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Get the Picture. Digital Methods for Visual Research

Digital Methods Summer School 2017

emotional_states.png emotional states_Florida.png
How States Became Protagonists in the US Election Night Drama, Digital Methods Winter School 2017. Design by Carlo de Gaetano.

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

The 2017 Digital Methods Summer School is held in cooperation with RMeS, the Netherlands Research School for Media Studies.

Opening day location (please be on time):
Oudemanhuispoort (Faculty of Law), room F0.01
University of Amsterdam
Oudemanhuispoort 4-6, 1012 CN Amsterdam

Opening talk slides:

Project Pages

Week 1

Week 2

Project Rooms (Week 1)

Project Number Project Title Facilitator(s) Room(s)
1 Emotional Clicktivism: Reactions buttons and their use across Facebook pages Marloes Geboers BG1 0.04
2 Alt-Right Open Intelligence Initiative Marc Tuters, Sal Hagen, Lykle de Jong, Richard Rogers, Members of the Extremism Unit, Partha Das BG1 0.16
3 Platform, Method, Interface: A TiddlyWiki-based monadic exploration of the post-September 11 Web Steve Schneider  
4 Making Climate Visible? Images of climate change on the expert sites and social media Warren Pearce, Suay Ozkula BG1 0.13
5 Taking Stock: Can news images be generic? Giorgia Aiello BG1 0.04
6 Methods Maps: Visualising Automation Carolin Gerlitz, Anne Helmond, Fernando van der Vlist, Esther Weltevrede BG2 0.02
Please check the Welcome Package for maps and lists of all venue locations.

Project Rooms (Week 2)

Project Number Project Title Facilitator(s) Room(s)
1 Emotional Clicktivism Marloes Geboers BG1 0.12
2 Alt-Right Open Intelligence Initiative Marc Tuters, Sal Hagen, Lykle de Jong, Richard Rogers, Members of the Extremism Unit, Partha Das BG1 0.16
3 Instagram Liveness + Hashtag engagement + Healing/Grief Esther Hammelburg, Janna Joceli et al., Natalia Sanchez-Querubìn BG2 0.08
4 Climate Change + Alps + Wikipedia Sabine Niederer, Warren Pearce, Federica Bardelli, Carlo de Gaetano, Simon Gottschalk BG1 0.13
5 Data & Dating Fieke Jansen, Esther Weltevrede BG2 0.02
6 Is this Open Data Portal accessible? Guíllén Torres, Umberto Boschi, Jeroen de Vos BG1 0.16
Please check the Welcome Package for maps and lists of all venue locations.

Shortlinks Overview Description
Main welcome package documents. (Sent per mail.)

This includes: the welcome package and the welcome package folder.
Additional documents linked from the main welcome package. (As well as included in the welcome package folder.)

This includes: the day-to-day schedule, project descriptions, a reader (for international participants as well as for RMeS Summer School participants), a .ZIP-archived version of the entire reader, a face book of all participants, and maps of venue locations, coffee, and lunch places.
Research project report templates for Google Docs and for the DMI Wiki. (Please find further instructions in the welcome package.) Call for participation and general information.
Note: Additional important links will be added to this overview.

Get the Picture. Digital Methods for Visual Research

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, with which approaches is the image considered primarily, or secondarily, as a digital object embedded in online media? Apart from the change in the setting of the object, there may also be methods that emerge from the new media, engines and platforms. What kinds of so-called ‘natively’ digital methods can be repurposed productively for visual analysis? How to make use of the Google’s reverse image search?

More broadly, with the increasing focus on selfies and memes but also on 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. Such a push invites visual analysis into the realm of digital studies, too. One may begin to open the discussion of interplay by examining the new outputs such as journalists’ data visualisations as well as policy-makers’ dashboards like the open data city platforms. One may similarly compare visual literacies. Are there new ways of interpreting images through data, both substantively (which are the related materials?) and temporally (how do they develop over time? do they resonate? are they memes?). 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 scholars 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. There is the ‘active’ data visualisation, which includes research 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). Issue mapping renders legible the actors and substance of a (possibly controversial) issue (Rogers, Sánchez-Querubín & Kil 2015). In a second group of approaches, the image is treated as a digitised or natively digital object of study. This includes 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). 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). Another group of approaches repurpose 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 11th 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 Density Design 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 (closed). If that form is not working well (as some applicants have reported), 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 8 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 and is open to PhD candidates and motivated scholars as well as to research master’s students and advanced master’s students. Data journalists, artists, and research professionals are also welcome to apply. Accepted applicants will be informed of the bank transfer details upon notice of acceptance to the Summer School on 8 May.
  • The fee must be paid by 16 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. Please also provide your student number.
  • RMeS members participate either in the first three days of the Summer School (2 ECTS) or the first week (6 ECTS). See completion requirements below. To participate in the two-week Summer School the regular fee applies.

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 are eligible for a scholarship to help cover the cost of tuition for the DMI Summer School. Please state LERU or U21 university affiliation under tuition remarks when applying to the Summer School. Dutch universities are not eligible.

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

We have organised a discount at Hotel Casa Amsterdam. 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. RMeS Summer School participants receive 2 ECTS (keynotes & masterclasses) or 6 ECTS (one-week project with group presentation and separately or joint authored text).


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 festive closing with 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


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.

Venturini, T., Jacomy, M, De Carvalho Pereira, D. (2015). Visual Network Analysis, (working paper). URL:

I Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
Gephi Tutorial DMI.pdfpdf Gephi Tutorial DMI.pdf manage 17 MB 27 Jun 2017 - 15:20 MathieuJacomy Gephi & Visual Network Analysis at DMI 2017 Summer School, Slides
Topic revision: r46 - 14 Dec 2017, SabineNiederer
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