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Otherwise engaged: Social Media from vanity metrics to critical analytics

When: 19.10.2017, at 17:00-19:00
Place: A-222

Richard Rogers, a professor of New Media and Digital Culture, Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam will be at Tallinn University to give a lecture on social media. The lecture will be held on the 19th of October at 5 PM in A-222. All interested are welcome!



In the age of social media the dominant mode of engagement is distraction. Whilst appearing oxymoronic, distracted modes of engagement have invited the coining of such terms as ‘flickering man’, ‘continuous partial attention’ and ‘ambient awareness.’ One’s engagement in social media (however distracted) is also routinely measured. Klout scores and similar are often called ‘vanity metrics’ because they measure success or ’success theater’ in social media. The notion of vanity metrics implies at least three projects: a critique of metrics concerning both the object of measurement as well as their capacity to measure unobtrusively or only to encourage performance. The second is a corrective interface project, for users are continually distracted by number badges calling to be clicked; there is a movement afoot (initiated by John Seely Brown) for so-called ‘encalming technology’. The talk, however, focuses on the third project, i.e., how one may rework the metrics. In all, I make four moves. In an application of digital methods, which seeks to repurpose online devices and their methods for social research, I propose to repurpose Klout scores and other (media monitoring) engagement measures for social research. Building upon ‘alt metrics’ for science, an alternative metrics project, I propose another one, albeit for social issue spaces rather than for science. In order to do so, I call for a change in the networks under study by social researchers, that is, a shift from the social network (with its vanity metrics) to the issue network. The change of networks (so to speak) enables concentrating on the opportunities for an alternative metrics for the social (together with social issue engagement), which I call critical analytics. Critical analytics would seek to measure the ‘otherwise engaged,’ or other modes of engagement (than vanity) such as dominant voice, concern, commitment, positioning and alignment, thereby furnishing digital methods with a conceptual and applied research agenda concerning online metrics. 


Richard Rogers is Professor of New Media & Digital Culture, Media Studies, University of Amsterdam. He is director of the Govcom.org Foundation as well as the Digital Methods Initiative, known for the development of the Issuecrawler and other software tools for the study of the natively digital. Rogers also directs the Netherlands Research School for Media Studies. He is author of Information Politics on the Web (MIT Press, 2004), awarded best information science book of the year by the American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIST) and Digital Methods (MIT Press, 2013), awarded outstanding book of the year by the International Communication Association (ICA). Rogers has received research grants from among other institutions as the Open Society Foundations, Ford Foundation, MacArthur Foundation and Gates Foundation.