SFB 1187 ›Medien der Kooperation‹ an der Universität Siegen

Integrated Research Training Group (MGK)

About

In its second funding period, the CRC 1187 “Media of Cooperation” is complemented by an “Integrated Research Training Group” (MGK). In terms of content, the MGK follows the CRC’s claim to realize a historically contoured, praxeologically-oriented contemporary research of digital, distributed and especially sensor-based media.

The MGK’s task is to bundle and systematically support the training of doctoral students from the CRC’s subprojects. For this purpose, relevant theoretical and methodological basics of digital media practice research are worked out with the participants. All doctoral students of the CRC participate in regular colloquia and workshops. In workshops on Media Practice Theory, national and international guests are invited for lectures and discussions. In Data Labs, empirical research data are discussed collaboratively. Collaborative exchange on tools and research methods takes place in the Research Tech Lab. In self-organized, interdisciplinary small groups, the doctoral students also work on topics that are related to the CRC, the subprojects and their dissertations and generate new impulses for research.

The activities of the MGK are also aimed at further expanding the international networking of the CRC and broadening the thematic spectrum by integrating innovative doctoral projects. This goal is achieved primarily through annually awarded, 12-month short-term fellowships, with which national and international early-career researchers and promising projects are tied to the vibrant environment of the CRC.

 

PhD students

Julia Kurz

 

 

 

 

Hendrik Bender

Hendrik Bender Profile

Research Assistant in B08 “Agentic Media: Formations of Semi-Autonomy”

Dissertation Project: The Media that follow: Navigatorische Prozesse und Medienpraktiken sensorbasierter, semi-autonomer Akteure am Beispiel von Hobbydrohnen

Abstract: The research project deals with the “Medien-werden” (the way in which the drone becomes a medium) of sensor-based, semi-autonomous drones as situated media capable of both generating knowledge about their surroundings and acting upon it. The project looks into drone practices in both recreational and commercial application contexts. While in recent years stable media practices such as the “dronie” have become established in the context of recreational drone-usage, the drone is also experiencing increasing professionalization in the private sector. Especially in agriculture, more and more control and monitoring tasks are carried out with the help of drones. The data collected can be used to determine whether fields need to be watered or fertilized and promises to eventually be able to tend to individual plants. The focus of current developments lies on the interoperability of agricultural equipment to automate work processes as far as possible. The PhD project ties in with these developments and examines the redistribution of agency on one hand and the emergence of a changed spatial consciousness on the other.

 

Christoph Borbach Profile

Research Fellow

Dissertation Project: Title to follow

Abstract: Abstract to follow

 

Tanja Ertl Profile

Research Assistant in A05 “The Cooperative Creation of User Autonomy in the Context of the Ageing Society”

Dissertation Project: CaringCommunityLabs – reflection and learning spaces for the self-empowerment of elderly people in dealing with technology. Community-based participatory co-design of an infrastructural model of intergenerational and intercultural networking and support.

Abstract: In my dissertation I focus on the field of HCI4Margins, taking a broad perspective on target groups, settings and vulnerability, which I subsequently analyze comparatively using the theoretical framework of Grounded Theory. Based on different use cases, I investigate the role of digital media and socio-technical infrastructures in supporting inclusion, resilience, well-being and (mental) health as well as the associated reduction of vulnerability with the approach of Grounded Design (Participatory Design, Action Research).

 

Susanne Förster Profile

Research Assistant in B08 „Agentic Media: Formations of Semi-Autonomy“

Dissertation Project: Chatbots as Agentic Media (WT)

Abstract: Abstract to follow

 

Daniela van Geenen Profile

Research Fellow

Dissertation Project: Making sense of sensors as knowledge technologies: Critical data practice(s) in everyday sensor-enabled settings and situations

Abstract: Abstract to follow

 

Pip Hare Profile

Research Assistant in B05 “Early childhood and smartphone. Family interaction order, learning processes and cooperation”

Dissertation Project: Moving moving images: affective viewing across contexts and continents (WT)

Abstract: Abstract to follow

 

Tim Moritz Hector Profile

Research Assistant in B06 “Un-/desired Observation in Interaction: “Intelligent Personal Assistants” (IPA)”

Dissertation Project: Voice Assistants in Talk-in-Interaction: Transformation and emergence of linguistic and cultural everyday-practices through acquisition of media with voice-user-interfaces

Abstract: Intelligent Personal Assistants (IPAs), which are controlled via (oral) voice user interfaces (VUIs), are used in a steadily increasing number of households. The Voice Assistants that are to be the focus of this project are installed in the living environment. The devices can be operated orally, but can also be controlled via app. The oral control procedures show similarities to interpersonal social interaction (Krummheuer 2010).

In the doctoral project, I examine from a linguistic point of view how Voice User Interfaces get domesticated and embedded in everyday-interactions. Which everyday-practices occur and stabilize as linguistic patterns within the communicative repertoire of interactors? With an empirical base of data collected in different households, I will research practices in interaction (Goodwin 2018). Following the distinction by Deppermann et al. (2016), I will research these practices in three dimensions: (i) on a linguistic-conversational level (Schegloff 1997), (ii) with a genre-specific perspective (Günthner/Knoblauch 1994) and (iii) with an approach of social practices beyond the communicative (Schatzki 2002). The project combines methodological approaches of ethnomethodological conversation analysis (Garfinkel 1967; Sacks/Schegloff/Jefferson 1974) and ethnographic analysis of talk-in-interaction (Deppermann 2000) as well as interactional linguistics (Selting/Couper-Kuhlen 2001).

 

Max Kanderske Profile

Research Assistant in Subproject A03 “Navigation in Online/Offline Spaces”

Dissertation Project: Navigating the Noise: A praxeological examination of self-localizing interfaces

Abstract: Since their rise to popularity in the 2000s, Mixed Reality interfaces and applications have been the subject of a plethora of studies within the fields of spatial research in general and human geography in particular: the way the technology influences the production of space, questions of escapism and privacy as well as the transformative potential MR might exert on societies at large were discussed, oftentimes in highly speculative ways.

This PhD project takes a step back from these macro-scale endeavours. Instead, it proposes the basic principle behind all Mixed Reality technology as a starting point for further discussion: MR interfaces share a common reliance on a specific relation between the user’s point of view, the position of the interface itself and the angle at which the digital objects are presented on said interface. The illusionistic effect produced by this spatial arrangement of physical and digital objects – as well as the socio-spatial transformations depending on that illusion – can thus be boiled down to a micro-scale navigational problem that has to be solved in a concerted effort by an actor-network comprised of both human and technological actors, i.e. the user and the employed hard- and software.

Adopting this approach opens up two promising avenues of research: On one hand, a praxeological study of recent MR interfaces aims to shed light on the ways in which movement through hybrid spaces, as well as interaction with hybrid objects, can (or cannot) be facilitated through sensor-based micro-navigational practices. On the other hand, an analysis of MR’s unique navigational challenges will contribute to the fields of media geography and sensor media research by contextualising MR technology within a wider range of historical and recent navigational practices.

 

Maria Lompe Profile

Research Fellow

Dissertation Project: Shaping the Media Debate Towards Knowledge Structures.
Mapping Controversies about the Vistula Spit Cross-cut.

Abstract:

The Cross-cut through the Vistula Spit is one of the many environmental controversies in Poland that have occurred over the past twenty years. Currently, however, the discussion surrounding the project has taken on a different dimension than before, as it is largely taking place online. My PhD dissertation investigates this controversy from a Science Technology Studies (STS) perspective, using Actor Network Theory (ANT) with a particular focus on how knowledge about the Vistula Spit Cross-cut is produced and transformed as it circulates in social media. The main issues I would like to explore in my work are how knowledge about the Vistula Spit Cross-cut and the risks associated with this project is transformed by actors involved in the debate, and how media controversies shape the public debate, collective decision-making and risk management. I will also devote a large part of my reflection to the question of whether the debate over this controversy is determined by the type of platform on which the information is published? The main research area of the proposed project is the public online space, in particular two processes – the production of new/different ways of online public debate, and the relationship between scientific facts and specific groups in the online space. Due to interdisciplinary character of the project, the methodology used in it is twofold: data collection is based on mapping controversies using digital methods, while data analysis is largely based on Science Technology Studies approach, ANT and the relational knowledge model. Research on the mechanisms of knowledge production and circulation in the case of groups that actively participate in discussions about important environmental decisions may allow us to highlight new ways of constructing public debate.

 

 

Benedikt Merkle Profile

Research Fellow

Dissertation Project: Regulation of the sensory. Flash-Animation as the aesthetics of object-oriented programming

Abstract: As early as 1925, Edgar Wind stated in a critique of the methods of art science that for images as a whole, “das geregelte Erfassen von Gegenständen [hängt] mit einer Regelung des Sinnlichen als solchem zusammen” (Edgar Wind, “Zur Systematik der künstlerischen Probleme”, in: Zeitschrift für Ästhetik und Allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft, 18/4, 1925, pp. 438-486, here p. 463). For computer-generated images, this relationship is intensified, since the imagination here is derived from a series of commands in the script. The regulation of the sensory is determined by the regulated capture of objects. Images can no longer be read as documents, but are to be understood as manifestations of certain display operations. They are thereby increasingly taking over the functions of texts.

My project deals with the conceptual evolution of a way of thinking about image, text and their entanglement in the context of information technology media. No longer as documents, digital images are to be interpreted as part of the writing process. In order to test this thesis, I present the example of Flash animation from a media and cultural-technical perspective. This platform for the creation of interactive visual web content, which was ubiquitous in the late 1990s and 2000s, is closely connected with the programming paradigm of object-oriented programming, which regulates the recording and constitution of objects in databases. On the one hand, the development and evolution of this visuality is linked to invisible, technical conditions. On the other hand, Flash animation offers tools for creating an aesthetic distance to digital objects, for example in the form of platforms for exchanging interactive games or films. The aim of this study is to integrate both the construction of the invisible and the visible into a model for historical description that can render the evolution of conceptual ways of thinking about the apprehension of objects.

 

Dmitri Presnov Profile

Research Assistant in Subproject A06 “Visual Integrated Clinical Cooperation”

Dissertation Project: Anatomically integrated visualization of patient data

Abstract: Due to the growing complexity of the course of treatment in modern hospitals, the distribution of medical activities in clinical pathways plays an increasingly important role, which, for its part, entails an intensive cooperation between various medical personnel. Such a cooperation requires an efficient and effective conveyance of patient-related diagnostic data relevant for each particular task. This requirement is difficult to meet with traditional data representation forms, such as text, alone. In this context, visualisation systems are a promising alternative. The goal of this doctor thesis is to develop an approach for visualisation of diagnostic patient data in cooperative clinical settings and to proof its feasibility by means of a prototypical implementation on a mobile device.

At the core of our approach is the idea to exploit the long visual tradition existent in medicine, which is tightly related to the human anatomy, in order to achieve an intuitive visualisation with a high user acceptance. Taking advantage of the fact that a significant part of the diagnostic cooperative data, e.g. clinical symptoms, are inherently associated with affected anatomical structures, we propose the concept of anatomically integrated in-place visualisation. This means that these data are encoded with appropriate visual attributes, such as colour or texture, which then are applied by rendering of the geometries of a 3D avatar that represent the respective anatomical structures.

We assume that the spatial embedding of data in the anatomical context makes their relation to the underlying real phenomena more evident, facilitating their assessment. It allows for the simultaneous visualisation of all diagnostic data relevant in the given cooperative settings, providing a synopsis of the current patient status at a glance and this way supporting a fast circulation of information.

The tightest relation between the visualization and the patient with the resulting benefits can be achieved if the 3D avatar not only represents body structures anatomically correctly but also possesses a resemblance to the real person. Such an avatar individualisation requires a 3D scene reconstruction from depth data, which can be acquired, for instance, with range cameras. One of the crucial factors for the reconstruction quality is the accuracy of camera tracking. In the case of a mobile device, however, limited CPU and GPU capabilities as well as a low spatial and temporal resolution of the depth data make an accurate tracking particularly challenging. This thesis addresses the mobile camera tracking problem augmenting the depth data with the data from inertial sensors and incorporating an appropriate sensor fusion method into the reconstruction pipeline.

A further fundamental challenge associated with the anatomically integrated visualisation regards the design of visual encoding. On the one hand, multiple medical data can refer to the same anatomical structure. Thus, to allow for their simultaneous visualisation a careful selection of complementary visual attributes is required. On the other hand, the encoding of quantified medical data has to take into account the limited distinctiveness of visual attributes for the human perception. The focus of this thesis is on the development of generalisable approaches for a semiautomatic data encoding in the context of a spatially embedded visualisation.

 

Sarah Rüller Profile

Research Fellow

Dissertation Project: Being public under increasing and diminishing Infrastructures: Understanding Media Practices and Sense-Making of Technology in non-urban Areas in Palestine and Morocco

Abstract: My PhD project evaluates media and sensemaking practices of communities in non-urban area in Palestine and Morocco. The project focuses on the interdependence of going digital and being public in different stages and states of infrastructure, culture of publicness and openness.

Following an ethnographic approach, I investigate the impact increasing infrastructures (e.g. running water, widespread LTE, electricity, paved roads) in a remote region of Morocco has on communities’ digital public practices. Whereas in Palestine’s West Bank, diminishing infrastructures (water limitation, unstable internet, electricity cut, blocked streets) determine people’s everyday life and therefore – so the hypothesis – their media practices and digital participation.

In the nature of human computer interaction as a design discipline, this project eventually aims at co-creating a tailored community platform in both countries in one of the following areas, which have been identified throughout five years of ethnographic fieldwork and which (still) fall off the grid in both settings: communication, heritage, or entrepreneurship.

 

Ouejdane Sabbah Profile

Research Fellow

Dissertation Project: When the telecommunication industry meets platform companies: Facebook Network Analytics and the new infrastructural dimension of platforms.

Abstract: This project explores one aspect of platform companies-led connectivity initiatives, i.e. operator facilitation initiatives.

This research argues for an exploration of a new infrastructural dimension adopted by platform companies that expands beyond notions such as infrastructural platform (Dijck et al., 2018) infrastructuralized platform (Plantin et al., 2016), or platform-as-infrastructure (Helmond et al, 2019). Focusing on the case study of Facebook Network Analytics, an analytics tool designed by Facebook and marketed for telecommunication companies, as part of their global connectivity efforts, this study uses publicly available sources, archived primary documentation, transcripts of industry events talk’s, and grey literature in order to frame the partnerships between telecommunication and platform companies more thoroughly and critically through an integrated theoretical approach that puts into discussion critical infrastructures studies, critical data studies, and platform studies.

In doing so, this project aims to redress the Euro-American bias illustrated by the silence in the literature around this particular topic (Nothias, 2020), namely the under-research study area that is the involvement of big-tech corporations’ in the internet backbone of underdeveloped countries. By studying an analytics tool developed by Facebook under the slogan of connecting the unconnected, this research expands its concerns about the power of major platforms beyond the control exercised at the level of their data architecture or their algorithmic curation. It also takes into consideration the control that would be materialized through their investments in networks, their ownership of the internet backbone infrastructure, and their growing partnerships with telecommunication operators.

 

Sheree May Saßmannshausen Profile

Research Fellow

Dissertation Project: Intermediary, multimodal and immersive infrastructures for digital citizen participation in urban and regional planning

Abstract: More and more cities are striving for increased (early) public participation in order not to miss out on the needs of the citizens in the planning process. Citizens also have an interest in influencing decisions about planning projects in their city, since they themselves are affected by the consequences. Traditional participation methods, such as citizens’ meetings, are very time-consuming and require time and location constraints. Digitization can help reach more people and involve them in planning processes independent from time and place. This also creates an opportunity to simplify communication, participation and collaboration between different stakeholders. In the context of infrastructure, urban and regional development projects, new construction and redesign projects are constantly being planned, about which citizens are to be informed or for which their opinions as well as their own ideas are required. Certain ideas can be difficult to write textually and require a strong imagination regarding different dimensions as well as spatial interaction in the real environment.

A suitable approach to involve citizens in planning processes and to support them in this way is the use of innovative technologies such as augmented/virtual or mixed reality, which can be used to create more audio-visual media and opportunities for spatial interaction. The approach for the PhD project is to explore new multimodal and intermediary forms of interaction that enable citizens (also collaboratively) to experience planning processes (and their designated results) immersively and thus to comprehend them better. The thesis is that this will improve participation practices, engage more citizens in participation processes, and achieve better mediation, communication, and collaboration between stakeholders. In the context of this, it will also be investigated how the use of this infrastructural participation platform influences actual media use and media practice. The research of appropriation (support of appropriation) will also be investigated, initially in the presented domain of citizen participation, and later extended to other domains.

 

Yarden Skop Profile

Research Fellow

Dissertation Project: Studying the relationships between platform companies and publishers through the development and deployment of computational tools for content moderation and fact checking

Abstract: The relationships between online news publishers and platform companies are entangled and multi sided. In the current political-economic setting, news outlets are dependent on platform companies for distribution and exposure and also for the development of different technologies used in news rooms. One aspect of the multifaceted relationship between platforms and publishers is a developing situation in which platform companies are in need of certain capacities or data which news (and more broadly journalistic organizations) have to offer. In recent years, due to public scrutiny, platform companies have been turning to news organizations to assist them with the development of technologies to deal with two core issues that are in the center of criticism on platforms: proliferation of hate speech and violence and the spread of misinformation. The proposed research will deal with the development of two parallel technologies that are being co-created by journalists and tech platforms. These technologies are broadly defined as (1) automated content moderation, focused on identifying damaging and harmful speech and (2) misinformation identification, sometimes referred to as automated fact checking. From the perspective of platform companies, both issues are questions of moderation and of how much platforms should interfere in policing content and how to make these decisions and justify them in the public discourse. The project will involve identifying case studies in the form of tools developed for these purposes, and exploring them by using mixed methods, including interviews with stakeholders, publicly available sources, developer documentation and grey literature. Its aim is to frame the emerging relationships between news publishers and platforms, with a focus on journalists’ agency in the process of automation of core journalistic work that is traditionally considered to be human centric.

 

Niklas Strüver Profile

Research Fellow

Dissertation Project: Voice Assistants as sociotechnical phenomena: About infrastructures and platforms

Abstract: Intelligent Personal Assistants (IPA) as an assistive digital technology are further proliferating in pop culture and everyday life. According to big tech companies IPAs are supposed to ‘make lives easier’ and ‘help get things done’. At least in some aspects however, reality seems to differ from that promise. Ideally IPAs would function as an infrastructure to mundane tasks that blend into background and do not need to be considered at the moment of use. Taking a relational stance, I want to investigate in what kind of situations IPAs work frictionless and correspondingly when interactional difficulties tend to occur. Given the field of nascent technology, these processes are a moving target that will have to be captured over time. Investigating the different evolving characteristics of these sociotechnical situations could e.g. shed light on relations of power, invisible labour and contingency in the use of IPA and further understanding of different types of actors involved. Thus, I qualitatively explore the development of human-machine-interactions in the context of IPAs like Alexa or Google Assistant.

Theoretically my research is based on concepts of sociotechnical infrastructure and assistance (within the broad spectrum of STS) and the concept of digital platform technologies (as discussed in media studies). While the former affords the aforementioned relational view on technology, the latter adds a valuable perspective to understand the implications of algorithms and datafication that frame interaction with IPAs. The convergence of these two fields of study enables a perspective that can show relationality, dependencies and inequalities on the one hand. On the other hand, these aspects can be set into perspective by considering platform technologies as data driven sociotechnical complexes that can shape interactions. I therefore assume IPAs to be infrastructures and platforms at the same time and explore various levels of observation as well as different types of involved actors. Here the iterative production of social reality is being shaped by various entities with different values, resulting in various methodological approaches.

 

Fernando van der Vlist Profile

Research Assistant in A03 “Navigation in Online/Offline Spaces”

Dissertation Project: Digital platforms as governing information systems

Abstract: Digital platforms for social media are both underpinned by and enmeshed with larger digital infrastructure, making them increasingly complex research objects for scholars, individuals, and policymakers and regulators alike. Yet as governing systems, digital platforms organise, structure, and regulate the technical, social, economic, and cultural relationships between key parties in digital societies around the globe. The purpose of this dissertation is twofold: first, to articulate an empirically-informed understanding of digital platforms as infrastructures that organise datafication and governance relationships at/across different levels of the architecture; second, to develop research methodologies for the empirical and historical study of datafication and governance at these different architecture levels. The empirical case studies span three architecture levels: (i) the architecture of individual social media platform; (ii) the connected/interrelated ecosystems of multiple social media platforms; and (iii) relations between the mobile social media apps and app ecosystems built ‘on top of’ mobile platforms. Taken together, these entry points provide fundamental insights into the organisation of datafication and governance relationships as they emerge in digital infrastructure. Such practical insights about the implementation of datafication and governance are relevant to current scholarly debate on the significance of social media, digital platforms, and digital infrastructure. They are also relevant to public deliberation and to design effective regulations for governing the digital/datafied society. In the wake of revelations and growing public concerns about the power and influence of digital platforms and infrastructure in culture, society, and politics, it is particularly important that we develop a fundamental understanding of digital platforms and their evolving presence in specific marketplaces and domains and in society at large. Despite the criticism, many of these digital platforms remain among the largest, most global, and most widely used technical systems in history.

 

Regina Wuzella Profile

Research Fellow

Dissertation Project: Maß-lose Gesten – Agency in the field of Robotic Manipulation

Abstract: This project approaches the field of sensor-based robotic manipulation as an epiphenomenon of an Ambient Intelligence (AmI) that emerged within the realm of a “planetary scale computation” (see Bratton: 2016). The aim is to establish a historical-epistemological perspective on how sensor-based robotic systems “learn” and refer to their surroundings by understanding underlying machine learning algorithms as contingent representation models that have been shaped within specific scientific, political and economical parameters. How computational knowledge unfolds and new knowledge production takes place in the interaction between semi-autonomous robotic systems and humans is one of the central research aspects.

 

Working Groups

Technography in Practice

(Daniela van Geenen, Danny Lämmerhirt, Hoa Mai Trần, Tatjana Seitz)

The working group makes an effort to delve into the possibilities of “technography” (e.g. Bucher, 2012; Jansen & Vellema, 2011; Kien, 2008; Rammert & Schubert, 2006; Vannini et al., 2009; Schubert, 2019) exploring digital devices and platforms (e.g. hardware, software; their development, adaptation and use). The main focus of the working group will be directed toward actual analysis of technical objects and/or tools in relation to relevant media and data practices. Such analyses can consist of analyzing the development process of hardware, software, platforms, and/or devices (using relevant documentation) and material generated by means of using these technical objects, technologies/tools (incl. logs; (auto)ethnographic descriptions, collectively or individually achieved etc.). Our goal is “to learn and develop technography by doing” building on our own case studies iteratively and discuss in our meetings how technography works and can be used approaching the specific case studies. The activities of the working group might also consist of reading groups and discussions of main concepts connecting to our own textual work relating to technography.

 

Technological actors in social situations

(Hendrik Bender, Tim Moritz Hector, Max Kanderske, Hoa Mai Trần)

The reading group discusses the role of technological actors in social situations. We read and critique the concepts and underlying theoretical systems of Interaction (starting off from Schütz, Garfinkel and Goodwin), Interoperability and Agency.

We plan to read the relevant literature, discuss if the concepts can be applied to our own work and to the phenomena of our research focus. This also includes regular discussions of material, texts produced by members of the groups and bits and pieces we find during the research process.

 

Design of the interdisciplinary work for technology development

(Julia Kurz, Aynalem T. Misganaw, Dmitri Presnov)

The goal of this working group is to analyse the main challenges that arise by the cooperation between different disciplines participating in the development of a new technology and to draw up a guideline for an efficient design of such interdisciplinary cooperative work. Of particular interest are such aspects as reconciliation of discipline-specific goals and perspectives, delimitation vs inclusion in the distribution of tasks, elaboration of tools and a common language for an interdisciplinary concept transfer.

 

Interface. A blog by the Collaborative Research Center “Media of Cooperation”

(Asli Telli Aydemir, Jason Chao, Pip Hare, Sarah Rüller, Fernando van der Vlist)

OuFtreach is a blog for researchers, journalists, activists, and anyone else interested in thinking about the broader societal relevance and impacts of the academic work associated with the Collaborative Research Center “Media of Cooperation” at the University of Siegen, Germany. The CRC “Media of Cooperation” is an international and interdisciplinary research community consisting of more than 60 researchers across the humanities, social sciences, information sciences, and medical sciences. We hope to encourage debate on issues related to our work, share experiences and perspectives on digital scholarship, and reach out to a larger audience.

The editorial team coordinates the blog and ensures its quality. If you would like to contribute or have ideas for the blog, please contact us.

 

Mixing Methods Summer School I “Breaching Digital Media / Respecifying Ethnomethodology”

The first Mixing Methods Summer School of the Collaborative Research Centre 1187 (CRC) “Media of Cooperation” took place online from 26 to 30 July 2021. Titled “Breaching Digital Media / Respecifying Ethnomethodology”, the Summer School invited graduate students from our intern graduate school (MGK) to a series of methodological experimentations and creative explorations in the study of digital media practices. Following the established media-theoretical insight that the work of media becomes visible when they break down, the participants discussed the following key questions: How can we disrupt the routines of digital media practices in an uncanny – yet heuristic – way? How can users interpret and try to cope with provocative events breaking usual flows of digital interactions? What does it mean to interrupt the “backend systems” of our day-to-day computational infrastructures? In two parallel tracks the participants were able to combine theory inputs with work sessions where the participants experimented with productive ruptures, crossovers, and reconfigurations in the encounter with digital technologies.

Track 1Towards Digital Breaching Experiments” were led by Loup Cellard. Following the method of American sociologist Harold Garfinkel, the approach of track 1 consisted in reclaiming a pause to inquire and reflexively intervene in the normative and routinized enactment of digital media. Two groups were formed to respecify breaching experiments based on two case studies – one on the data traffic infrastructures of the app Strava and another on the scripted interactions of the chatbot Replika. Track 2 “’Critical Technical Practice’ Revisited: Of Materials, Methods, and Montage” was led by Philippe Sormani. Returning to the idea by Philip E. Agre (1997), that “computing […] as a kind of imperialism [is aiming] to reinvent virtually every other site of practice in its own image”, the participants were invited to to reflect upon, reconfigure, and/or reorient that project in the light of contemporary developments in ethnomethodological analysis, and its distinctive notion(s) of “respecification” in particular.

Three keynotes by prominent researchers in the fields of (digital) sociology, media studies, and Human-Computer Interaction brought the participants together and provided stimulating perspectives on the history, present, and prospects of ethnomethodology (Anne Rawls), experimental methods in digital sociology (Noortje Marres), and methods of critical (un)making (Kristina Lindström/Åsa Ståhl).

Anne Rawls gave an insight in her research on the history, present and prospects of ethnomethodology in her presentation “Revealing Order through Disorder: Garfinkel’s Breaching Tutorials and Studies of Difficulty and Difference”. Highlighting Garfinkel’s “experiments”, she demonstrated that Garfinkel did not consider them “experiments” and did not rely on them outside of classroom exercises. Instead he saw them as a research method to find instances of natural breakdowns and difficulties that could shed light on the normal ordinary achievement of self/identity and order/meaning. In her keynote on “For a situational analytics: An interpretative methodology for the study of social life in computational settings” Noortje Marres presented experimental methods in digital sociology. She enabled the study of situations in platform- and other computing-intensive settings at scale by reviewing Adele Clark’s “Situational Analytics” (2005) and her case for a specific set of modifications of situational analysis. Kristina Lindström and Åsa Ståhl showed their enquiries of methods of critical (un)making in their keynote about “Un/Making Matters, Practices and Imaginaries”. The design makers discussed three different orientations of un/making: un/making in the aftermath of design, un/making preferable things and un/making futures, based on their practice-based research.

The first Mixing Methods Summer School of the CRC  enabled the participants to experiment with different approaches of ethnomethodology and discuss the main question how it might be possible to disrupt the routines of digital media practices. With the help of experts the participants gained an extensive insight into the way digital media can be breached to deepen their own research projects.

 

Former MGK students

Hoa Mai Trần Profile
Phonetic Pronunciation (IPA): [hwɑmaɪ̆ ʈɽ ̴tʂən]

Research Fellow

Dissertation Project: Childhood Studies between On-Offline-Relations: A Digital Ethnography of Agency, Media and Data Practices of Children in Context of Social Inequalities

Abstract: The project aims to contribute to the empirical body of work and knowledge about the genesis of social inequalities related to digital media and data practices in childhood. Special attention will be paid to children‘s practices and expressions in their daily life, which are embedded in context of their „lifeword“ and „life situations“ (German term „Lebenswelten“ und „Lebenslagen“). The leading research questions are: How are media and data practices constituted by children in their daily life? What kind of agencies can be identified in the interaction of children with digital media and data? How do data and media practices relate to social inequalities and family habitus/dispositions?

The research follows „new childhood studies“ discourses and is situated in social constructivist and the ethnomethodological paradigm in social and educational science. The multi-methods approach is framed by traditional ethnographic field work („follow the people“) and digital ethnography. The research design will be supplemented with mixed methods of childhood studies (child-centered), technology studies (multimodal, digital methods) and traditional methods of social science like (participatory observations, interviews). The case study follows a circular strategy in order to do theoretical sampling (e.g. parallel coding and inquiry) and the analysis is following reflexive Grounded Theory. The ethnographic project is following a life-world-oriented approach and focuses three steps in the data analysis:

  1. Exploring and describing: Intertwining the material and immaterial in daily life of children and their media practices with focus on agencies of children (embedded in the specific social, spatial, temporal context and diffrent family milieus)
  2. Focussing: Analyzing data- and media practices in relation to the non-digital enviroment and dispositions of social inqualities (income, status/job of parents, family form, cultural capital, housing etc.) of children, social network and their families
  3. Contrasting and Comparing: Deepening or expanding research questions in the direction of how the role of digital media reinforces or irritates social inqualities in childhood with focus on inclusion and exclusion processes

Research ethics are prioritized in the whole research process. A „child/person-friendly“ research with the focus on transparency, children’s rights (e.g. iterative informed consent, respecting the privat sphere, dialogical inquiry), feedback from research participants related to the researcher and research, reflecting on prozedural and practical ethics (also in digital spaces) as well as power issues are cross-sectional topics for a systematic improvement of the research with children.

 

Ranjodh Singh Dhaliwal Profile

Research Fellow

Dissertation Project: Rendering: A Political Diagrammatology of Computing

Abstract: In 1822, there were fierce conversations about “rendering” the plans of Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine. Many years later, in 1975, “rendering” the Utah teapot would be considered a landmark achievement in the history of computing. Over the last 150 years, this term rendering, which describes the transition between a virtual (or ‘potential’) and an actual (or ‘real’) object, has become increasingly important for our technological cultures. Circuit diagrams get rendered into computer hardware and datasets are rendered into images. Considering this long history by infusing a media-oriented investigation of computer architecture into the cultural history of computer graphics, this project narrates a history of the computer as a rendering machine.
This project accomplishes this political diagrammatology of computing in two intra-active phases. On the one hand, I tell stories detailing how ideology becomes computational. Studying maps, plans, and sketches from the early history of hardware and software, I show how computer technologies are frequently imagined as virtual microcosms, reproducing infrastructures and systems of social relations found in classrooms, military labs, and tech offices. Here, social forms, ideologies and assumptions about the world get worked into seemingly apolitical technological infrastructures, and politics of race, class, and gender get hard-coded into the very architecture of computers themselves. On the other hand, I study the politics of representational forms produced by such computer hardware, recounting how computational infrastructure produces ideologies of its own. In doing so, I probe the constraints and affordances of computer graphics and the worlds that they are able or unable to envision. Here, the computational architectures that seemed apolitical produce devastating(ly) social and political ramifications.

Rendering first interrogates how computational concepts (such as pipelines of the 1960s or parallel architecture from the 1980s) are culturally, graphically, and sometimes even fictionally constructed, and then enumerates the social ramifications of such techno-logics. Borrowing methods and concerns from media studies, science and technology studies, and science fiction studies, this project unpacks the historical, mediatic, and epistemological transitions between our politico-economic frameworks and contemporary computational cultures. Underscoring the influence computing, politics, and cultural media have had on each other’s histories, the project aims to produce an analytic that can successfully account for the material-virtual translations in our technical operations. The result is a history and theory of rendering.

 

Aikaterini Mniestri Profile

Research Fellow

Dissertation Project: Rethinking YouTube: BreadTube and the Volatility of Platform Publics

Abstract: Platform publics are networked publics that assemble in and are constituted by platform environments; they are mutually activated through the data-driven algorithmic affordances of the platform, its governance model, and user perceptions and interactions within the platform’s bounds. In this project I suggest the notion of platform publics to account for the intermingling of socio-technical processes that make online platforms (in this case: YouTube) resistant to stable definitions. As part of the CRC project area B: ‘Cooperative Media,’ this project will elaborate on the relational network through which human and non-human actors assemble in the process of collective cultural production and dissemination within YouTube. Taking into consideration the algorithmic affordances of YouTube’s neural networks, which condition recommendations on the platform, this study is interested in the grammars of action (Agre 1994) that specific platform publics develop in order to ensure visibility and a stable revenue stream. The platform public that forms the focal point of this research study is BreadTube, a political collective of YouTube-native, left-leaning content creators and their following. This project will focus on the following research question:

RQ1: How does time unravel for a platform public? YouTube stands out as a video sharing platform because it has maintained the role of an archive in its technical functions. In other words, users have access to content published a few minutes ago and many years ago in the same tab of recommendations. Therefore, users are afforded the opportunity to not only view but also engage with (like/dislike/comment on) older content from the creators they follow. An ostensibly benign technical function of the platform introduces a series of more complicated implications for user interactions. Ironically, though YouTube originally intended to serve as a video repository, it has actually allowed collective formations that negate a linear passage of time all-together as users interact with content produced and other users across vieos published at various points in time, (arguably this is a perception of the platform encouraged by YouTube itself, since comments are ranked by “most relevant” by default, and one would have to manually change that setting to view the “most recent” comments).

 

Lara Saadi Profile

Research Fellow

Dissertation Project: Mediatized democratic activisms on the margins of Europe – a comparative analysis of digital media practices of minority movement actors

Abstract: The PhD project investigates digital media practices implemented by politically marginalized movement actors in Europe. It explores to what extent they use them in the context of their participation aspirations and which forms of mediatized socio-political intervention strategies can be demonstrated here. Therefore, the explorative study focuses on three movement actors: Firstly, the Neuen Deutschen Organisationen, a post-migrant network in Germany; secondly KAMER, a Kurdish feminist organization in Turkey; and thirdly the European Network of Migrant Women, a transnational network led by refugee women. The transcultural comparative research project is implemented according to the principles of the netnographic grounded theory – a form of an online media ethnography, which follows the methodology of the grounded theory. Hereby, the study refers to praxeological considerations and is heuristically inspired by current mediatization research and the perspectives of radical democratic theories.

 

Palashi Vaghela Profile

Research Fellow

Dissertation Project: Caste as Computing: A historical and ethnographic analysis of the absence and persistence of caste in computing cultures of India.

Abstract: I am broadly interested in feminist methods of studying worlds of science and technology in India and draw from disciplines of Science and Technology Studies, Anthropology and Information Science for my work. My dissertation project is looking at caste and castelessness as a heuristic to analyze the contemporary culture of computing in India through a study of absence of caste and risks associated with making it visible. I am deeply motivated by anti-caste and anti-racist feminist frameworks that I bring in conversation with ethnomethodological approaches of studying the practices of computing as well as programs of diversity and inclusion in computing in India. My work is pulling together different actors, programs and discourses in a historical and ethnographic project to trace the relationship between caste, labor and capital at the basis of practices and logics of the contemporary computing industry in India. At the CRC “Media of Cooperation”, I will be working on my dissertation project looking at computing as a media practice where caste relations are underscored to study the publics formed, engaged and stabilized in the historical and contemporary upper-caste cultures of computing.

In addition to this, I am working on multiple projects of engaging with caste and gender in digital infrastructures. For example, one of my projects looks at how caste is performed and manifested in social networks on Twitter and another focuses on situated and gendered labor of coping with standards in/of digital infrastructures of governance in India.