hiig

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.

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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.

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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.

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Fellowship am Humboldt Institut für Internet und Gesellschaft in Berlin

[English Version below]

Erfreuliche Nachrichten: Ich gehe für drei Monate im Sommer nach Berlin, um am Alexander von Humboldt Institut für Internet und Gesellschaft (HIIG) zu forschen. In der Zeit werde ich mich insbesondere mit einem Projekt über Arbeitsabläufe im Datenjournalismus beschäftigen. Ich freue mich sehr über die Einladung.

Übrigens suche ich noch ein Zimmer oder eine kleine Wohnung in Berin und vergebe in der Zeit auch mein Zimmer in Wien. Wer mir da weiterhilft bekommt eine original Wiener Sachertorte. Alle Details zur Aktion auf den Seiten, die ich extra dafür eingerichtet habe.
Sacher Torte at Sacher Cafe

[English Version]

Great news: For three months this summer I will be in Berlin to conduct research at the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG). I will do a research project that investigates workflows in data journalism. I am really happy about the invitation.

By the way, I am still looking for a room or a small apartment during in Berlin and I will let my room in Vienna during this time. The person who helps me with this gets a delicious Original Sachertorte. Please find all details on the deal on the pages I have created specifally for that purpose.