What's happening in digital society

Image of a social network map


DSN members co-organise 3rd international Data Power conference


DSN steering committee members Jo Bates (Information School) and Helen Kennedy (Sociological Studies) are on the organising committee of the 3rd international Data Power conference, which will take place in Bremen, Germany on 12th and 13th September 2019.

The conference explores how new concentrations of power lead to new inequalities and insecurities with respect to data ownership, data geographies and different data-related practices. It attends to questions around these phenomena, such as: How does data power further or contest global in/securities? How are global in/securities constructed through or against data? How do civil society actors, government, people engage with societal and individual in/securities through and with data? What are appropriate ontologies to think about data and persons? How may we envisage a just data society? And what does decolonizing data in/securities look like?

Confirmed keynote speakers are:

  • Jack Linchuan Qiu, Chinese University Hongkong
  • Seeta Peña Gangadaran, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK
  • Nimmi Rangaswamy, Indian Institute of Information Technology, IIIT, Hyderabad, India

Helen Kennedy and Jo Bates founded the Data Power conference, along with Ysabel Gerrard, in 2015.

Read more


DSN's Kate Dommett to host event on 'Democracy, Data and Election Scandals: how do we respond?

Digital campaigning is now normal, but recent elections have resulted in scandal. This event brings together Vote Leave whistleblower Shahmir Sanni, the author of the recent Electoral Reform Society report Reining in the Political ‘Wild West’: Campaign Rules for the 21st Century and Dr Kate Dommett to explore the implications of online campaigning trends for democracy.

This event will take place in Workroom 3, 38 Mappin Street - The University of Sheffield, on Wednesday, 24 Apr 2019, 6:30pm to 8:00pm

This event is part of the 'Our Democracy' strand which has kindly been sponsored by Sheffield College.

Register here

Students attend World Summit of the Information Society 2019 in Geneva

WSIS MediaEight students from the Faculty attended the World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS) Forum 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland, earlier this month.

WSIS is a UN summit and is currently the largest annual meeting on digital technologies for development in the world. The theme of this year’s 10th anniversary forum was “Information and Communication Technologies for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals”.

Joined by Dr Suay M. Ozkula (Sociological Studies) and Dr Paul Reilly (Information School), the group of students from the Department of Sociological Studies, Information School, Department of Urban Studies and Planning and School of Law worked as policy analysts, writing policy briefs and blogs for the Global Policy Journal, on discussions and sessions held at the Forum.

Read more

When algorithms think you want to die

Ysabel GerrardDr. Ysabel Gerrard (Lecturer in Digital Media and Society) and Tarleton Gillespie (Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and Associate Professor at Cornell University) have recently published an op-ed in WIRED titled ‘When algorithms think you want to die’ tackling the under-addressed issue in the ongoing social media/mental health debate: how platforms are recommending troubling content - via news feeds, emails, etc - to very vulnerable users. Their research has explored how content that promotes eating disorders gets recommended to Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr users.

Read more

Digital Volunteer Networks and Humanitarian Crisis Reporting

Dmitry Chernobrov

Dr Dmitry Chernobrov, Lecturer in Media and International Politics, recently published an article on Digital Journalism that looks at the appearance of digital volunteer networks and explores their potential to act as a new source for media coverage, in addition to their already established role as emergency response supporters. in this article he argues that digital humanitarians can offer a unique combination of speed and safe access, while escaping some of the traditional constraints of the aid-media relationship and exceeding the conventional conceptualizations of citizen journalism.

Read more

Blog: Our Profile(d) Selves: How social media platforms use data to tell us who we should be

Lukasz SzulcDr Lukasz Szulc is a Lecturer in Digital Media and Society who is interested in critical and cultural media studies with focus on such issues as identity, sexuality, nationalism and transnationalism.

In this blog post, Dr Szulc offers a theoretical reflection on the importance of social media profiles, their design and governance, for how their users present themselves. He explores how social media platforms translate their data-driven business models into the design and governance of profiles, encouraging their users to be capacious, complex and volatile, but singular and coherent at the same time.

Read the blog

DFoP: Defining Freedom of the Press

Man with tape over mouthDefining freedom of the press: A cross national examination of press ethics and regulation” is a collaborative project involving five departments across three Universities: the University of Sheffield, the University of Leeds, and Durham University. The project PI is Dr John Steel and the PDRA on the project is Dr Charlotte Elliott-Harvey, both at Journalism Studies. The project is interdisciplinary, with experts from the fields of journalism studies, media and communication, linguistics, philosophy and law.

The digital aspect of the project is situated in new research on digital entrants from the study's countries, including interviews with key digital entrants in Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Switzerland. Here, the project focuses on how digital entrants are shaping and shifting how news is produced and consumed, as well as how it deals with each country's journalism ethics and regulation of the press.

Find out more.

Dr Stefania Vicari, Senior Lecturer in Digital Sociology, specialises in the application of digital methods to study discursive communities on social media platforms.

Stefania Vicari news image 2019In May 2019, Stefania - in collaboration with Professor Dorothea Klein- will start coordinating the digital methods side of SCArFEthics, an ESRC-funded interdisciplinary project investigating sustainable consumption and agri-food ethics. Stefania’s work will look at how the new middle-classes in Brazil and South Africa use social media platforms in their food knowledges, beliefs, practices and experiences. The project - supported by the N8 Research Partnership- involves a team of twenty working at seven universities in four countries on four continents.

More info here 

Blog: What does Facebook’s #tenyearchallenge tell us about the public awareness of data and algorithms?

Photograph of Helen Kennedy September 2014Facebook, Instagram and other platforms recently set their users a 10 year challenge: post your first ever Facebook photo and another one of you today. Whilst some users were quick to comply, others responded in unexpected ways.

In this blog, Helen Kennedy reflects on the recent #tenyearchallenge trend. Looking at responses to the challenge, she considers what they tell us about the public understanding of data and the companies that utilise it. Drawing on qualitative and survey data on the levels of public awareness, she finds that what the public knows about data continues to be unclear.

Find out more

Blog: Tokyo Pengyou

Jamie CoatesDr Jamie Coates, Lecturer in East Asian Studies, specialises in the cultural anthropology of China and Japan and is interested in how different ways of living, and different modes of thinking foster or inhibit humanity’s capacity to cooperate.

Developing his doctoral research on Chinese migration to Japan, Dr Coates is currently investigating how media and migration re-scale local imaginaries in the Sino-Japanese context. His research focuses on forms of play, consumption, and media used amongst Chinese people living in Japan and asks how quotidian phenomena such as transport, food, tourism, games, gender and sex are changing the way interpersonal Chinese relations and Sino-Japanese relations are imagined in the current era.

Find out more

Blog: What do drone users and drone developers think about their use?

In a recent blog post Dr Elisa Serafinelli, Research Associate in the Department of Sociological StuImage of Elisa Serafinellidies, has written about a new project funded by British Academy/Leverhulme to investigate the effects of increased drone usage in society.

The project will examine what domestic users think about their drone usage, whether they are aware of existing policies, what they think constitutes appropriate usage and how drones’ usage should be regulated. It is hoped that the research will help us understand how to mitigate the risks and maximise the opportunities afforded by drone technology.

Find out more