Bias in content recommendation and moderation
Digital Methods Winter School and Data Sprint 2021
Digital Methods Winter School and Data Sprint 2021 4-8 January 2021
Owing to COVID-19, some or all of the Winter School may be held online. If held in-person, here is the location information.
Opening Day Location and Time:
Oudemanhuispoort 4-6 (Law Faculty Building, University of Amsterdam)
1012 CN Amsterdam
9.15am Please be on time!
Digital Methods Initiative
University of Amsterdam
1012 XT Amsterdam
Digital Methods Winter School and Data Sprint
The Digital Methods Initiative (DMI), Amsterdam, is holding its annual Winter School on 'Bias in content recommendation and moderation'. The format is that of a (social media and web) data sprint, with tutorials as well as hands-on work for telling stories with data. There is also a programme of keynote speakers. It is intended for advanced Master's students, PhD candidates and motivated scholars who would like to work on (and complete) a digital methods project in an intensive workshop setting. For a preview of what the event is like, you can view short video clips from previous editions
of the School
When one argues that algorithms are biased, how is the case made? Similarly, when it is claimed that content moderation (that results in removal or demonetisation) is unfair, what is considered to be a convincing account? This year’s Digital Methods Winter School is dedicated to the empirical study of the bias in algorithmic output and moderated content. We would like to take stock of the claims made about biases (in search engines as well as social media platforms), and pay special attention to the measurement and representation of these biases. First, we would like to present the celebrated cases (such as discriminatory pricing, stereotyping and computer vision training), but also a discussion of the supposed political motivations surrounding takedowns by Google, Facebook, Twitter and others. Subsequently, we would like to critique and learn from how bias is represented and also put forward methods that capture and seek to lay bare bias, such as algorithmic auditing and other testing regimes. Finally, we would like to visualise these biases in ways that make them more legible and apparent.
At the Winter School there are the usual social media tool tutorials (and the occasional tool requiem), but also continued attention to thinking through and proposing how to work with social media data after the demise of the API.
Applications: Key Dates
The deadline for application is 16 November 2020. To apply please send a letter of motivation, your CV, a headshot photo, 100-word bio as well as a copy of your passport (details page only) to winterschool [at] digitalmethods.net. Notifications of acceptance will be sent on 17 November. The full program and schedule of the Winter School are available by 16 December 2020.
Tuition Fees, Accommodations & Completion Certificates
The fee for the Digital Methods Winter School 2020 is EUR 695, and upon completion all participants receive certificates (and 6 ECTS). To complete the Winter School successfully all participants must co-present the final presentation and co-author the final project report, evidenced by the presentation slides as well as the final report itself. Payment information is sent along with the notification on 17 November 2020. Students at the University of Amsterdam do not pay fees. 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 (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
(Arrival: 3 January 2021; Departure: 9 January 2021)https://www.thestudenthotel.com/amsterdam-west
reservations [at] thestudenthotel.com or tel. +31 20 760 7575. See full booking instructions including discount code
If you would like to have accommodations at the Student Hotel, please write to the student hotel directly. To avoid disappointment, please write to them as early as possible. Ask the hotel for the 15% Digital Methods Winter School discount.
For further questions, please contact the local organizers, at winterschool [at] digitalmethods.net
Please bring your laptop computer, your European plug as well as the VGA/HDMI adaptor for connecting to the projector.
The Digital Methods Winter School is part of the Digital Methods Initiative (DMI), Amsterdam, dedicated to developing techniques for Internet-related research and to the study of the natively digital. The Digital Methods Initiative holds the annual Digital Methods Summer Schools
(fourteen to date), which are intensive and full-time undertakings in the Summertime. The next Summer School will take place from 25 June to 9 July 2021.
There is a practical textbook, Doing Digital Methods
(Sage, 2019). The Digital Methods
book (MIT Press, 2015) provides the methodological outlook that frames and informs the work of the DMI. It is accompanied by a companion volume about mapping social and political issues with digital methods: Issue Mapping for an Ageing Europe
(Amsterdam University Press, 2015), which is also freely available on the web
as an open access monograph. Further information and resources about digital methods can be found at digitalmethods.net
- including links to example projects
, an introductory "founding narrative
" about the Digital Methods Initiative as well as short bios of the affiliated researchers
The coordinators of the Digital Methods Initiative are Dr. Sabine Niederer (Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences) and Dr. Esther Weltevrede (New Media & Digital Culture, University of Amsterdam), and the director is Richard Rogers, Professor of New Media & Digital Culture, University of Amsterdam.
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? See R. Rogers (2009), The End of the Virtual: Digital Methods
. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
We are using the #DMI21 hashtag as the backchannel for communication (to use a throwback term for Twitter usage). Some pictures from a past Winter School
. Here is the Facebook Group
from one year, and from a recent Summer School
. Here are pictures from a variety of DMI Summer and Winter School