Call for Participation

Digital Methods Summer School 2017

Get the Picture? Digital Methods for Visual Research
Digital Methods Summer School 2017
26 June – 7 July 2017

Everyday Summer School location:
Digital Methods Initiative
University of Amsterdam
Turfdraagsterpad 9, 1012 XT Amsterdam

Get the Picture? Digital Methods for Visual Research

With selfies, memes, Instagram stories, animated gifs, filters, stickers and emoticons, social media and digital communications are pushing for a visual turn in the study of digital culture, which in turn invites visual analysis into the digital. As these platforms are increasingly going visual, so too are journalist, activist and policy-making practices in the realm of digital media. Data visualisation, data journalism, media monitoring dashboards and open data city platforms are each developed for sense-making, navigation and charting of progress through visual representation, requiring new visual literacies along the way. These new ways of interpreting images need to address the new links added to visual materials through data, both substantively (which are the related materials?) and temporally (how do they develop over time? do they resonate? are they memes?).

Gillian Rose employs the term visual methodologies for “researching with visual materials” (2016). Iconography, semiotics, framing analysis and multimodal analysis are among the approaches that may be applied to digital materials. One may also ask, does the online make a difference to the study of the visual? That is, when is the image considered primarily or secondarily as a digital object in online media? Apart from the change in the object, there may be also be methods suited to the online. What kinds of so-called ‘natively’ digital methods can be added for visual analysis?

In digital methods, the image is not only a research object but also a research device. Making images “that can be seen and manipulated” (Venturini, Jacomy & Pereira 2015) enables researchers to access and actively explore datasets. How to make them and read them? At the same time, the technical properties of digital images both in terms of their color, resolution, and timestamp, as well as their ‘networkedness’, traceability and resonance, become available for research, allowing one to think with images (as visual guides and narratives) as well as through them (as data objects).

Novel visual methodologies then emerge on three planes. On the first there is ‘active’ data visualisation, which includes protocol diagrams, data dashboards, visual network analysis, and issue mapping. Protocol diagrams (Figure 1) guide analysts, programmers and designers through their collaborative research project. Data dashboards offer a visual aid for data metrics and analytics, in side-by-side graphs and tables; or become critical tools (as in the People’s Dashboard). Visual network analysis offers a way into data that can be engaged with and requires an active research attitude (Venturini, Jacomy & Pereira 2015). And issue mapping renders legible the actors and substance of a (possibly controversial) issue (Rogers, Sánchez-Querubín & Kil 2015). Secondly, the image is treated as a digital object of study. This includes approaches such as visual and cultural analytics, which provide distant visual reading techniques to explore and plot visual objects such as selfies and websites based on their formal properties (Manovich 2014; Ben-David, Amram & Bekkerman 2016). And networked visual content analysis, in which images may be queried ‘in reverse’ to study their circulation, can be used to critically assess questions of representation and cultural standing (Figure 2). The third is that of repurposing visual formats, where more playful explorations appropriate (and tweak) the templates and visual aesthetics of the web, creating research GIFs and critical social media profiles (Figure 3). In this 10th Digital Methods Summer School we will explore and expand such digital methods for visual research, and critically inquire into their proposed epistemologies.

We look forward to welcoming you to Amsterdam in the summertime!

Figure 1 . Research protocol diagrams visualize the method and guide the joint research project. Left: Research protocol for the Campaigning for Healthcare project, designed by Stefania Guerra. Right: Research protocol for the mapping Climate Vulnerability project, designed by Gabriele Colombo.


Figure 2. Circulation and recontextualization of images from the Getty ‘Lean In Collection’ using URLs. Designed by Federica Bardelli and Donato Ricci. Project page.

Figure 3. GIF animation put to use to critique geographical visual representations of the migration crisis as embedded on news websites. Mapping for the project ‘A critical cartography of the Mediterranean crisis'. Designed by Gabriele Colombo. Project presentation.

Summer School Philosophy

The Digital Methods Summer School is exploratory and experimental. It is not a setting for ‘just’ tool training or for principally tool-driven research. Substantive research projects are conceived and carried out. Participants are encouraged to ‘span time with their issue’ and the materials. In other words, we heed Alexander Galloway’s admonition about data and tool-driven work: “Those who were formerly scholars or experts in a certain area are now recast as mere tool users beholden to the affordances of the tool — while students spend ever more time mastering menus and buttons, becoming literate in a digital device rather than a literary corpus” (Galloway 2014:127). We encourage device and corpus literacy! The device training we ask you to do prior to the Summer School through online tutorials, and at the Summer School itself, in a kind of flipped learning environment (if you'll excuse the overused phrase), we would like to believe that you have familiarised yourself already with the tools and completed the tutorials available online. During the Summer School we will discuss and tinker with the nitty-gritty, aim to invent new methods, techniques and heuristics and create the first iterations of compelling work to be shared.

About Digital Methods as a Concept

Digital methods is a term coined as a counterpoint to virtual methods, which typically digitize existing methods and port them onto the Web. Digital methods, contrariwise, seek to learn from the methods built into the dominant devices online, and repurpose them for social and cultural research. That is, the challenge is to study both the info-web as well as the social web with the tools that organize them. There is a general protocol to digital methods. At the outset stock is taken of the natively digital objects that are available (links, tags, threads, etc.) and how devices such as search engines make use of them. Can the device techniques be repurposed, for example by remixing the digital objects they take as inputs? Once findings are made with online data, where to ground them? Is the baseline still the offline, or are findings to be grounded in more online data? Taking up these questions more theoretically (but also practically) there is also a Digital Methods book (MIT Press, 2013) as well as a complementary Issue Mapping book (Amsterdam University Press, 2015), and other digital methods publications.

About the Digital Methods Summer School

The Digital Methods Summer School, founded ten years ago, in 2007, together with the Digital Methods Initiative, is directed by Prof. Richard Rogers, Chair in New Media & Digital Culture and Department Chair at Media Studies, University of Amsterdam. The Summer School is one training opportunity provided by the Digital Methods Initiative (DMI). DMI also has a Winter School, which includes a mini-conference, where papers are presented and responded to. Winter School papers are often the result of Summer School projects. The Summer School is coordinated by PhD candidates in New Media at the University of Amsterdam, or affiliates. This year the coordinators are Sabine Niederer, Natalia Sánchez-Quérubin and Fernando van der Vlist. The Summer School has a technical staff as well as a design staff, drawn from the ranks of DensityDesign in Milan. The Summer School also relies on a technical infrastructure of some nine servers hosting tools and storing data, which recently (and intrepidly) moved to the cloud. In a culture of experimentation and skill-sharing, participants bring their laptops, learn method, undertake research projects, make reports, tools and graphics and write them up on the Digital Methods wiki. The Summer School concludes with final presentations. Often there are subject matter experts from non-governmental or other organizations who present their analytical needs and issues at the outset and the projects seek to meet those needs, however indirectly. For instance, Women on Waves came along during the 2010, Fair Phone to the 2012 Summer School and Greenpeace International and their Gezi Park project in 2013 as well as the COP21 Lima project in 2015. We have worked on the issue of rewilding eco-spaces with NGOs in the 2014 Summer School. More recently we have sought to repopulate city dashboards (Summer School 2015 and Winter School 2017).

About the Digital Methods Initiative

The Digital Methods Summer School is part of the Digital Methods Initiative (DMI), Amsterdam, dedicated to developing methods for Internet-related research. DMI was founded a decade ago with a grant from the Mondriaan Foundation, and the Summer School has been supported by the Center for Creation, Content and Technology ( CCCT), University of Amsterdam, organized by the Faculty of Science with sponsorship from Platform Betatechniek. It also has received support from the Citizen Data Lab, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences as well as "Media of Cooperation," University of Siegen. The 2017 Summer School will be held in collaboration with the Netherlands Research school for Media Studies (RMeS).

Applications & Key Dates

To apply for the Digital Methods Summer School 2017, please use the University of Amsterdam Summer School form. Or, please send a one-page letter explaining how digital methods training would benefit your current work, and also enclose a CV (with full postal address), a copy of your passport (details page only), a headshot photo as well as a 100-word bio (to be included in the Summer School welcome package). Mark your application "DMI Training Certificate Program," and send to summerschool [at]

  • The deadline for applications for the Summer School is 5 May 2017.
  • Notifications will be sent on 12 May. Accepted participants will receive a welcome package, which includes a reader, a schedule, and a face book of all participants.
  • The cost of the Summer School is eur 895 for 6 ECTS and is open to PhD candidates and motivated scholars as well as to research master’s students and advanced master’s students. Accepted applicants will be informed of the bank transfer details upon notice of acceptance to the Summer School on 12 May.
  • The fee must be paid by 6 June. (University of Amsterdam students are exempt from tuition and should state on the application form (under tuition fee remarks) that they wish to apply for a fee waiver and provide their student number.)

Any questions may be addressed to the Summer School coordinators Sabine Niederer, Natalia Sánchez-Querubín, and Fernando van der Vlist: summerschool [at] Informal queries may be sent to this email address as well.


The Digital Methods Summer School is part of the University of Amsterdam Summer School programme, which has a video giving a flavor of the Summer School experience. Students from universities in the LERU and U21 networks (outside of the Netherlands) are eligible for a scholarship to help cover the cost of tuition for the DMI Summer School.

Accommodations & Catering

The Summer School is self-catered, and there are abundant cafes and a university mensa nearby. For a map we made of nearby lunch (and coffee) places, see

Apply as early as possible to the reasonably priced Student Hotel. For those who prefer other accommodations, we suggest Airbnb or similar. For shorter stay, there is Hotel Le Coin, where you may request a university discount.

Successful Completion & Completion Certificates (incl. 6 ECTS when necessary)

To successfully complete the Summer School and receive a completion certificate (and 6 ECTS when necessary), you must complete a significant contribution to two Summer School projects (one in week one and the other in week two), evidenced by co-authorship of the project reports as well as final (joint) presentations. Templates for the project report as well as for the presentation slides are supplied.


The Summer School meets every weekday. Please bring your laptop. (An iPad is not enough.) We will provide abundant connectivity. We start generally at 9:30 in the morning, and end around 17:30. There are morning talks one to two days per week. All other time is devoted to project work with occasional collective and individual feedback sessions. On the second Friday we have a boat trip on the canals of Amsterdam.

Preparations: Online Tutorials

For your Summer School to be especially successful we would recommend highly that you watch (or listen to) the Digital Methods tutorials. The DMI YouTube channel has copious materials, and we would very much like for you to watch the social media tool tutorials.

Social Media & Participant Face Book

  • Twitter: #dmi17.
  • Facebook:
  • We will have a list of Summer School participants and make an old-fashioned face book with the headshots and bios you send to us.

Evening Hangout Suggestions

Shortlinks Overview Description Call for Participation. Lunch map.
Note: Additional important links will be added to this overview.


Ben-David, A., Amram, A. & Bekkerman, R. (2016). The colors of the national Web: visual data analysis of the historical Yugoslav Web domain. International Journal on Digital Libraries. doi:10.1007/s00799-016-0202-6

Galloway, A. (2014). The Cybernetic Hypothesis. Differences. 25(1), 107-131.

Manovich, L., Stefaner, M., Mehrdad, Y., Baur, D., & et al. (2014). Selfiecity. Investigating the style of self-portraits (selfies) in five cities across the world. URL:

Rogers, R. Sánchez-Querubín, N. & Kil, A. (2015). Issue Mapping for an Ageing Europe. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. Open access book download

Rose, G. (2016). Visual Methodologies. An Introduction to Researching with Visual Materials. London: Sage Publishing.

Venturini, T., Jacomy, M, De Carvalho Pereira, D. (2015). Visual Network Analysis, (working paper). URL:
Topic revision: r10 - 15 Feb 2017, SabineNiederer
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