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Centre for the Study of the International Relations of the Middle East and North Africa


Big Data, Communications and Media Theory: Conceptual  Challenges
A roundtable discussion convened by Cambridge Digital Humanities Network, the Cambridge Media Research Reading Group, and the Big Data Initiative

Digital Humanities

October 30, 2-4pm ARB

The production and consumption of ‘Big Data’ underlie many key aspects of media in contemporary society. At the same time, ‘big’ as well as ‘small’ media are contributing to a symbiosis between communication and Big Data that is rapidly scaling new frontiers. Advertising has been reshaped by the ubiquitous collection of personal data from digital services and devices. Analytics from websites and social media platforms influence editorial decision-making. The rise of online self-publishing and the rapid diffusion of easily-mastered digital content production and editing tools has blurred the line separating media producers and consumers, while in turn adding to the Big Data deluge.

Do these ever-rising ‘volumes, velocities and varieties’ of data and communication pose new challenges for scholarly analysis of the media? Are we facing a “hermeneutics crisis”, as Geert Lovink suggests,“…because theorists have not learned to code, and also in part because the objects of study are simply not available (think of all the corporate algorithms)… The message of the medium is its underlying structure, and both Google and Facebook are perfect examples of this law.”

This roundtable will explore the reflexive impact of Big Data on how we theorize the media, and visa versa. Our panelists will consider what concepts such as network, communication and medium mean in the Big Data era, and their new roles in defining community and the public sphere.

 Speakers: Dr. Wendy Pullan Department of Architecture, 

Dr. John Naughton: Director Wolfson Press Fellowship Institute,
Dr. Sharath Srinivasan, Centre of Governance and Human Rights

Moderators: Dr. Anne Alexander, Digital Humanities Reading Group;
Dr. Roxane Farmanfarmaian, Cambridge Media Research Reading Group 

Big Data and Media Theory download

The next meeting will be held the week of November  10. Date and Programme to be announced soon.



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