Fantastic opportunity to explore issues at the leading edge of research practice and hear our great keynote speakers (see abstracts below and full programme).
Diane E. Bailey Associate Professor in School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin
Wrestling with Digital Objects and Technologies in Observations of Work
Observing people who use computers at work can be difficult. A person working with physical objects and physical technologies behaves in ways that an observer can readily track. For example, in early motion and time studies, the Gilbreths devised a system of 18 elemental movements (e.g., select, grasp, move, inspect) to analyze what workers did. A person working with digital objects and digital technologies poses a greater challenge for the observer because small, nearly indiscernible actions (such as typing a single letter) may initiate a series of work actions on the computer. Worse still, a person may be hard at work when away from the computer while software programs run “in the background.” In this talk, I discuss the methods that I developed with my colleagues to combat these issues in our multi-year field study of engineering work and technology. Our methods blend the industrial engineer’s eye for detail with the ethnographic tradition of observation and interpretation. I discuss in particular methods for collecting and analyzing digital objects and for understanding the array of digital technologies in a workplace.
Monika Büscher Professor of Sociology, Director of the Centre for Mobilities Research and Associate Director for the Institute for Social Futures at Lancaster University
Is IT Ethical? Mobile Work, Mobile Data, Mobile Methods in Crises
Disaster response can involve extreme physical and digital mobilities. In the aftermath of the 2015 Germanwings crash, for example, hundreds of emergency personnel from local and international agencies converged to scour two square miles of steep, rocky terrain for debris and DNA. Surrounding such physical mobilities are often myriad efforts to mobilise information and coordinate actions through digital technologies. New capabilities for mobile work that emerge in this context can be very positive, but they can also raise complex ethical, legal and social challenges. In collaborative research with practitioners, information technology developers and interdisciplinary teams of researchers, I explore what it means to do work on the move in crisis management to gain insight into the relationship between embodied practices of mobile work and the im|material im|mobilities of data. This takes the form of engaged ‘speculative’ sociology and involves a mixture of mobile methods, including participant observation and participant intervention, ways of ‘following the information’, affirmative critique, disclosive ethics, utopia as method, ethical and privacy impact assessment, and speculative design. These methods are a means for ‘staying with the trouble’ of often ambiguous emergent ‘intra-actions’ and effects. In this talk I provide examples from this collaborative research to explore how we can combine methods or devise new methods to capitalise on diverse forms of data to build rich and practically as well as theoretically fruitful understandings of digitally-suffused working life.
Richard Rogers Professor in New Media and Digital Culture, University of Amsterdam
Social Media Engagement: Beyond Vanity Metrics
In the age of social media one dominant mode of engagement is distraction. Whilst appearing oxymoronic, distracted modes of engagement have invited the coining of such terms as ‘flickering man’, ‘continuous partial attention’ and ‘ambient awareness.’ One’s engagement with social media (however much in a distracted state) is also routinely measured. Klout scores and similar are often called ‘vanity metrics’ because they measure performance in (what is referred to as) the ‘success theater’ of social media. The notion of vanity metrics implies at least three projects: a critique of metrics concerning both the object of measurement as well as their capacity to measure unobtrusively or only to encourage performance. The second is a corrective interface project, for users are continually distracted by number badges calling to be clicked; there is a recently revived movement afoot for so-called ‘encalming technology’. A third project could consider how one may rework the metrics. In the project I call critical analytics, I propose to repurpose altmetrics scores and other engagement measures for social research, and seek to measure the ‘otherwise engaged,’ or other modes of engagement (than vanity).
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The meeting is being organized by Christine Hine (University of Surrey), Katrina Pritchard (Swansea University) and Gillian Symon (Royal Holloway, University of London) in association with the Digital World Research Centre at the University of Surrey. The meeting has received funding from the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of Surrey and the RCUK-funded NEMODE Network Plus.