Data Sprints: A Collaborative Format in Digital Controversy Mapping

Publication: Research - peer-reviewBook chapter

Abstract

Over the past two decades STS scholars have maintained a critical interest in, and displayed a practical engagement with, methods that has allowed us to work with wider publics and/or in broader interdisciplinary contexts. Through practices like participatory modelling (Whatmore et al. 2011), deliberative mapping (Burgess et al. 2007), consensus conferencing (Callon et al. 2009, Horst & Irwin 2010), and various other kinds of collective and user-driven approaches to design and innovation (Woolgar 1990, Hyysaolo 2006, Ehn 2008, Jensen 2012) STS research has fruitfully experimented with, and critically considered the effects of, different modes of intervention. It is a research agenda that coincides with, but has so far not been particularly related to, the rise in digital STS scholarship. This is perhaps surprising considering that broad strands of the interest in digital methods has been driven by a desire to provide navigational aids to actors faced with the challenge of making sense of complicated techno-scientific problems. Natively digital media technologies have thus been re-appropriated by STS researchers specifically for the purpose of mapping controversies in a way that would deploy them and render them more accessible to their concerned parties (Marres & Rogers 2005, Venturini 2010, Yaneva 2012). So far, however, very few concrete experiments have attempted to road test these cartographic ambitions in a way that would put them into direct conversation with our existing experiences with various forms of public engagement and participation. Through a concrete reappropriation of a collaborative format that is indeed native to the digital domain - namely the hackathon - we will show how digital methods can make a difference in participatory STS research. The data sprint, as we have dubbed our reappropriated version of the hackathon, has been tested in a series of four weeklong sessionps where we invited issue experts from the climate change adaptation community to collaboratively map their matters of concern together with a team of STS researchers, digital methods experts, developers and data designers. The sprints took place under the auspices of the E-MAPS project (preliminary results are available here: http://www.emapsproject.com/blog/) and drew on prior experiences from the MACOSPOL project and the winter and summer schools organised by the Digital Methods Initiative in amsterdam. Through a mix of digital methods ranging from web cartography and text mining to scientometrics and social media analysis we took on questions related to climate adaptation funding, vulnerability assessment, project management, and dynamics of the international negotiations. The sprints hardwired the challenges of collaboratively formulating research questions and devising potential avenues of intervention together with concerned group of actors into the practical circumstances of working with (i.e. harvesting, analysing and visualising) digital traces. It thus offered a laboratory in which it became possible to test how the potentials with which digital methods in general, and the cartography of controversies in particular, have been repeatedly invested may or may not be realised.
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Over the past two decades STS scholars have maintained a critical interest in, and displayed a practical engagement with, methods that has allowed us to work with wider publics and/or in broader interdisciplinary contexts. Through practices like participatory modelling (Whatmore et al. 2011), deliberative mapping (Burgess et al. 2007), consensus conferencing (Callon et al. 2009, Horst & Irwin 2010), and various other kinds of collective and user-driven approaches to design and innovation (Woolgar 1990, Hyysaolo 2006, Ehn 2008, Jensen 2012) STS research has fruitfully experimented with, and critically considered the effects of, different modes of intervention. It is a research agenda that coincides with, but has so far not been particularly related to, the rise in digital STS scholarship. This is perhaps surprising considering that broad strands of the interest in digital methods has been driven by a desire to provide navigational aids to actors faced with the challenge of making sense of complicated techno-scientific problems. Natively digital media technologies have thus been re-appropriated by STS researchers specifically for the purpose of mapping controversies in a way that would deploy them and render them more accessible to their concerned parties (Marres & Rogers 2005, Venturini 2010, Yaneva 2012). So far, however, very few concrete experiments have attempted to road test these cartographic ambitions in a way that would put them into direct conversation with our existing experiences with various forms of public engagement and participation. Through a concrete reappropriation of a collaborative format that is indeed native to the digital domain - namely the hackathon - we will show how digital methods can make a difference in participatory STS research. The data sprint, as we have dubbed our reappropriated version of the hackathon, has been tested in a series of four weeklong sessionps where we invited issue experts from the climate change adaptation community to collaboratively map their matters of concern together with a team of STS researchers, digital methods experts, developers and data designers. The sprints took place under the auspices of the E-MAPS project (preliminary results are available here: http://www.emapsproject.com/blog/) and drew on prior experiences from the MACOSPOL project and the winter and summer schools organised by the Digital Methods Initiative in amsterdam. Through a mix of digital methods ranging from web cartography and text mining to scientometrics and social media analysis we took on questions related to climate adaptation funding, vulnerability assessment, project management, and dynamics of the international negotiations. The sprints hardwired the challenges of collaboratively formulating research questions and devising potential avenues of intervention together with concerned group of actors into the practical circumstances of working with (i.e. harvesting, analysing and visualising) digital traces. It thus offered a laboratory in which it became possible to test how the potentials with which digital methods in general, and the cartography of controversies in particular, have been repeatedly invested may or may not be realised.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDigital STS : A Handbook and Fieldguide
EditorsDavid Ribes, Janet Vertesi
PublisherPrinceton University Press
Publication date2017
StateAccepted/In press - 2017

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