The Digital Methods Summer School 2016 (Amsterdam)

The Digital Methods Initiative (DMI) is one of Europe’s leading Internet Studies research groups. Comprised of new media researchers and PhD candidates, it designs methods and tools for repurposing online devices and platforms (such as Twitter, Facebook and Google) for research into social and political issues. This year one of the key questions was  on How to locate the connecting practices that matter? And How to map and count connections that are not principally serving commodified data regimes and markets?

The Summer School started with Lance Bennett giving the opening keynote on Monday, 27 June. Bennett, together with Alexandra Segerberg, coined the notion of ‘connective action’, contrasting it with ‘collective action’. Sandra Ponzanesi was also a keynote speaker on the same day with Diasporic Crossings: Rethinking Europe through Connections and Belonging’. 

Our Project team was participating in the Summer School with Dr. Donya Alinejad as project pitcher. The main aim of the project was to operationalise issue mapping for studying digital diasporic crossings in Europe – crossings as in cross-platform as well as cross-diaspora. Following the central theme of the Summer School, our Team was interested in understanding digital connecting practices of so-called “connected migrants” (Diminescu 2008) who actively develop a culture of bonds in which their everyday digital communication practices activate remote relations (both within and outside of Europe’s boundaries) as though they were relations of proximity. The main methodological objective was to operationalise ‘cross-platform’ issue mapping for ‘cross-diaspora’ studies. 

The complete project description can be read here. The presentation slides can be found here.

The following subprojects were presented:

  1. “Mapping Transnational Motherhood Issue Networks: The Case of Romanian Migrant Women and Their Children Left Behind” (with Claudia Minchilli as the issue expert). Read more… 
  2. “Tracing Feminist Poetry on Social Media: The Case of Warsan Shire” (with Melis Mevsimler as the issue expert). Read more… 
  3. “Mapping Transnational Diasporic Ties and Connections: The Case of Bade Çakır” (with Laura Candidatu as the issue expert). Read more… 


About the Summer School

This year’s program of the Summer School was dedicated to the inspection of connective action online, where the effort was to step behind the interface gestures, and describe in some detail connecting practices that show platform-readiness. During the DMI Summer School participants actively engaged in empirical research projects, employing Web-specific software tools, such as scrapers and crawlers. They explored particular transmedia and cross-platform strategies of action, making use of data extraction and rendering tools by the Digital Methods Initiative and colleagues at the médialab at Sciences Po (Paris) and Density Design (Milan).
Digital methods is a term coined as a counter-point to virtual methods, which typically digitize existing methods and port them onto the Web. Digital methods, contrariwise, seek to learn from the methods built into the dominant devices online, and repurpose them for social and cultural research. That is, the challenge is to study both the info-web as well as the social web with the tools that organize them. There is a general protocol to digital methods. At the outset stock is taken of the natively digital objects that are available (links, tags, threads, etc.) and how devices such as search engines make use of them. Can the device techniques be repurposed, for example by remixing the digital objects they take as inputs? Once findings are made with online data, where to ground them? Is the baseline still the offline, or are findings to be grounded in more online data?
More information on the DMI Summer School can be read here.