Professor Helen Kennedy
Department of Sociological Studies
Professor of Digital Society
+44 114 222 6488
Full contact details
Department of Sociological Studies
Helen joined the Department of Sociological Studies as a Faculty Research Chair in Digital Society in November 2014. Helen started university life at the University of Birmingham, where she got a first class BA Honours degree in English and American Studies, and later an MA in Cultural Studies from CCCS, the famous Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies.
Helen received her PhD from the University of East London (UEL) in 2002, for a thesis called ‘Digits and Subjects: Autobiographies of Multimedia and Identity’, which was located at the intersection between Science and Technology Studies and Cultural Studies.
Helen worked at UEL for 11 years, where she set up one of the first digital media programmes in the country, and went on to look after a suite of BA and MA programmes in the field of digital media. Helen moved to the University of Leeds in 2008, where she worked in the School of Media and Communication for almost seven years, before coming to the University of Sheffield.
Helen hasn't only worked in universities. She worked with street children in Paraguay for a few years, adapting Paolo Freire’s popular education praxis.
Helen also worked for the Workers’ Educational Association in the UK. And she has worked as a web designer and a new media project manager.
- Research interests
Helen's research interests include:
- The ‘datafication’ of almost everything, how this affects non-expert folk, the politics of big data, fairness and justice in data analytics;
- Data visualisations in society, their reception and role in data accessibility;
- Social media, platform politics, algorithmic culture;
- Digital media work & practices;
- Digital & other inventive methods.
Past & present research partners include:
- DWP (on algorithmic bias)
- BBC (on user perceptions of uses of their personal data)
- Financial Times, Visualising Data and other data visualisation agencies (on what makes a data visualisaton effective)
- W3C WAI, Rix Research and Media for People with Learning Disabilities, Adobe (formerly Macromedia) (on web accessibility for people with learning disabilities).
- Post, Mine, Repeat: Social Media Data Mining Becomes Ordinary. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
- Net Work. Palgrave Macmillan UK.
- The Feeling of Numbers: Emotions in Everyday Engagements with Data and Their Visualisation. Sociology, 52(4), 830-848. View this article in WRRO
- View this article in WRRO Living with Data: Aligning Data Studies and Data Activism Through a Focus on Everyday Experiences of Datafication. Krisis : Journal for Contemporary Philosophy(1), 18-30.
- Data Stories: Rethinking journalistic storytelling in the context of data journalism.. Studies in Communication Sciences(Beyond the myth of journalistic storytelling – Why a narrative approach to journalism falls short.(Special Issue)), 191-206.
- Data visualization in Scandinavian newsrooms : emerging trends in journalistic visualization practices. Nordicom Review, 39(2), 3-18. View this article in WRRO
- Data Power in Material Contexts: Introduction. Television and New Media, 18(8), 701-705. View this article in WRRO
- The Pleasure and Pain of Visualizing Data in Times of Data Power. Television and New Media, 18(8), 769-782. View this article in WRRO
- On fairness: User perspectives on social media data mining. Convergence, 23(3), 270-288.
- Engaging with (big) data visualizations: Factors that affect engagement and resulting new definitions of effectiveness. First Monday, 21(11). View this article in WRRO
- Visualizing Junk: Big Data Visualizations and the need for Feminist Data Studies. Journal of Communication Inquiry, 40(4), 331-350. View this article in WRRO
- The work that visualisation conventions do. Information, Communication and Society, 19(6), 715-735. View this article in WRRO
- Known or knowing publics? Social media data mining and the question of public agency. Big Data & Society, 2(2), 205395171561114-205395171561114. View this article in WRRO
- Data and agency. Big Data & Society, 2(2), 205395171562156-205395171562156. View this article in WRRO
- Cultural studies of data mining: Introduction. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 18(4-5), 379-394.
- Knowing your publics: The use of social media analytics in local government. Information Polity, 20(4), 287-298. View this article in WRRO
- Balancing the potential and problems of digital data through action research: methodological reflections. Information Communication and Society, 18(2), 172-186. View this article in WRRO
- Perspectives on Sentiment Analysis. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 56(4), 435-450.
- Can the Web Be Made Accessible for People with Intellectual Disabilities?. The Information Society, 27(1), 29-39.
- Net work: the professionalization of web design. Media, Culture & Society, 32(2), 187-203.
- Going the Extra Mile. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 15(2), 177-196.
- Book Review: Terry Flew, New Media: An Introduction (3rd edn). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. xi + 304 pp. ISBN 9780195551495, £19.99 (pbk). New Media & Society, 11(3), 455-457.
- NEW MEDIA'S POTENTIAL FOR PERSONALIZATION. Information, Communication & Society, 11(3), 307-325.
- ICTs and learning disability: multidisciplinary perspectives on Project @pple. Aslib Proceedings, 59(1), 97-112.
- Beyond anonymity, or future directions for internet identity research. New Media & Society, 8(6), 859-876.
- Subjective Intersections in the Face of the Machine. European Journal of Women's Studies, 12(4), 471-487.
- Young people and new media.. NEW MEDIA & SOCIETY, 5(4), 573-575.
- Technobiography: Researching Lives, Online and Off. Biography, 26(1), 120-139.
- Public perceptions of good data management: findings from a UK- based survey. Big Data and Society.
- Approaching public perceptions of datafication through the lens of inequality: a case study in public service media. Information, Communication & Society, 1-17. View this article in WRRO
- Video Enhanced Reflective Practice with Social Workers In Landor M, Todd L & Kennedy H (Ed.), Video Enhanced Reflective Practice Professional Development through Attuned Interactions Jessica Kingsley Publishers
- Beyond anonymity, or future directions for internet identity research, Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online (pp. 25-41).
- Lessons from web accessibility and intellectual disability, Digital Experience Design: Ideas, Industries, Interaction (pp. 69-79).
- China Online Routledge
- Online Evaluation of Creativity and the Arts Routledge
Conference proceedings papers
- Visualization Practices in Scandinavian Newsrooms: A Qualitative Study. 2017 21st International Conference Information Visualisation (IV), 11 July 2017 - 14 July 2017.
- Mobility and content creation in web professionals' accessibility learning. Proceedings of the IADIS International Conference Mobile Learning 2009, ML 2009 (pp 158-164)
- Challenging boundaries in adult and higher education through technological innovation. CROSSING BORDERS BREAKING BOUNDARIES (pp 333-337)
- Research group
Helen has supervised ten PhD students to successful completion. She is interested in supervising PhDs relating to the research areas listed on her Research page.
She is currently supervising these PhD students:
- Jiaxun Li, Self-representation on WeChat
- Lulu Pinney, Developing data visualisation literacy
- Kate Wareham, Everyday music listening amongst marginalized adults
- Monika Fratczak, Emotional responses to data and data visualisaiton
- Ruth Beresford, Algorithmic bias: patterns, consequences, alternatives
- Emily Coupland, Understanding media use in an age of big data
- Vibhuti Patel, Online and offline social norms and reducing meat consumption
- Xiufeng (Sharon) Jia, Digital self-tracking technologies
- Yunrui (Vera) Wu, Digital labour in a Chinese online fitness company
- Zhelu Wang, How Chinese people talk about Brexit on social media
- Amel Bakour, Gender and social media influencers in Algeria
- Jonathan Sykes, Sustainable buildings, climate change and visualizing uncertainty.
2019, AHRC Creative Economy Engagement Fellowship Scheme
Title: What constitutes ‘Good Data’ in the Creativity Economy?
2017-20 Norwegian Research Council
Title: INDVIL (Innovative Data Visualisation and Visual-Numeric Literacy)
2018 AHRC Creative Economy Engagement Fellowship Scheme
Title: Data, Diversity and Inequality in the Creative Industries
2016-19 ESRC WRDTC
Title: Relating to Data through Visualisation (PhD Network)
2016-17 Norwegian Media Authority
Title: Innovative data visualisation in the news (Co-investigator)
2014-15 AHRC Big Data Scheme
Title: Seeing Data: are good big data visualisations possible? (Principal Investigator)
2014-15 AHRC Fellowship
Title: Understanding Social Media Monitoring (Principal Investigator)
2013 EPSRC Communities and Culture Network+
Title: Digital Data Analysis, Public Engagement and the Social Life of Methods (Principal Investigator)
2012 University of Leeds HEIF (Higher Education Innovation Fund) & IGNITE funds
Title: Social Media Labour and the Social Media Industries
2011 University of Leeds HEIF (Higher Education Innovation Fund)
Title: A review of web design education in the UK
2009 University of Leeds HEIF (Higher Education Innovation Fund)
Title: Online Learning Materials for ID Web Accessibility
2007-9 AHRC/EPSRC Designing for the 21st Century Programme
Title: Inclusive New Media Design (Principal Investigator)
2004-5 ESRC/EPSRC PACCIT (People at the Centre of ICTs)
Title: PROJECT @APPLE: Access & Participation Programme for People with Learning Disabilities in the WWW (Co-investigator)
- Teaching activities
Helen teaches a module called Social Media, Data and Society, to third year undergraduates and MA students. She oversees all digital media and society programmes in the department, including our MA Digital Media and Society, and a faculty-wide BA (Hons) Digital Media and Society. Previously Helen has taught:
- Digital Media Cultures;
- Researching Social Media;
- Working in the Cultural Industries / Media Work Placements;
- Digital Media Project Management / Working in Digital Media;
- Web Usability, Web Design, Interface Design.
- Professional activities
- Helen sometimes contributes to blogs. Here’s a recent blogpost responding to the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica news story
- She has given evidence to parliamentary enquiries, for example into data ethics and digital government. Watch a video of her talking about citizens’ perceptions of data uses here
- She has been invited to attend events organised by Facebook, OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), The Ada Lovelace Institute, and many others.
- 2019 Highlights
- Helen is directing and working on an AHRC Creative Economy Engagement Fellow (CEEF) funded network called What constitutes ‘Good Data’ in the Creative Economy? with colleagues from the universities of Sheffield, Leeds and York. Helen’s project on the network, is in partnership with the BBC and with Dr Robin Steedman.
- Helen is editing a book with Martin Engebretsen of the University of Agder in Norway, provisionally titled Data Visualization in Society, to be published, open access, in 2019 by Amsterdam University Press. This book project results from and moves beyond INDVIL, Innovative Data Visualization and Visual-Numeric Literacy, a project funded by the Norwegian Research Council.
- Helen continues to direct a PhD network, Relating to Data through Visualisation, which is funded by the ESRC WRDTC (White Rose Doctoral Training Centre) and involves students and supervisors at the universities of Sheffield, Leeds and York.
Helen has been researching digital media (including social media) for 18 years. Her publications and projects have all addressed various aspects of digital and social media. Many of them have been informed by an interest in forms of digital inequality and mechanisms for greater inclusion, for example in relation to class, gender, race and disability. Helen's previous experiences in popular and working class education, and as a working class kid, influence how and what she researches.
Previous research has focused on (a) social media data mining (funded by an AHRC Fellowship, which has resulted in this book: Post, Mine, Repeat: social media data mining becomes ordinary and (b) everyday engagements with data visualisations (Seeing Data, funded by an AHRC Digital Transformation grant).
Before this, Helen’s research focused on digital labour. In 2011, her book Net Work: Ethics and Values in Web Design, published by Palgrave MacMillan, engaged with the ‘turn to values’ in cultural industries research, to trace the ethics and values that underlie much of the work of web design.
Before that, Helen researched in/equalities, inclusions and exclusions in new media consumption.
From 2007 to 2009 she led Inclusive New Media Design, a research project which aimed to identify the best ways to encourage web designers and developers to make websites accessible to people with learning disabilities, and to explore the place of accessibility in the work practices of web designers.