Digital Society Network events

Past and upcoming events in the Digital Society Network.


Annual Lectures

Find out more about our annual lectures.

Upcoming events

Please check back for forthcoming events in 2023. 


Using digital methods for controversy analysis: A case study of Tesla's (big) battery

Dr Aleesha Rodriguez (Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child)
Research masterclass co-presented by the Digital Society Network and iHuman
Thursday 15 December 2022, 1:00-2:00pm, Elmfield Building, Room 109 and online (hybrid).

In this masterclass, Aleesha describes their methodology using digital methods to conduct a controversy analysis of Tesla’s (big) battery in Australia. Tesla’s (big) battery is an imagined and speculative technology that first materialised discursively on social media and later materialised into a physical battery known as the Hornsdale Power Reserve, in 2017. Tesla’s (big) battery became the “stuff of politics” in Australia (Braun & Whatmore, 2010) after a wager on Twitter between two billionaire tech entrepreneurs, namely Tesla CEO Elon Musk and the Australian co-CEO of Atlassian, Mike Cannon-Brookes. Tesla’s (big) battery was introduced on Twitter as, at the time, the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery that would “solve” an ongoing power crisis in the state of South Australia. The acute events experienced as part of South Australia’s power crisis were broadly considered highly controversial, as they engendered widespread media coverage and high-level accusations regarding the causes and resolutions of the crisis. However, these events also constituted a controversy in a more specific sense. Controversies in Science and Technology Studies (STS), are events that generate uncertainty, destabilise established practices and norms, and energise public deliberation wherein new relations and normative imaginaries form. To explore this controversy, Aleesha conducted a controversy analysis of Tesla’s (big) battery by mapping the key events, actors, and issues pertaining to this (big) battery, on two social media platforms, namely Twitter, the site of the (big) battery’s conception, and Whirlpool, an Australian technology forum in which users engaged in focused discussions about this (big) battery and longer-term debates about South Australia’s power crisis. In this masterclass, Aleesha will explain how they conducted a controversy analysis on Tesla’s (big) battery using digital methods and specifically, how they drew on actor-network theory (ANT)—both conceptually and empirically—to argue that Tesla’s (big) battery shaped energy futures both in Australia and globally.

Infrastructure and Digital Platforms in the Realm of Culture

Professor David Hesmondhalgh (University of Leeds)
Thursday 17th November, 4pm-5pm, Council Room, Firth Court

In this talk, David Hesmondhalgh argues that a fruitful way to approach questions of infrastructure – and the role of platforms in relation to infrastructure – involves seeing infrastructures as resources, and platforms as means of bounding or limiting those resources. He argues that such a perspective, mainly developed in critical legal studies, has largely been absent from recent research on infrastructures in media and communication research. He develops a framework based on this perspective and applies it to the circulation of music over the last thirty years, as it transitioned from an era of CDs and cassettes, via a chaotic period of “piracy” and peer to peer networks to the present situation where music streaming platforms such as Spotify are dominant. From this case study emerges further insights: that the role of platforms in closing down infrastructural possibilities has been poorly understood in the growing literature on platformisation of culture, and that a critical understanding of musical production and consumption in the age of streaming platforms needs to pay much greater attention than it has to the unrealised possibilities of the principles of open-ness that underlay internet architecture. The talk is intended as a contribution to theories of digital platforms and infrastructures in the realm of culture, via synthesis of theory and previous research.

Annual Lecture: Covert Influence: How Undisclosed Election Campaigns on Digital Media Steal American Democracy

Prof. Young Mie Kim (University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA) will deliver the DSN Annual Lecture on the topic, Covert Influence: How Undisclosed Election Campaigns on Digital Media Steal American Democracy.
23 March 2022 (online)


Annual Lecture: The Contagion of Stigmatization: Racism and Discrimination in the “Infodemic” Moment

Jonathan Corpus Ong (University of Massachusetts)

10 February 2021 (online)


How to read computer vision-based networks: repurposing machine learning for social media research

Digital visual methods with STeMiS

Wednesday 24 June 2020, 2pm BST

Join us in welcoming Janna Joceli Omena from iNOVA Media Lab/NOVA Information Management School, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, in a discussion on digital visual methods in social media research. 
What does this change? Rethinking digital society research in light of COVID 19

Wednesday 3 June 2020

with Andy Stirling, Professor in Science and Technology Policy in the STEPS centre in Sussex

Professor Stirling reflected on what we can learn about our scholarly assumptions from the COVID 19 crisis. Through a roundtable conversation with Digital Society Network members, we asked: 'How has COVID 19 challenged (or confirmed) my digital society research priorities?'  

Research Ethics, Personal Data and Social Networks

Wednesday 20th May 2020
One day seminar, Department of Sociological Studies
In collaboration with MRG

With funding from the French Embassy Seminar funding scheme and UREC, this one-day seminar included invited speakers from France and the UK talking about the topic.

Dying in the Technosphere: digital infrastructures and the mediation of death in the Mediterranean sea

Thursday 14th May 2020 
with Monika Halkort, Lebanese University, Beirut and Department of Sociological Studies' Visiting International Fellow

In this talk Monika discussed how humanitarian activists and forensic scientists mobilize remote sensing technologies and algorithmic architectures to challenge the naturalization of migrant deaths in the Mediterranean sea. 

Participatory warfare and digital sourcing: ICTs and the politics of modern conflicts

Wednesday 13th May 2020 
with Gregory Asmolov, King's College London
Digital Politics Hu

The talk explores how digital tools change the everyday lives of users who are remote from a zone of conflict, and how ICTs contribute to the participation of their users in warfare. It explores new forms of users-conflict relationships that rely on digital mediation and offer a detailed picture of the forms of civic engagement in modern warfare. The central arguments suggest that participatory warfare helps to socialise conflicts and make them part of everyday life.

Twitter historians: The battles for ‘fake pasts’ on Arab social media - cancelled due to COVID-19

Wednesday 25th March
with Omar Al Ghazzi, London School of Economics and Political Science

Social media have made history more accessible and shareable. History enthusiasts the world over follow accounts that share knowledge about the past and that are immersed in a nostalgic aesthetic. Focusing on the Arabic Twittersphere, this talk examines accounts that claim to tell the story of, and to celebrate the civilisational achievements of, Muslim rule over ‘Al-Andalus’ in modern-day Spain. 

Digital innovation for sustainable development - cancelled due to COVID-19

Wednesday 18th March
Inaugural lecture of Professor Dorothea Kleine (in collaboration with SIID)

The shift to increased digitalisation and datafication experienced by people in many parts of the world often elicits extreme reactions, from techno-optimist hyperbole to deep scepticism and alarm. Meanwhile, digital tools have been integrated in development efforts in several domains, including humanitarian assistance, agriculture, education, and healthcare.

They are also vital in local and international activism for social change and sustainability. However, digital socio-technical innovation systems are embedded in deeply uneven power relations. While digital divides continue to hinder digital inclusion, there are also the risks of adverse inclusion and inclusion without consent.

Democracy in the era of technology-intensive politic - cancelled due to COVID-19

Wednesday 11th March
with Daniel Kreiss, University of North Carolina

In Western democracies how candidates run for office has evolved in accord with both the political context and ways of knowing the electorate. Today, in many western democracies, candidates sit atop vast socio-technical apparatuses that they do not understand, let alone control.

Platform companies are new actors that shape the political communication citizens see and how they discuss political affairs and what candidates can say to the electorate and how they can say it. As a result, campaigns have needed new forms of expertise and knowledge to gather, store, analyze, and make data actionable.


Cruising the interface: sex, race and migrants on hook-up apps

Monday 9th December 2019

Why does race matter in online self-presentation for romantic and/or sexual purposes? What are the differences in conceptualising race or ethnicity in the predefined options on different hook-up apps? And what do users do with them?

In this talk, Andrew Shield and Lukasz Szulc discussed these and other questions, drawing on their research with migrants from Muslim-majority countries to Denmark and queer Poles in the UK, respectively. They historicised and critiqued drop-down menus of hook-up apps as well as elaborated on how and why users negotiate, challenge or reject the menus and their options, reflecting on the larger questions of racial imaginations, digital media and globalisation.

DSN Annual Lecture 2019: Data power and counterpower with Chinese characteristics

Tuesday 3 December 2019
With Jack Qiu, Chinese University Hong Kong.
This event was cancelled due to a UCU strike.

For more than six decades, actors in the People's Republic of China (PRC) have dreamed of and invested in various cybernetic futures: Maoist or neoliberal, postsocialist or postcapitalist. Yet, most of these dreams ended up in vain.

The latest attempt of technological buildup, epitomized by the dispute centered on Huawei, seems to suggest that China has become a global "AI superpower" with sufficient prowess to challenge American dominance and the supremacy of Silicon Valley.

From a historical and critical perspective, this talk questions the bi-polar elitist framework of China vis-a-vis the US by introducing the internal complexities of the Chinese data systems, particularly along the fault line of social class. The argument is that formations of data counterpower in China are diverse and dynamic, both on- and offline, within China proper and beyond.

While Chinese data power routinely responds to external vectors (eg Silicon Valley, Wall Street), it is likely that its ultimate fate will hinge upon issues of domestic in/security and exceptional historical moments of internal structural realignments, as observed in the history of PRC since the 1950s.

How data politics matter for migration and mobility

Wednesday 20 November 2019

Focusing on the domain of human migration and mobility and drawing upon original research into several aspects of the UK’s immigration regime, Dr William Allen, University of Oxford, highlighted three areas in which data politics arise: data collection, data categorisation, and data visualisation.

DSN Digital Politics Hub networking event

Wednesday 23 October 2019

To mark the launch of the new Digital Politics hub that forms part if the Digital Society Network, we will be holding a networking event for all scholars (including PhDs, early career scholars, lecturers and professors) who can connect their work with this theme. This event will provide an opportunity to share your research focus and feed in ideas about the activities of the hub over the coming year.

Numbers will not save us: data justice in Los Angeles

Thursday 3 October 2019

An event organised in association with the Information School Research seminar, in association with Data, Algorithms and AI in Society Hub.

This talk by Morgan Currie, University of Edinburgh, paired radical democratic theory with the concept of data justice, a term that helps us identify the politics and interests driving data collection and use, as well as questioning the relations between data practices, accountability, collective identity, and governance.

One driving question of this talk is, can practices of data justice reflect the values of a more agonistic politics, and if so, how? To better understand these two complementary lines of thought, Morgan looked at the work of activists in Los Angeles who create, use, and contest various forms of politically consequential data, all with an eye toward shaping the horizons of civic action.

Morgan focused on civil society groups who ground claims of racial discrimination in sociodemographics of bus ridership and environmental harms, and on activists who conducted counter-surveillance research that maps the city’s secretive surveillance architecture. Throughout, Morgan insisted on the performative, narratological, and relational aspects of data work.

Digital tactics and the struggle for influence: imagining industries and users

Tuesday 24 September 2019
ICOSS Conference Room

An event organised in association with the Global Digital Popular Culture Hub. In this lecture, Elena Maris from the Microsoft Social Media Research Collective Industries discussed the digital tactics deployed in these cases demonstrate the ways industries and users imagine one another, and how their interactions are constantly filtered through their identities and the imagined identities of others. 

Decolonising the gig economy: un-gigging the Uber-wallahs of India

Monday 16 September 2019
University of Sheffield, Arts Tower

An event, organised in association with SIID Digital Technologies, Data and Innovation research theme.

Nimmi Rangaswamy, from the International Institute of Information Technology Hyderabad, presented findings from a qualitative, ethnographic investigation of Uber driven transport mobility experiences and practices from the Uberwallah (or driver-partner) point of view in six metropolitan cities in India. Profiling the everyday of the Uber-wallah, Nimmi discussed new ‘modes' of employability and the 'mise en scène’ of algorithm driven ride hailing work from the roads of Urban India.

3rd Annual ICT4D North Workshop

Thursday, 6 June 2019
University of Liverpool, Management School

The third annual meeting of the network was held on Thursday 6th of June 2019 in the University of Liverpool University Management School.

This event was hosted by the Agility Centre of the University of Liverpool, and co-sponsored by the Sheffield Institute for International Development (SIID-DDI) (Data and Innovation Research Theme) and Centre for Development Informatics of University of Manchester.

STeMiS theme seminar: Algorithm as propaganda, repression and paranoia

Emiliano Treré, School of Journalism, Media and Culture, Cardiff University, 15 May 2019

This talk was based on the findings of my recently published book Hybrid Media Activism: Ecologies, Imaginaries, Algorithms (Routledge 2019).

It represents a journey through the digital strategies of Mexican politicians and the state in the last decade, and the ways in which they were able to bend social media algorithms in order to spread propaganda, enact repression, and generate paranoia.

The intelligence of things

Dr Mercedes Bunz, Kings College London, 29 April 2019

Artificial intelligence – data analysis and machine learning - drives many internet of thing devices from the speaking Siri on our phones to self-driving cars or smart cities. Devices are tracking and tracing their users and communicating with them, processing data and learning about their environment.

In her talk, Mercedes analysed how the agency of technology introduced by intelligent things is currently negotiated.

The Information School's research seminar, the future of healthcare: automation, computerisation, and general practice services

Dr Matthew Willis, University of Oxford, 29 April 2019

NHS Primary Care faces numerous challenges: increased workload, greater service use, skill shortages, decreased patient consultation time, budgetary constraints, to name a few. Automation is typically seen as a threat to many industries but provides an opportunity to address these challenges in NHS primary care and beyond.

This talk presented results from a multi-year and multi-method project designed to develop a linear scale of automatability, then, applies the scale to primary care tasks gathered through ethnographic observations.

Fantastic! Conference

25-26 April 2019

This event was organised by Miriam Miller and Penny Andrews, and supported by the DSN.

Fantastic! is an event for fans, fandom scholars, and the objects of fandom.

We had speakers talking about fandom and sport, fan creativity, online fan communities, and more, plus there was a film screening of the ultimate fan film, Velvet Goldmine.

Festival of Debate: Democracy, data and election scandals ft. Shahmir Sanni

24 April 2019

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.

Data, governance and the need for empowered citizenship

Joanna Redden, Data Justice Lab, Cardiff University, Digital Society Network Seminar, Wednesday 3 April.

Globally, governments at all levels are increasing their collection, use and sharing of citizen data. How new and often obscure systems of categorization, risk assessment, social sorting and prediction may influence funding and resource decisions, access to services, intensify surveillance and increase inequality is a matter of grave concern.

Despite widespread recognition of the risks that come with new data systems, it is near impossible for citizens to know about and engage with the data systems affecting them. In this talk Dr Joanna Redden detailed a Data Justice Lab project developed to address this problem.

Understanding digital inequalities: Applying Bourdieu

Professor Simeon Yates, University of Liverpool, Wednesday 27 March, 4pm

In this talk Professor Simeon Yates presented data from a variety of studies conducted over the past decade into issues of digital inclusion and exclusion. The empirical studies Professor Yates drew on range from statistical analyses and modelling of digital technology use across a range of demographic factors, through to qualitative and action research interventions in support of digital inclusion policy and practice.

Changing relationship between privacy and security in the data age: the implications of the GDPR and European case-law

Dr. Irena Nesterova, researcher at the Faculty of Law, University of Latvia, Tuesday 5 March

The lecture discussed the complicated and changing relationship between privacy and security in the data age. It explained the concepts of privacy, data protection and security, revealed the main commonalities and differences between these interrelated issues and their development direction.

The quantified self in precarity

Phoebe Moore, Leicester University, Tuesday 12th February 2019, 4.30-6pm, meeting rooms 1 & 2, level D, Management School

Humans are accustomed to being tool bearers, but what happens when machines become tool bearers, where the tool is seemingly ever more precise in its calculation about human labour via the use of big data and people analytics by metrics?

Digital methods in political campaigning

Kate Dommett, University of Sheffield, 24th-25th January 2019, Room 261, Department of Politics, Elmfield building

This workshop brought together a group of interdisciplinary scholars from the UK and beyond to discuss how scholars and practitioners can study political campaigning online. The event included presentations and opportunities for discussion, with a view to sharing best practice and paths for future research.

From 'me too!' to micro-targeting: the study of digital campaigning in historical perspective

Professor Rachel Gibson, University of Manchester, 24th January 2019, 4:30 - 6pm, Lecture Theatre 1, Elmfield building

This talk reviewed approaches to the study of digital campaigning over the past two decades and the key changes that have occurred over time. It also looked at what training, tools and data are needed to measure the extent and the impact of digital campaigning in coming elections.


Digital methods for understanding fake news (hands-on workshop)

Jonathan Gray, Kings College London
Wednesday December 5th, 10am to 12pm, Diamond Computer Room 2

This workshop explored digital methods for exploring the circulation of fake news. It drew on the recent Field Guide to Fake News, a project for the Public Data Lab and a resulting publication which looks at using digital methods to study false viral news, political memes, trolling practices and their social life online.

Data witnessing: Attending to human rights situations with data in Amnesty International's Decoders Initiative

Jonathan Gray, Kings College London
Wednesday 5 December 2018, 4pm- 5pm, Room LT 08 Diamond Building

The concept of witnessing has been used to explore the construction of evidence and experience in settings of law, religion, atrocity, media, history and science. Recent research has examined how digital technologies may multiply the involvement of remote, non-present and unanticipated actors in the witnessing of events.

This talk examined what digital data practices at Amnesty International’s Decoders initiative can add to the understanding of witnessing.

Reaching out online: Expertise, embodiment, and social capital in online sexual health promotion

Sharif Mowlabocus, University of Sussex
Monday 12th November, 4pm to 5pm, Elmfield 215

Since the beginning of the epidemic, community outreach work has been integral to strategies designed to reduce HIV transmission in the UK. This work has included campaign drives in bars, clubs and sex-on-premises venues, peer-led workshops, support groups, condom distribution in community venues and one-to-one intervention programmes.

But what happens to community outreach when the community one seeks to engage with increasingly operates online?

Digital Society Network annual lecture - does the high-tech future need workers?

On 8 November 2018 Professor Gina Neff, Oxford Internet Institute, examined three cases of digital transformation at work, in health care, media and construction sectors showing how workers respond and adapt to new forms of data-intensive work and how they use data to modify the structures and systems of their workplaces.

New types of data and unprecedented scales of analysis are changing work and organisations in fundamental ways. Under labels like ‘the fourth industrial revolution’ and ‘the second machine age,’ these changes reflect enormous efforts to digitise sectors, from government to health care to education to manufacturing to business services, and they represent enormous potential disruption to work and workers.

Internet celebrity: understanding fame online

Crystal Abidin, Deakin University
Thursday 25th October 2018, 4pm, Hicks LT05

This talk, based on select concepts from a new book on internet celebrity cultures, presented a framework for thinking about the different forms of internet celebrity that have emerged over the last decade, taking examples from the Global North and South, to consolidate key ideas about cultures of online fame. It discussed the overall landscape, developments and trends in the internet celebrity economy, and cross-cultural lessons.

One day workshop: connecting capabilities for the Internet of Things (IoT), challenges for social sciences and management for the pitch-in project

17 September 2018, Halifax Hall, Endcliffe Vale Road, Sheffield, S10 3ER

Pitch-In is led by the University of Sheffield in collaboration with the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Newcastle and industrial and health sector partners. Funded by Research England, the project will allow the Universities to investigate barriers to successful IoT take-up, trial solutions then capture and disseminate outputs and guidance regionally, nationally and globally.

Data and employee well-being: findings from an ESRC Seminar Series

with Dr Carolyn Axtell, Institute of Work Psychology, Sheffield University Management School
Tuesday 24 April 2018, 4pm

This seminar outlined the findings of a multi-disciplinary seminar series on the topic of Big Data and Employee Wellbeing. The seminar series critically explored whether large, complex sets of data could be combined and used to assess wellbeing risks within organisations. Such an approach might allow identification of problems at an early stage, thus allowing intervention before they lead to poor wellbeing, sickness absence or employee turnover.

This question was examined from work psychology, sociological, legal/ethical and information systems/data perspectives. Opportunities, challenges and concerns were raised throughout the seminar series which culminated in the development of a research agenda and set of learning points that may stimulate a way forward. The seminar series was facilitated and supported by the Digital Society Network.

The social media scape of transnational Korean popular culture

with Dal Yong Jin, Professor in the School of Communication, Simon Fraser University
31st January 2018

This event was organised by the School of East Asian Studies and sponsored by the Digital Society Network

The new Korean Wave, referring to the rapid growth of local popular culture and its global penetration, starting in the late 2000s appears to be more intensive in its popularity. The new Korean Wave means the circulation of local popular culture, not only television programs and films but also K-pop and digital games, as well as animation, with the help of social media.

The social media-driven new Korean Wave has aptly adjusted to global fans’ tastes in both production and consumption as Korean cultural producers have timely developed their popular culture reflecting the era of social media. In this presentation, Dal Yong Jin explored the ways in which the Hallyu phenomenon is integrated into a social media-embedded cultural landscape in the global cultural markets.

Dal Yong Jin discussed the recent developments characterising the Korean Wave in tandem with the cultural industries in the age of social media. He explained the increasing role of social media and changing media consumption habits among global youth. Finally, he mapped out why social media has contributed to the enhanced popularity of the transnational media culture produced in a non-Western region.



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