Data Mediation

The Recuperation of Historical Memory in the Iberian Peninsula: Social Media as Resistance

The recent upsurge in the recovery of bodies from mass graves (circa 2000-present) dating back to the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) has unearthed forcibly repressed memories from one of Spain’s most violent and oppressive periods: Francisco Franco’s dictatorship (1939-1975). With the enactment of the Historical Memory Law by Parliament in 2007, the Spanish public now has a legal channel through which they can exhume mass graves from the War and postwar, but the job of locating and recovering bodies of victims continues to fall on autonomous communities and private entities. The lack of a state-sponsored exhumation of mass graves after the dictatorship has created a void in collective memory. I argue that the disinterment process acts as a catalyst for the rebuilding of suppressed or unexplored sentiments silenced by a fascist dictatorship and, later, through the transition to a democratic government. The large corpus of digital and social media on the Web pertaining to the recuperation of historical memory demonstrates how present-day Spaniards continue to grapple with events stemming from the dictatorship. Digital media and its various modes of dissemination encourage the constant updating of information and provides producers of digital materials and users of social networking sites (“Facebook,” “Twitter,” “YouTube,” “Flickr”) the means to constantly renew conversations about the recuperation efforts. By cyclically publishing digital texts online that show the rituals and commemorations pertaining to the ongoing reburials, contemporary Spaniards keep the physical sites of memory alive by broadcasting the repeated rituals of exhumation and inhumation as the identification of remains continue. Blogging, website building, and participating in social media circles generates local and regional online communities centered around memorial rites. Digital productions (photographs, videos, social networks) allow communities of survivors—both physical and virtual communities—to highlight the process of locating the disappeared. The consideration of different genres and modes of representation surface a pattern of ritualistic practices that advances from the search for the missing, to the exhumation process, leading to the reburials and culminating in commemorations honoring the victims. The array of multimedia elements containing rituals of reburial and commemoration disseminated through the Web give a polyphonic voice to community efforts. Geographic Information Systems (GIS)—also referred to as digital mapping platforms—lend the ability to layer a variety of multimedia elements onto a digital cartographic interface. Thick mapping efforts convert a purely geographic space into a place by imbuing the topography with memories and histories. This presentation will also discuss how “Virtual Cartographies” (http://www.virtualcartographies.com/) layers data acquired from the Spanish Ministry of Justice of mass grave locations alongside a robust collection of multimedia texts directly related to specific gravesites in order to give depth to spaces of mourning and share ritualistic practices. The deep layering of multimedia elements lends insights into the histories surrounding the topography. By inscribing gravesite locations with the testimonies, videos, narratives, articles, radio program, social network groups, etc. about the exhumations, “Virtual Cartographies” contributes a thick map that provides a framework for analyzing the exhumations and mourning rituals.

Wendy Kurtz (University of California Los Angeles, Gale)

Algorithms & Autonomy: How Social Media AI Affects Democratic Societies

Recent questions about the role of social media in the 2016 U.S. elections have sparked public debate on the role of social media in public opinion and trust in democratic institutions. Simultaneously, there has been a growing divide in scholarship: some scholars have argued that social media reproduces political echo chambers through confirmation bias while others claim develops diverse, democratic spaces through increased network heterogeneity (Lee et al. 2014). However, aside from initial research into search algorithms and platform economies, scholarship has yet to fully address the co-constitutive nature of technology, information, and public participation, especially since the launch of AI initiatives like the Google Brain in 2016-2017 (see also Noble 2018; Gillespie 2018). My analysis examines the determination of YouTube recommendation features through AI and the role of the algorithmic features in constructing and legitimizing mediated publics on YouTube (owned by Google). The Google Brain is constituted by deep neural networks that “learn approximately one billion parameters and are trained on hundreds of billions of examples” (Covington, Adams, and Sargin 2016, 191). Furthermore, this system integrates user data from other websites and platforms owned by Google like Gmail, Google maps and drive. While users may initially search for a specific video or purpose, over seventy percent of users’ time spent on YouTube is determined by the site’s recommendation engine and approximately eighty percent of users claim to watch the recommended videos (Smith, Toor, and Van Kessel 2018). The impact of YouTube on political events like the 2016 U.S. election is speculated to have been much deeper than originally thought and it illustrates the need for scholarship that considers the political economy and cultural relations of social media alongside the technical. I use a multimethodological approach that combines critical technology studies and political economy to examine the formation and effects of mediated publics by social media design. Because these publics appear as naturally formed, rather than constructed as they are, they hide the modes of production and design, i.e. the AI and data collection. As YouTube is a site of mass political and social information dissemination, examining the technology behind it exposes the ways in which digital culture and information infrastructure contribute to methods of democratic participation engineering. This not only produces ambivalent political effects but undermines the democratic potential of YouTube. Through a case study on the 2016 U.S. presidential election, I interrogate the complex interplay between consumers, producers, developers and technology to delineate power relations and determine the political as well as productive modes of social media. While we may believe that posting, liking, or sharing online is an example of individual autonomy, the increased use of YouTube for political participation has led to more rules, user agreements, and normalized behaviors as well as the expansion of corporate monopolies. As we look to the future, I argue that the naturalization of mediated publics and determination of power by social media is an essential consideration that needs to be incorporated at the level of design for new communication technologies.

Jaime Lee Kirtz (University of Colorado Boulder)

GitAnnotated: Creating a Digital Annotated Bibliography on GitHub

Librarians are experts at helping the individual move from where they are to where they want to be in terms of knowledge and access. While this can be transformative work, it is based in pragmatism in that it continues to use the status quo as a map for these journeys. For academia, the status quo is often shaped in the traditional classroom. Librarians have an opportunity to impact this status quo when they are invited for instructional purposes. These opportunities for librarians are critical as this may be the only time the librarians are able to work with a large number of students at once. However, librarians are rarely taught how to teach or introduced to pedagogy in their MLS coursework. They must learn to teach from trial and error; and pedagogy is a difficult area to learn without a theoretical or conceptual background, not to mention the increased struggle to apply it into praxis. Further, pedagogy specifically designed for librarianship can be harder to find and can increase frustration when librarians may simply be trying to find an answer to: “How can I just deliver more information in a more engaging manner in such a short time.” In answer to these difficulties, the resulting project aims to provide three outcomes: 1) a bibliography of pedagogical resources that directly combine literacy, pedagogy, philosophy, and theory for the LIS profession; 2) annotations that allow librarians to quickly understand how it may relate to their context; and 3) promote wider access of these topics within the academic librarian community. The project, pedagogies4liaisons, is a digital annotated bibliography hosted on GitHub that contains resources on pedagogy topics. This projected originated from an annotated bibliography that included resources for self-directed learning in pedagogy and theory for librarianship. As more resources were added, the increased complexity required a richer environment for documenting, organizing, and sharing this information. Using Github, the presenters were able to create a website that could support additions to the bibliography while also providing a mechanism for others to collaborate. The project is an example of reconfigured, participatory knowledge production through the digitization of traditional academic scholarship. It also represents a learning and collaborative experience for both contributors that illustrates the intentions of the project itself. In this presentation, we’ll discuss the impetus of the project, the considerations for its digital shape, and how the project was executed by the team members. Ms. Henson will present on the challenges she faced while working on this project. This project was her first digital scholarship experience, requiring her to learn markdown in the process. Ms. Andrews will present on the methods used to organize the files and code necessary for building the bibliography and project site.

Brea Henson (University of North Texas)
Pamela Andrews (Tarrant County College)