Ways of Being in a Digital Age.

I’m just back from a few days in Liverpool, where I attended the “Ways of Being in a Digital Age” review conference at the University of Liverpool. This was the TCD working group’s first trip abroad for KPLEX dissemination, and my first ever trip to Liverpool.

UoL’s “Ways of Being in a Digital Age” was a a massive scoping review on how digital technology mediates our lives, and how technology and social change co-evolve and impact on each other. This conference came at the conclusion of the project, and invited participation in the form of papers that addressed any of the seven project domains: Citizenship and politics, Communities and identities, Communication and relationships, Health and wellbeing, Economy and sustainability, Data and representation, Governance and security. Naturally we hopped right into the “Data and Representation” category.

I was presenting a paper I co-wrote with Jennifer (Edmond, KPLEX’s PI) and, like most of my KPLEX activities thus far, I also used the platform as an opportunity to include as many funny data memes as I could reasonably fit into a 20 minute Powerpoint presentation. Which, by the way, is A LOT.

Our paper was titled “Digitising Cultural Complexity: Representing Rich Cultural Data in a Big Data environment” and in it we drew on many of the issues we’ve discussed thus far in the blog, such as data definitions, on the problems brought about by having so many different types of data, all classified using the same term (data), on data and surveillance, data and the humanities, and the “aura” of big data and how the possibilities of big data are manipulated and bumped up, so that it seems like an infallible “cure all,” when in fact it is anything but. And most importantly, on why complexity matters, and what happens when we allow alternative facts to take precedence over data.

The most exciting thing (from my perspective) was that we got to talk about some of our initial findings, findings based off of interviews I conducted with a group of computer scientists who very generously gave me their some of their time over the summer, and a more recent data mining project that is still underway, but that is producing some really exciting results. After all this desk research and talk about data over the last 9 months or so, the KPLEX team as a unit are in the midst of collecting data of our own, and that’s exciting. Below is a photo montage of my experience of the WOBDA conference, which mainly consists of all the different types of coffee I drank while there, along with some colossal pancakes I had for breakfast. I also acquired a new moniker, from the hipster barista in a very lovely coffee shop that I frequented twice during my two day stay. On the receipt, the note she wrote to find me was “Glasses lady.” 🙂

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