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Arts & Humanities

Democratising our social data

Everywhere you look – on the street, the tube, in cafes and in classrooms – you see people tapping away on smartphones and tablets. And whether it’s sending an email, a tweet or even browsing the internet, all this activity is creating an unprecedented wealth of data about who we are and what we do.

socialdata

Until now, access to all this data has been restricted to a handful of companies and government agencies. But a new project led by two King’s researchers hopes to democratise this information and open up exciting new avenues for research and creativity, both in the academic community and in among the general public as well.

The ‘Our Data, Ourselves’ project, led by the Department of Digital Humanities’ Dr Tobias Blanke and Dr Mark Coté, Lecturer in Digital Culture and Society, has been awarded £330,000 by the Arts & Humanities Research Council as it takes the first steps in turning what they call ‘Big Social Data’ into an open and accessible resource for all.

‘Collectively, we now generate more data in a day than we did in all of 2002,’ explains Dr Coté. ‘This data – who we communicate with, what we say, what we like and dislike, what we are interested in, where we are and when – comprises detailed digital personal archives. But it also acts as the basic (and highly profitable) raw material for corporations like Google and Facebook. What’s missing is free and open access to the data we generate, and our research is addressing this democratic deficit.’

‘Our Data, Ourselves’ is unique in partnering with Young Rewired State, a national coalition of young computer programmers who will collaborate in a series of 'hackathons' to develop tools and apps to store and access the data and make it easier to visualize and analyze. The project will also host a summer school at King’s in 2014 as well as a number of public workshops and talks to share its findings with general public.

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