The new project of social media research and digital methods of iNOVA Media Lab researchers is to be developed in the Center of Advanced Internet Studies (CAIS) in Bochum, Germany. CAIS funding program has recently approved the working group proposal pitched by Janna Joceli Omena and Elena Pilipets for investigating bot engagement on social media.

This research partnership started in July 2019 when Pilipets (post-doc researcher and professor in Media Theory at Alpen-Adria Universität Klagenfurt, Austria) invited Omena (digital methods researcher and #SMARTDataSprint founder) to collaborate with her research on Tumblr value of engagement.

The common research interests have grown and, now, it is reflected on a working group that reunites an international network of researchers who aim to develop a critical framework with novel articulations of methods and theory corresponding the technological and societal entanglements constituting bot engagement. The group is formed by Jason Chao (University of Warwick/Universität Siegen), Mengying Li (Shanghai University), Ana Marta M. Flores (Universidade Nova de Lisboa/iNOVA Media Lab) and Alessia Musio (Politecnico di Milano/Density Design Lab).

Financially supported by CAIS, the activities of the working group will be developed from June 2020 to June 2021 and the researchers will physically meet in the Internet advanced research center in two different moments. Read more about the proposal below and visit additional links. 

Stick and Flow: A critical framework for investigating bot engagement on social media

This working group proposal is a continuation of exploratory research initiated in late 2017 and combined with a project developed in the context of the 2019 Digital Methods Summer School (Amsterdam) and at CAIS (Bochum) in July 2019. Drawing on our explorations of bots on Instagram and Tumblr, we propose a critical framework for investigating bot engagement as an ensemble of software affordances, human interests and techniques of mediation. Our aim is to develop novel articulations of methods and theory corresponding with the technological and societal entanglements constituting bot engagement. Using digital methods, media theory and internet ethnography, we argue that the study of social automation should consider three interconnected dimensions: i) the role of web or mobile applications, ii) the shifts in societal concerns around bot ‘imagination’ or how users relate to #bots through tagging practices, and finally, iii) bot agency or what we can learn from detecting and studying visual and textual content provided by social bot accounts. In order to account for implications and challenges of these dimensions for the understanding of digital society, we propose a network perspective on the ephemeral dynamics of “stick and flow” that constitute the ways in which bots operate on social media platforms and beyond.

Read more:
Data sprint report about Bots and the black market of social media engagement (2019). Digital Methods Initiative Summer School, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Presentation on Computer Vision & Digital Networks for Bot Engagement Studies at Reboot – Digital Arts and New Media Festival, Lisbon, Portugal.