WSIS 2019 panel ‘ICTs in the university environment’ (Part 1)

Two weeks ago Suay Ozkula and I led a delegation of eight students from the Global Leadership Initiative in the Social Sciences  at the University of Sheffield to the 2019 World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva, Switzerland. The team developed and ran the ‘ICTs in the university environment’ session during the event.

The slides for the presentation can be found here and a link to a video recording of the session can be viewed on the WSIS site.

In this first of two blogs about the event, I will go through some of the key points from each presentation.

Our first speaker was Mike Pinney (M.Sc. Applied GIS, Urban Studies & Planning) who delivered a fascinating talk on his GIS project in the Gleadless area of Sheffield (starting at 00.43 in the webcast).

Mike showed us some great visualisations of his case study and argued that academics should develop assignments for their courses that had tangible impacts upon local communities. For example, students could use crime data to identify safe spaces, or remote sensing to help farmers analyse soil fertility within these areas.  He made a compelling case for more creative modes of assessment in Higher Education that went beyond essays and exams. In the Q&A he called for WSIS to focus more on the threat posted by climate change in future Summits.

The second speaker was Tor Baskett (MA Digital Media & Society), who discussed the educational divide between Global North and South (starting at 06:17 in the webcast). She presented a critique of the term digital divide and talked about how digital skills (or lack thereof) could have a significant impact on the career trajectory of citizens in the developing world.

Crucially, this divide is not just one between Global North and South. Tor highlighted recent reports suggesting that as many as one third of UK students were deficient in digital skills as evidence that it was ‘holding back’ people in developed countries too. She finished her presentation by calling for schools to invest more resources in equipping students to excel in the Information Society. One example given was the use of Artificial Intelligence within Romanian schools to increase digital literacy amongst pupils.

Danny Kirby was our third panelist, who spoke about his student project on how networked publics on Twitter responded to UK Prime Minster Teresa May’s Brexit plan (beginning at 12.17 in the webcast). He reflected on the limitations of using digital methods such as Sentiment Analysis to explore complex political phenomena on social media.

In his study of hashtags such as #brexitshambles, Danny found several limitations to using these methods, such as their inability to detect sarcasm.  He also found extensive evidence of bot activity in his research on how Brexit was being discursively framed on Twitter. He concluded by arguing in favour of greater ‘democratisation of social media research’ and warned that a new digital divide was emerging between those universities able to pay for social media data and those could not.

Our fourth speaker was Evelyn Baskaradas (MSc Data Science), who began by giving a personal account of her experiences using Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) at the University of Sheffield, both as an undergraduate and postgraduate student (beginning at 18.38 on the webcast).

While analytics from VLEs could help improve learning and teaching in Higher Education Institutions (eg. identifying students who might need specific help), students viewed this use of their personal data as a violation of their privacy. Within Evelyn’s cohort, there has been much discussion about the ethical challenges posed by these ‘data driven’ approaches towards e-supported learning, as well as their potential benefits for staff and students within these institutions. She recommended that there should be greater scrutiny of how these analytics were used to inform Higher Education policy and practice.

The other three presentations will be summarised in WSIS 2019 panel ‘ICTs in the university environment’ (Part 2).

GLOSS Trip to WSIS 2019, Geneva, Switzerland

Suay Ozkula and I have been awarded £8700 from the Global Leadership Initiative in the Social Sciences to lead a delegation of eight students from the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Sheffield to the 2019 World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva, Switzerland (8-12 April).

I will be sharing regular updates from the Summit that week and the names of our delegation and a description of the event can be found here


In conversation with John Coster, Reportage Club, Leicester


Thanks to @333Dominika for the picture!

Last Friday (8th March), I had the pleasure of speaking to John Coster as part of the Reportage Club at the Documentary Media Centre pop-up in Leicester. We spoke about my work on social media and political polarisation in Northern Ireland, how loyalists and republicans use digital media to frame the Troubles, Brexit, and the future of the CAIN archive.

Many thanks to all who attended and for their interest in my work. Also, big shout out to Jennifer Jones, Richard Hall and Tina Barton for their live tweeting!

Talk at Reportage Club, Documentary Media Centre, Leicester

Delighted to be back in Leicester today for an ‘in conversation’ with John Coster as part of the Documentary Media Centre’s Reportage Club. We will discuss my ongoing work on digital media and political polarisation in Northern Ireland, in which I will draw on my work on information disorder and contentious parades and protests in the deeply divided society. Our session will kick off at 6.30pm in the DMM pop-up in Highcross (the unit opposite Costa Coffee on Shires Lane).

Thanks to John for the invite and also for sharing this reminder of my last appearance at the DMC- over 4 years ago!



Social Media and Politics Podcast on Protests and Demonstrations in Northern Ireland

Delighted to have spoken to Michael Bossetta (University of Copenhagen) for the latest Social Media and Politics Podcast 

In a wide-ranging discussion, we discussed my ongoing work on social media, parades and protests in Northern Ireland, case studies such as the union flag protests and the Ardoyne parade dispute and Brexit. Many thanks to Michael for inviting me on and for his insightful questions. If you haven’t checked it out already, I would thoroughly recommend the Podcast series for anyone interested in Digital Politics.

The podcast on Protests and Demonstrations in Northern Ireland can be found here




Democratic Audit piece on social media and paramilitary-style assaults published

Dr Faith Gordon (Monash University) and I have published an essay on the role of social media in combatting paramilitary-style assaults in Northern Ireland. In the piece, we draw on the work of the Stop Attacks Forum and Ending the Harm to explore how social media can raise awareness of these incidents. This is part of an ongoing project that Faith and I are working on – more details to come soon!

The post can be read here

New article published in Journalism

  • Delighted to have an article co-authored with Bournemouth University colleagues Anastasia Veneti and Darren Lilleker published in Journalism yesterday.
  • The article entitled ‘Photographing the Battlefield’: the role of ideology in photojournalist practices during the anti-austerity protests in Greece’ can be accessed here
  • Interviewed for Newsweek article on social media and ‘fake news’

    I was recently interviewed for an article in Newsweek that discussed recent research suggesting that people who held delusional views were more likely to believe false news stories shared on social media. Thanks to Kashmira Gander and Hannah Postles for their help with this.

    The article can be accessed here

    New chapter on social media and paramilitary style assaults in Northern Ireland published with Faith Gordon

    Pleased to report that Faith Gordon and I have had our chapter ‘Digital weapons in a post-conflict society’ published in ‘Anti-Social Media,’ a volume edited by John Mair, Richard Tait and Tor Clark.

    A copy of our chapter can be downloaded here

    Presenting paper on Information Disorder in Northern Ireland at ICS Symposium

    This weekend I will be attending Locked out of Social Platforms: An ICS Symposium on Challenges to Studying Disinformation, at the IT University in Copenhagen, Denmark. Keynote speakers include Axel Bruns, Alice Marwick, Linda Dencik and Katrin Weller.

    I will be presenting a paper entitled ‘Information Disorder in a deeply divided society: social media and contentious politics in Northern Ireland.’ It explores the continuities between the ‘propaganda war’ during the Troubles and the ways in which mis and disinformation circulates today through social media platforms. I will also discuss the media diets of citizens in the deeply divided society in order to explore resilience towards types of information disorder.

    The programme for the symposium (which looks great!) can be found here