Plenty as a Response to Austerity?

Plenty Austerity wordcloud

Expanding big data expertise in cultures and communities

Aims of the Scoping Study:

Austerity measures are breaking links between communities, partly by straining cultural and community organizations, draining them of resources. At the same time ‘digital’ developments, including data driven personalization, may tend to atomize individuals in groups very directly affected by austerity measures. In this climate, finding ways in which communities can aggregate and gain access to means of expression, of organization, of activity, and of cultural production, including digital means, becomes more important than ever.

Data and data visualization are powerful tools with which to make arguments, to see, understand, and communicate complex issues, to develop new lines of inquiry and to build new forms of creative and cultural practice – and yet many big data tools, theoretically free and open to all to use, are not known about or not understood, and their potential has largely not been explored by community and cultural organizations operating at local level, and operating in increasingly straitened circumstances.  These organizations do not have the expertise in new forms of social analytics, nor necessarily the means to obtain it – and the latter is a matter of desire as well as practicalities.

The starting point for this scoping study, being carried out at the University of Sussex, is that (i), it is important to investigate ways to enable communities to engage with and build expertise in social analytics and data visualization tools; (ii) that it needs to be recognized there are structural barriers to this kind of engagement being built – and the climate of austerity exacerbates these issues, but (iii); that many barriers to gaining expertise may be addressed. As earlier CCN+ Scoping studies have shown, computational expertise is not the property of generationally defined digital natives, nor a fixed property – but is a mutual techno-social co-construction.




Key Questions:

Exploring how engagement between experts and community and cultural groups, working to find apt uses and develop facility in engaging with digital tools, can enable expertise to be transferred into – and become a property of – cultural and community groups.

Questioning how communities of practice form around processes of ‘doing social analytics’ – and in this way to explore a question arising across the CCN+ project as a whole, which concerns the relationship between cultural activities and individual community members.

Seeking to understand how to design ways in which communities of practice – including groups with more or less social or cultural aims – can store, share and forward expertise in using new tools.

Exploring what kinds of tools for social analytic/big data work can best be adopted by local communities and cultural groups to work with – and finding good ways to make these tools available, including in relation to defined projects/full processes (data acquisition, interrogation, visualization).