would like to thank my co-authors, especially Sebastian Dennerlein and Robert Gutounig who took the lead in the publication, as well as all Barcamp participants who patiently answered our questions.