New Media Monitoring and Data Analytics as Critical Practice

Digital Methods Winter School, Data Sprint and Mini-Conference

12-16 January 2015 | Digital Methods Winter School

16 January 2015 | Digital Methods Mini-Conference

Digital Methods Initiative | Media Studies | University of Amsterdam

Winter School Welcome Package (updated)

Winter School Reader

Mini-conference Papers and Schedule (including respondents) (updated)

Talks slides

Projects Page

Final presentations schedule

The Digital Methods Initiative (DMI), Amsterdam, is pleased to welcome you to its 7th annual Winter School, on New Media Monitoring and Data Analytics as Critical Practice. The format is that of a data sprint, with hands-on work on media monitoring with data analytics, and a mini-conference, where PhD candidates, motivated scholars and advanced graduate students present short papers on digital methods and new media related topics, and receive feedback from the Amsterdam group of DMI researchers and international participants. Participants need not give a paper at the mini-conference to attend the Winter School.

The focus of this year's Winter School is on how online media monitoring is currently done by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as, and it seeks to identify practices that could fill in the notion of critical data analytics. For the occasion we have invited academics to present on the state of the art of online media monitoring by focusing on three areas where there is both innovation as well as repurposing of techniques normally associated with marketing, business intelligence and the work of digital agencies: issue discovery and language placement (who's carrying the conversation), engagement and public fund-raising (when do images and other engagement formats ‘work’?) and crisis communication (who is making the calls when there is a breakdown?). At the Winter School social media analysts and communications specialists from NGOs will present on the state of the art of media monitoring, their current analytical needs and what the Internet can continue to add with respect to new data sources as well as monitoring techniques. We will also ask each of the organizations to show us their dashboards.

The first day kicks off with Nathaniel Tkacz from the University of Warwick who will talk about Dashboards and Data Signals, and the desire to control the data deluge. The second keynote speaker is Carolin Gerlitz from the University of Amsterdam who will talk about new media metrics critique. Next a series of online media monitoring dashboards and methods will be presented. The Dutch design agency Clever Franke will show TrendViz. Soenke Lorenzen of Greenpeace International, Eoin Dubsky of SumOfUs, Dounia Kchiere of UNICEF, and Christian Teriete of TckTckTck will be talking about media monitoring at their respective organisations. Next will be project pitches by Ria Voorhaar of the Climate Action Network, Danie Stockmann of Leiden University, Jonathan Gray of the Open Knowledge Foundation and Alberto Abellan of Social Alto Analytics.

After the the first day of talks as well as dashboard show and tell, the data sprint commences, whereupon the attendees, including analysts, designers and programmers, undertake empirical projects that address the state of the art in NGO online media data analysis. We work on projects that seek to meet the current analytical needs. The week closes with presentations of the outcomes as well as a festive celebration. During the week there is also an evening of talks and a debate with Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, at the nearby Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Science.

The theme of the Winter School 2015 continues the analytical collaboration between the Digital Methods Initiative and NGO media analysts, including Soenke Lorenzen of Greenpeace International Previously workshop facilitators and collaborators have included representatives from Human Rights Watch, Association for Progressive Communications, Women on Waves, Carbon Trade Watch, Corporate Observatory Europe and Fair Phone. In preparation for the sprint we also have developed how-to worksheets on New Media Monitoring and Tooling that take as their case studies NGO issue mappings with digital methods. Upon conclusion we aim to compile the Sprint projects from the Winter School, and combine them with the how-to sheets to produce an open access publication on NGO media monitoring. All participants are invited to contribute.

Digital Methods Winter School Data Sprint

A data sprint is a workshop format for intensive, empirical project work, where analysts, programers, designers and subject matter experts collaborate to output research. This year's data sprint is devoted to new media monitoring with data analytics, and particularly its critical practice. Broadly speaking, media monitoring is understood as the process of reading, watching or listening to the editorial content of media sources on a continuing basis, and then identifying, analyzing and saving materials that contain specific themes, topics, keywords, names, forms or formats. Monitoring the editorial content of news sources including newspapers, magazines, trade journals, TV shows, radio programs and specific websites is by far the most common form of media monitoring, but most organizations increasingly monitor social media online, and its impact on the diffusion of news in all media or in online conversation (including the comment space) more generally. Most companies, government agencies, not-for-profit organizations utilize media monitoring as a tool to study the "meaning of mentions" of their organization, its campaigns and slogans, and gain some sense of the composition of their audiences, and what animates them (or keeps them quiet).

During the first day of the data sprint academics studying dashboards and online media monitoring will present the state of the art of the field. For the online media monitoring we focus on three areas: issue discovery and issue language placement (who is the carrying the conversation, and which voices are continually elided?), engagement and fundraising communication (how are audiences and funders reacting to so-called 'faces of need' and other formats and calls for engagement?) and crisis communication (when there is a breakdown, who makes the calls?). Representatives from leading NGOs will present to the attendees how they practice online media monitoring, the look of their dashboards and the analytical needs that drive them. What are these experts able to accomplish with the techniques available to them, and which questions remain unanswered? What are the critical media monitoring practices and questions that are specific to NGOs? How to conceptualize and operationalize issue discovery, engagement for fundraising and crisis monitoring? We will ask the NGO communications experts to address these questions. We also will ask them what they think digital methods and issue mapping may add to the outputs of media monitoring.

The conversations with the experts will serve as starting points for winter school attendees - including analysts, designers and programmers - to develop into empirical projects that aim to answer research questions, and develop further techniques for media monitoring online.


Sample public sector dashboard, tracking potholes filled, graffiti removed, streetlights replaced, etc. in the city of Boston, 2014. Source: Boston Globe.

Digital Methods Mini-Conference at the Winter School

The annual Digital Methods Mini-Conference at the Winter School, normally a one-day affair, provides the opportunity for digital methods and allied researchers to present short yet complete papers (5,000-7,500 words) and serve as respondents, providing feedback. Often the work presented follows from previous Digital Methods Summer Schools. The mini-conference accepts papers in the general digital methods and allied areas: the hyperlink and other natively digital objects, the website as archived object, web historiographies, search engine critique, Google as globalizing machine, cross-spherical analysis and other approaches to comparative media studies, device cultures, national web studies, Wikipedia as cultural reference, the technicity of (networked) content, post-demographics, platform studies, crawling and scraping, graphing and clouding, and similar.

Key dates

The deadline for application is 8 December. To apply please send along a letter of motivation as well as your CV to winterschool [at] Notifications will be sent on 9 December. If you are participating in the mini-conference the deadline for submission of paper titles, abstracts and bios is also 8 December. The mini-conference takes place on Friday 16 January 2015, and the deadline for paper submission is Wednesday 7 January 2015. Please send your materials to winterschool[at]
. To attend the Winter School, you need not participate in the mini-conference. Deadline for submission of complete papers (5,000-7,500 words)
 is 6 January 2015. The program and schedule are available on 7 January.

Fees & Logistics

The fee for the Digital Methods Winter School 2015 is EUR 295. Bank transfer information will be sent along with the notification on 9 December 2014. The Winter School is self-catered. The venue is in the center of Amsterdam with abundant coffee houses and lunch places. Participants are expected to find their own housing (airbnb and other short-stay sites are helpful), or we have available accommodations at the Student Hotel:

The Student Hotel Amsterdam
Jan van Galenstraat 335
1061 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Tel: +31 20 760 4000
info-amsterdam [at]

During the week there is an evening at the Royal Academy with Jimmy Wales. The Winter School closes on Friday with a festive event, after the final presentations. Here is a guide to the Amsterdam new media scene. For further questions, please contact the organizers, Liliana Bounegru, Natalia Sanchez and Saskia Kok, at

About DMI

The Digital Methods Winter School is part of the Digital Methods Initiative, Amsterdam, dedicated to reworking method for Internet-related research. The Digital Methods Initiative holds the annual Digital Methods Summer Schools (eight to date), which are intensive and full time 2-week undertakings in the Summertime. The 2015 Summer School will take place 29 June - 10 July 2015. The coordinators of the Digital Methods Initiative are Sabine Niederer and Esther Weltevrede (PhD candidates in New Media & Digital Culture, University of Amsterdam), and the director is Richard Rogers, Professor of New Media & Digital Culture, University of Amsterdam. Liliana Bounegru is the managing director. Digital methods are online at The DMI about page includes a substantive introduction, and also a list of Digital Methods people, with bios. DMI holds occasional Autumn and Spring workshops, such as recent ones on mapping climate change and vulnerability indexes as well as on studying right-wing extremism and populism online. There are also a Digital Methods book (MIT Press, 2013), papers and articles by DMI researchers as well as Digital Methods tools.


For those of you that use Twitter we are using the #DMI15 hashtag as the backchannel for communication. We have also created a Facebook Group to augment the backchannel and help coordinate groups and projects.

Images credits:
Online resonance of the international climate change issue agenda, EMAPS data sprint, Amsterdam, April 2014.
Boston Globe, 21 March 2014.

Topic revision: r27 - 16 Jan 2015, RichardRogers
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