The UCI Center for Ethnography and the Intel Science & Technology Center for Social Computing present

"Big: Culture and Data in the Digital Field"
A workshop at the University of California, Irvine
Friday, April 11, 2014
8:30 a.m.-7:00 p.m.
Social & Behavioral Sciences Gateway, Room 1517
Despite first appearing in an academic publication only in 2003, the term “big data” has swiftly become central to technology and social science. While bearing deep histories, big data is clearly linked to developments in computational storage, algorithmic analysis, mobile devices, and online sociality. But big data is also debated in the blogosphere, portrayed in mass media, discussed in everyday life.
The goal of this workshop is to take these multiple meanings and practices of big data seriously by placing them in conversation with ethnographic methods. Big data has sometimes been said to imply the “death of ethnographic methods” because it ostensibly provides a more comprehensive, accurate, or unbiased view of social life. In this workshop, however, we explore emergent synergies between ethnographic methods and big data. While some speak of a quantitative versus qualitative divide as foundational to social inquiry, there is value in exploring the possibly more consequential distinction between experimental methods “in” a laboratory (based on the control of variables) versus fieldwork methods “out” in the world (based on empirically investigating contexts preexisting the research process).
From this perspective, big data and ethnography lie on the same side of a divide that separates them from laboratory approaches. Both are forms of engagement with “the field.” As a result, considering new possibilities for their creative entanglement and mutual reconfiguration could present “big” possibilities for investigating the digital dimensions of contemporary cultures.

Presenters include: Tom Boellstorff, UC Irvine | Christine L. Borgman, UCLA | Geoffrey C. Bowker, UC Irvine | Jeff Burke, UCLA | Paul Dourish, UC Irvine | Mary L. Gray, Microsoft Research/Indiana University | Mimi Ito, UC Irvine | George Marcus, UC Irvine | Karine Nahon, University of Washington | Morten Axel Pedersen, University of Copenhagen | Natasha Schüll, MIT | Antonia Walford, CRESC/Open University | Malte Ziewitz, NYU

The workshop is free to attend, but space may be limited. Please RSVP with Sylvia Lotito ( if you would like to attend.
7:00 p.m.
Dinner for presenters
FRIDAY, APRIL 11, 2014
8:30–9:30 a.m.  
Coffee, light breakfast
9:30–10:00 a.m.
Welcoming comments
10:00–11:00 a.m.   
Fifteen-minute presentations
– Malte Ziewitz: Unscaling Ethnography
– Morten Axel Pedersen: Complementary Social Science? Reflections from a Deep Data Experiment
– Mimi Ito: From Thick to Thin: An Ethnographer Designing Assessments and Key Performance Indicators
– Jeff Burke: A Data-Centric Architecture for the Future Internet
11:00–11:30 a.m.   
Fishbowl #1 (A “fishbowl” is a form of interactive group discussion)
11:30 a.m.–noon
General discussion
noon–1:30 p.m.
1:30–2:15 p.m.  
Fifteen-minute minute presentations
– Antonia Walford: The Nature of Data; the Culture of Data
– Karine Nahon: A Multi-Edged Sword: The Politics of Big Data
– Christine L. Borgman: The Data Dance
2:15–2:45 p.m.  
Fishbowl #2
2:45–3:15 p.m.  
General discussion
3:15–3:30 p.m.  
3:30–4:15 p.m.  
Fifteen-minute minute presentations
– Natasha Schüll: Ethnographer in the Loop
– Mary L. Gray: Crowded: A Call for “Dimensional Data” in Digital Media Studies
– Geoffrey C. Bowker: Make It So, Data
4:15–4:45 p.m.  
Fishbowl #3
4:45–5:15 p.m.  
Wrap-up discussion
5:15–6:30 p.m.  
7:00 p.m.
Dinner for presenters
10:00 a.m.–noon
Breakfast discussion about future discussions/events for presenters and invited guests

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