The Internet, Policy & Politics Conferences

Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

Anders Koed Madsen: Between technical constraints and epistemic assumptions: The socio-technical influences on making web-based visualizations a device of social analytics

Anders Koed Madsen, Copenhagen Business School


Digital traces and the visualizations they give rise to are increasingly used as a source of data with which to understand the social world. This paper presents an analysis of eight projects engaged in reconfiguring practices of social analytics on this basis. Despite being carried out in response to different problems it is shown that these projects face common challenges in relation to the inevitable distribution of data-formats to third party actors and the need to balance machine intelligence and human intuition. For each challenge the paper identifies two opposite ´digital choices´ made to meet them. These choices indicate a room of flexibility within the constraints posed by the challenges. The paper furthermore shows how digital choices are legitimized through different ´web-frames´ that establish a relationship between the choices and the context in which the visualizations are to be used. Through the conceptualization of these challenges, choices and frames the paper pinpoints central socio-technical influences that will shape the way web-based visualizations can potentially be used as an analytic device of policy-planning in the future.

Anders Koed Madsen