Next week I’m heading off for an intense month of research travel to the UK, Germany, and Brazil. Here’s the list of presentations, conferences and workshops I’m involved in.
First up is the YouTube conference at Middlesex University, where I’m doing the opening keynote:
YouTube’s Platform Biography
The contemporary media environment is in part shaped by a relatively small number of proprietary platforms, several of which are the lead characters in stock narratives about the journey from scrappy Web 2.0 startup to media megacorp – and YouTube is a paradigmatic example. In this presentation, I outline the challenges of empirically studying these platforms – these new media institutions – especially as they change over time. I illustrate the problem by revisiting my early empirical work on the popular cultural forms and practices that were emerging via the platform as it was in 2007; and the practical impossibility of repeating the exercise now. I then propose a solution to this problem of studying change over time: the Platform Biography approach. Building on this model, I revisit the story of YouTube’s evolution from informal videosharing service to major media player. I argue that the competing uses and ideologies that have structured YouTube from the beginning provide a compelling narrative of change, and an explanatory framework for both YouTube’s cultural generativity and the ongoing challenges that it faces – as a business, a digital media platform, and a cultural institution.
I’m stopping by Oxford on the27th and 28th, to catch up with all my wonderful colleagues at the Oxford Internet Institute. Meetings, but no talks!
On 29th September, I’m stopping by the University of Sheffield to deliver the Digital Society Network annual lecture:
Doing digital media research over time and across platforms: Lessons from studies of YouTube, Twitter and games culture
Contemporary digital media and communication scholars use methods that both critically interrogate the digital media technologies or platforms that mediate cultural participation and public communication and are grounded in the digital traces that such activities leave behind. Because of this dual focus on sociotechnical critique and digital methods, the sociocultural aspects and technologies of both media and methods have significantly and productively transformed each other. But there remain significant challenges, not least among which are the difficulties of studying public communication and cultural participation across platforms and the challenges of engaging with the ways that ephemeral and proprietary digital media platforms change over time. In this talk, Professor Jean Burgess discusses these challenges and illustrates them through three recent and ongoing projects.
First, Jean provides a narrative of YouTube’s transformation from relatively underdetermined video-sharing service to major, multilevel media platform. In doing so, she reflects on her early empirical study of YouTube’s most popular videos and the impossibility of repeating it now. Second, Jean outlines the ‘platform biography’ approach (jointly developed with Nancy Baym) as a way to study platforms as they change over time. In this case Jean tells the story of Twitter’s oldest key features: the @reply, the #hashtag, and the Retweet, showing how they act as mediators between multiple media ideologies, individual human desires, and business logics, as they co-evolve throughout the history of the platform. Third, Jean draws on a recent case study of the controversy around an episode of Law and Order: SVU around violence in videogame culture to demonstrate the necessity and challenges of tracking public controversies across digital media platforms, especially in the context of ‘born digital’ controversies bound up with the cultural politics of the internet itself.
- A full-day pre-conference called Digital Methods in Internet Research: A Sampling Menu jointly organised by QUT Digital Media Research Centre and the University of Amsterdam’s Digital Methods Initiative. Last I looked there were 88 people signed up for this! I’ll be presenting with Ariadna Matamoros Fernandez on our Multiplatform Issue Mapping work, based around the version we’ve delivered previously at our DMRC Digital Methods workshops and the Digital Methods Summer School.
- A panel jointly organised with Nancy Baym called Platform Studies: The Rules of Engagement, featuring Anne Helmond and Taina Bucher, Nicholas John, Stuart Cunningham and David Craig, as well as our own paper “@RT#: Towards a platform Biography of Twitter”. It’s based on work we’ve been doing together for a couple of years now, and which we’re turning into a monograph for NYU Press.
- The Sharing Economy and Its Discontents – a panel featuring Mary Gray, Jack Qiu, Ben Light and others, including a DMRC paper on Uber’s discursive legitimation and social media traces of material participation in that process, by me, Nic Suzor, Patrik Wikstrom, and Ariadna Matamoros Fernandez.
- A roundtable on Feminist Data Visualisation put together by Helen Kennedy and featuring such an all-star line-up of international speakers that it had to be split into two sessions (here’s the other one).
After that, Axel Bruns and I are off to Brazil for the second visit of our funded research exchange with colleagues a the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo, or PUC-SP for short. The project focuses on the development of shared methodologies for researching networked political practices, and on this visit we’ll be crunching, visualising and analysing huge volumes of data relating to the local elections that are about to kick off there–and using this process to reflect on the challenges and next steps in truly cross-national political communication research based in social media data analysis.
Then, finally, home.