Steve Walker

Some less or more well-organised thoughts

Archive for the ‘social media’ Category

Algorithmic flattery and slander

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I have a terrific research record.At the time of writing, my 424 publications have been cited a shade under 5,000 times. I’ve worked with over 700 co-authors, who I know will be pleased to have worked with me in the fields of information retrieval, statistics and sociology.


In case you are surprised, or even suspicious that I’ve been using photoshop in this picture, you can check  at: (viewed 17/1/14).

Of course, this is a nonsense. A small fraction of these publications are mine; I haven’t checked them all, but for example, papers in child protection written by a colleague who used to work at the OU, also called Steve Walker, are attributed to me. He might be a little less impressed with this account of my research than I hope you were. So far, so amusing (for me, at least). But perhaps not: measures and metrics of research impact are becoming increasingly important in the allocation of research funding, academic promotion and so on. Were research funders to automate their trawling of impact, this could have quite a positive impact for me, though not necessarily for other Steve Walkers.Microsoft’s automated aggregation is clearly wildly inaccurate. Of course, at one level this is a simple data problem – researchers’ names and affiliations don’t provide unique keys for databases. There are initiatives (e.g. ORCID) which aim to provide unique, persistent identifiers for researches (to go along with those for our publications) that allow us to be identified, monitored and measured more accurately. I won’t take that line of thought any further here.

Really what I want to do is point out the risks of algorithmic attribution of data to people. The reliability is currently very poor, even in the relatively structured field of academic publishing. When we look at facial recognition in devices like Google glass through various hacked and ‘unauthorised’ apps (see for e.g.

The concern here is usually cited as ‘privacy’. This is a legitimate and serious concern, of course, but it’s usually premised on the assumption that the facial recognition actually works and can attach a face reliably to data about the person. At least as worrying is the concern that in reality we can’t assume that this is the case (for example, look at the reliability of facial recognition in Picasa, if you’ve tried). The possible problems caused by mis-identification are very worrying . The inflation of my publication record is more amusing than annoying, but imagine being publicly mis-idenitified as a serial criminal or Man Utd supporter.


Written by Steve

January 17, 2014 at 12:48 pm

Digital storytelling and participatory video

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At last week’s Global Labour Institute Summer School in Barnsley, I mentioned digital storytelling and participatory video as ways in which otherwise untold stories can be told, and collective organising facilitated/documented. This is not my field, but with the help of Chris High, Clodagh Miskelly and Sarah Copeland, here are some links that might be useful in thinking about how this might be used by summer school participants and their organisations.

Firstly, an example of a digital story – “Who’s your boss” – by Maxine, an organiser with the Erotic Services Providers’ Union in California. Secondly, in  ‘Quadian‘ a young man in the US tells of his thoughts about a town in Pakistan where he grew up. These types of personal stories are, I think, usually the product of workshops at which people learn to use the technology to articulate their stories.

Participatory video seems to be more about communities or groups of people collaborating to articulate a story, often as part of a campaign. Here, a British group ‘Insightshare’ explain how they use  participatory video. Here, a small group of villagers from Melandi, Rajshahi province, Bangladesh explain a community fish project.

Update: I missed a response to my tweet asking for example pointing me at some digital stories posted on YouTube by members of the US union SEIU, I think following the set up of a digital storytelling centre with a union Local in Chicago. Type ‘SEIU digital storytelling’ in your favourite search engine to find examples.

Written by Steve

July 16, 2012 at 11:03 am

Posted in social media, unions

Mug shot – testing WordPress android app

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A mug shot as I try out the WordPress android app. Seems pretty straightforward.

Written by Steve

May 10, 2012 at 7:21 pm

Posted in social media

Now I’m a curator too, apparently – IBZL on Scoop

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My colleague Shailey Minocha emailled me asking why I used instead of to curate stuff. I hadn’t come across, so have just spent an hour creating a scoop topic about IBZL as a way of seeing what it is. Which wasn’t what I meant to do when I settled down at my desk this afternoon…

Written by Steve

November 13, 2011 at 6:40 pm

Posted in IBZL, social media


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This blog has been languishing since last summer. Since then, I’ve moved to the Open University. I’ve long been an admirer of the OU, with fond memories of the late night broadcasts of the 70s. It never ceases to amaze me that so many remember them for the appearance of the presenters (I’m looking forward to seeing how many of the ‘cool’ YouTube videos stand the test of time); much more significantly they were groundbreaking uses of technology to make higher education available to a wider audience, whether registered on a course or not. I enjoyed the peeks they offered into all manner of disciplines, but one that particularly sticks in the mind is a programme demonstrating the div, grad and curl functions with great clarity with the aid of a large tank of water; something that had baffled me as an undergraduate (though that may be related to my attendance at lectures…).

Over the last few years, I’ve done a fair amount of work in the area of learning technologies myself. The OU has stayeed at the forefront through its online and web-based distance learning technologies. It’s an exciting place to be.

But the immediate inspiration for having another go at keeping a blog has been seeing the work of colleagues in my new department, of Communications and Systems. Tony Hirst reacted to Stephen Carter’s ‘Digital Britain – Interim Report‘ and the rather limited opportunities to respond by creating (with Joss Winn) Here, the report is broken down and can be commented paragraph by paragraph (as reported in the Guardian). He’s also written an open letter to Carter and his team inviting them to treat this as a contribution to the consultation. It will be interesting to see to what extent they have grasped the significance of ‘Digital Britain’; the evidence of the interim report is not encouraging.

Written by Steve

February 7, 2009 at 12:11 pm

Posted in social media

Student projects – web 2.0 & community

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Premila Gamage and I have just finished this year’s delivery of our Masters’ module ‘Digital Media & Communication’. The module is taken primarily by students on our Information Studies course, who are, or who would like to become, librarians of one type or another. This year we replaced a web design exercise with one requiring students to build an information resource using Web 2.0 tools. As ever, the students have produced some fabuluous work: I’ll highlight two here because of their topics.

The first is Iona Preston’s on the use of Web 2.0 in community organisations, at: Iona is currently evaluating a project with Information for Mental Health in Leeds to look at the possibility of using web 2.0 applications, in particular in the context of the deaf community.

The second is Richard Ellison’s wiki on the history of folk clubs in North Yorkshire. While not a great devotee of folk music personally, this is a smashing example of using these tools to collaborate on a community history project. The pages already include photos, video and audio recordings, publicity materials for venues and events and so on.


Written by Steve

May 29, 2008 at 3:31 pm

Posted in social media

Facebook beacon privacy

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There’s been a lot in the press recently about privacy and Facebook (and other social networking sites), as people share increasing amounts about themselves with wider audiences, which might be used either in fraud attempts or simply to discredit people. A recent addition to Facebook is the ‘Beacon’ advertising system. Bill Thompson has noted his first experience of this and practical steps that Firefox users, at least, can take to prevent Facebook’s monitoring of your wider web use. See

Written by Steve

November 11, 2007 at 11:32 am

Posted in social media

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