DDH researchers contribute chapters to book on “Digital (In)Justice in the Smart City”

Researchers at the Department of Digital Humanities have contributed chapters to a new book on Digital (In)justice in the Smart City on Toronto University Press.

Güneş Tavmen wrote a chapter on “Cybernetic Urbanism: Tracing the Development of the Responsibilized Subject and Self-Organizing Communities in Smart Cities”.

Jonathan Gray co-wrote a piece with Noortje Marres on “Articulating Urban Collectives with Data”.

Here is an excerpt from the book blurb:

In the contemporary moment, smart cities have become the dominant paradigm for urban planning and administration, which involves weaving the urban fabric with digital technologies. Recently, however, the promises of smart cities have been gradually supplanted by recognition of their inherent inequalities, and scholars are increasingly working to envision alternative smart cities.

Informed by these pressing challenges, Digital (In)Justice in the Smart City foregrounds discussions of how we should think of and work towards urban digital justice in the smart city. It provides a deep exploration of the sources of injustice that percolate throughout a range of sociotechnical assemblages, and it questions whether working towards more just, sustainable, liveable, and egalitarian cities requires that we look beyond the limitations of “smartness” altogether. The book grapples with how geographies impact smart city visions and roll-outs, on the one hand, and how (unjust) geographies are produced in smart pursuits, on the other. Ultimately, Digital (In)Justice in the Smart City envisions alternative cities – smart or merely digital – and outlines the sorts of roles that the commons, utopia, and the law might take on in our conceptions and realizations of better cities.

Workshop: “Infrastructuring alternatives: Mastodon, the Fediverse and beyond”, 6th April 2023

We’re looking forward to hosting Roel Roscam Abbing (Malmö University / lurk.org) for a workshop on “Infrastructuring alternatives: Mastodon, the Fediverse and beyond”.

The workshop will take place on 6th April, at King’s College London, Strand Campus. Further details are available below.

Infrastructuring alternatives: Mastodon, the Fediverse and beyond

  • When? 6th of April 2023, 1-5pm
  • Where? Strand Campus, King’s College London

After many years of inaction and, one might say, neglect on the issue of public digital infrastructures,  there is a moment of opportunity in regard to social media systems. The last year saw a marked increase in interest in alternative social media, such as Mastodon, in response to the highly mediatised takeover and subsequent mismanagement of Twitter by Elon Musk. This event served as a sudden wake-up call for different communities which relied on that privatized social infrastructure to, for example, disseminate knowledge.  

This workshop brings together scholars, independent researchers and media activists to consider this moment and what action might look like. The workshop introduces the question of alternative social media and how a software like Mastodon, based on its federated topology, allows for different relationships between user communities and their infrastructures. The workshop introduces the software in a hands-on way, both from use and administrative perspectives, as a way to understand what federation entails. The notion of federation was theorized as an organizational form in which local units agree to share governance to scale up organizational capacity and address larger shared issues, without giving up on local diversity and pluralism. Within alternative social media, the federation implies interoperable but separately managed entities which can set their own policy. However, as yet, they have no way of addressing issues that supersede the level of the local. The question thus posed by the workshop is how to scale and support alternative and public digital infrastructures? What approaches for doing so exist, and what can we imagine?

Due to the format of this workshop there will be a limited number of spaces for this event. If you’re interested in joining please send a note to jonathan.gray@kcl.ac.uk.

This workshop is co-organised by the Centre for Digital Culture, the Digital Futures Institute and the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London together with the Critical Infrastructure Studies collective and Centre for Digital Inquiry, University of Warwick.

Image: “Fed up!” poster by Artemis Gryllaki, Bohye Woo and Lídia Pereira.

Video from “Creative AI: Theory and Practice” symposium

In January the Creative AI Lab at King’s College London/Serpentine (Professor Mercedes Bunz and curator Eva Jäger as Lab’s co-founders, Dr Daniel Chávez Heras, PhD student Alasdair Milne, Professor Joanna Zylinska) hosted a one-day symposium supported by the King’s Institute for Artificial Intelligence.

Colleagues from disciplines across King’s were invited to discuss what the concept of ‘creative AI’ means to them and/or to show some specific projects through which it can be enacted.

Videos of the talks are now available here.

New paper: “Visual Models for Social Media Image Analysis: Groupings, Engagement, Trends, and Rankings”

A new article on “Visual Models for Social Media Image Analysis: Groupings, Engagement, Trends, and Rankings” co-authored by DDH researchers Gabriele ColomboLiliana Bounegru and Jonathan Gray has just been published in the International Journal of Communication (IJOC). It is available as an open access PDF. Here’s the abstract:

With social media image analysis, one collects and interprets online images for the study of topical affairs. This analytical undertaking requires formats for displaying collections of images that enable their inspection. First, we discuss features of social media images to make a case for studying them in groups (rather than individually): multiplicity, circulation, modification, networkedness, and platform specificity. In all, these offer reasons and means for an approach to social media image research that privileges the collection of images as its analytical object. Second, taking the 2019 Amazon rainforest fires as a case study, we present four visual models for analyzing collections of social media images. Each visual model matches a distinctive spatial arrangement with a type of analysis: grouping images by theme with clusters, surfacing dominant images and their engagement with treemaps, following image trends with plots, and comparing image rankings across platforms with grids.

Investigating fossil fuel greenwashing with Global Witness

Researchers at the Department of Digital Humanities contributed to an investigation into “Fossil fuel greenwash” with Global Witness as part of a broader collaboration on the politics of “nature-based solutions”.

Here’s an excerpt from the methodology section:

To examine the companies’ Twitter images, we worked with researchers from the Department of Digital Humanities at Kings College London and the Public Data Lab to collate images tweeted by the companies. This enabled us to review image and content over time, including coupled text.

Each advertisement and image tweet was analysed for subject matter and style. The text and any voiceover or speech were documented together with the item’s themes. These were assessed against the Climate Social Science Network’s definition of greenwashing (‘a variety of misleading communications and practices that intentionally or not, induce false positive perceptions of an organization’s environmental performance’) and the CMA’s Green Claims Code guidance on misleading environmental claims.

DDH Research Associate Rachel Pistol on Channel 5’s “No Place Like Home”

Dr. Rachel Pistol, Research Associate at the Department of Digital Humanities and UK National Coordinator of the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure (EHRI) has contributed to the latest series of Channel 5’s “No Place Like Home”.

In the episode, Rachel discusses Second World War internment camp, Warth Mills, in Bury, as Journalist and News Broadcaster Victoria Derbyshire discovers more about the historical origins of her hometown, Greater Manchester.

As Rachel says:

In May 1940 there was a real fear Britain would be invaded and their could be spies and saboteurs hiding in the UK. This led to calls for mass internment and up to 28,000 Germans, Austrians and Italians were rounded up. There wasn’t enough accommodation to house all these individuals so temporary camps were created including Warth Mills, which was by far the worst of all the camps.

Many internees were sent to Canada and Australia but sadly the second ship to set sail, the Arandora Star was torpedoed and sank with the loss of over 700 lives. Many of the men on board the Arandora Star endured the terrible conditions at Warth Mills before setting sail on that fateful journey. A memorial now stands at the site to commemorate this tragic loss.

Victoria Derbyshire commented:

They were people who had escaped persecution in their own country, come here for asylum, and then suddenly they end being looked at in a different way and they’re not refugees any more they’re people to be suspected as spies…it’s really distressing.

Africa Week/DH Event: African languages and technological transformations (8 March, online)

The Department of Digital Humanities’ ‘Going Global’ seminar series is holding an online event as part of KCL’s annual Africa Week on ‘African languages and technological transformations: debating knowledge, rights and power on a digital continent’. Join Nanjala Nyabola (tech activist and researcher), Mohamed Abdimalik (data journalist); and Pete Chonka (lecturer in global digital cultures) on Zoom on Wednesday 8th March 2023 (4pm UK). The registration link is here.

Event details

As elsewhere in the world, African societies are grappling with the many implications of digital transformations in areas relating to the economy, media, politics and cultural expression.

Citizens, activists and researchers on the continent are increasingly interested in the power and value of data in different fields, but also in the many challenges related to digital harms, digital rights, surveillance and global power imbalances in technology development. Interlinked with these debates, digital transformations are also raising big questions about the future of languages on continent characterised by huge linguistic diversity.

  • Can people engage in debates about digitisation using indigenous languages?
  • How does linguistic colonialism manifest itself in digital technologies?
  • What are the implications of digital platform use for the future of African languages?

This Africa Week event (held in conjunction with the Department of Digital Humanities’ Going Global research seminar series) brings together researchers, activists and practitioners who are engaging with these questions. In particular, it will showcase work that has been underway in different African contexts to develop indigenous language lexicons to inform, stimulate and open up discussions around issues of digital rights and transformations to wider groups of stakeholders.

This event is part of the African Leadership Centre’s – Africa Week 2023 – taking place 6-10 March 2023.

This event is online only.


  • Moderator: Dr Peter Chonka, Lecturer in global digital cultures at King’s Department of Digital Humanities
  • Nanjala Nyabola, Writer, analyst and activist
  • Mohamed Abdimalik, Data Journalist

Introducing forestscapes and open call for forest sounds

The forestscapes project is a collaboration between the Department of Digital Humanities, the Department of Geography and the Centre for Digital Culture at King’s College London, together with the Public Data Lab. It is supported by the National Environmental Research Council.

Soundscapes as method

How can soundscapes be used as a way to attend to forest life and the many different ways that we narrate and relate to forests, forest issues and forest protection and restoration efforts?

Forests and their wider ecologies are presented not only as sites of conservation and relaxation, but also as crucial infrastructures in addressing and building resilience against the effects of climate change; habitats for endangered species; hotspots of biodiversity; part of poverty alleviation programmes; sites for ecotourism, health and wellbeing; scenes of neocolonial afforestation; backdrops for corporate greenwashing; landscapes of danger, violence, destruction and resource conflicts; and places where different kinds of planetary futures may emerge. Forests are involved in collective life in many ways.

In this context, the forestscapes project will explore, document and demonstrate generative arts-based methods for recomposing collections of sound materials to support “collective inquiry” into forests as living cultural landscapes. It aims to facilitate interdisciplinary exchanges between natural scientists, social scientists, arts and humanities researchers, artists and public-spirited organisations and institutions working on forest issues.

While many previous works have explored sound as a medium for sensory immersion, (e.g. field recordings), forestscapes explores how recomposing sound material may explore forests as mediatised and contested cultural landscapes: diverse sites of many different (and marginalised) kinds of beings, relations, histories and representations. As part of the project we will co-create new sound works, as well as generative composition techniques using open source software and hardware.

Research on visual methods has explored how to work with “folders of images”, including formats for the re-arrangement of images for collective interpretation. Forestscapes will explore generative methods and techniques for working with “folders of sound” – whether folders of site-based recordings or collections of sounds associated with a particular place gathered from the web and social media.

Further details and materials from the project will be added here.

Continue reading “Introducing forestscapes and open call for forest sounds”

Shannon Mattern: “Modeling Doubt, Coding Humility: A Speculative Syllabus”

We’re pleased to announce that we’ll be hosting Shannon Mattern talk on “Modeling Doubt, Coding Humility: A Speculative Syllabus” on Thursday 11th May 2023, as part of a series of King’s Public Lectures in Digital Humanities. Further details are copied below and you can register here.

Modeling Doubt, Coding Humility: A Speculative Syllabus

At a time of increasing artificial intelligence and proliferating conspiracy, faith in ubiquitous data capture and mistrust of public institutions, the ascendance of STEM and declining support for the arts and humanities, we might wonder what kind of epistemological world we’re creating. Prevalent ways of knowing have tended to weaponize uncertainty or ambiguity, as we’ve seen in relation to COVID vaccines, elections, climate, and myriad political scandals. In this talk I’ll sketch out a speculative syllabus for a future class about the place of humility and doubt in various fields of study and practice. We’ll examine how we might use a range of methods and tools — diverse writing styles, modes of visualization and sonification, ways of structuring virtual conversations, etc — to express uncertainty and invite more thoughtful, reflective engagement with our professional and public audiences and interlocutors.


Shannon Mattern is the Penn Presidential Compact Professor of Media Studies at Art History at the University of Pennsylvania. From 2004 to 2022, she served in the Department of Anthropology and the School of Media Studies at The New School in New York. Her writing and teaching focus on media architectures and infrastructures and spatial epistemologies. She has written books about libraries, maps, and urban intelligence, and she contributes a column about urban data and mediated spaces to Places Journal. You can find her at wordsinspace.net.

This event is co-organised by the King’s College London Department of Digital Humanities, the Centre for Digital Culture and the Digital Futures Institute.

As capacity is limited and there has been significant demand for this event, the talk will now also be live-streamed here.

Creative AI Lab position paper: ‘Creative—Critical—Constructive—Collaborative—Computational: Towards a C5 model in Creative AI’

The Creative AI Lab (a collaboration between Serpentine’s R&D Platform and Department of Digital Humanities) has the pleasure to announce the publication of a new position paper, ‘Creative—Critical—Constructive—Collaborative—Computational: Towards a C5 model in Creative AI’. 

The paper analyses creative activity enabled by machine learning and recognised under the banner of ‘Creative AI’. The theoretical discussion is anchored in critical reflection on the activities in which we have been involved as part of our Lab. The paper proposes a C5 model (‘Creative—Critical—Constructive—Collaborative—Computational’) bringing together technical research and conceptual inquiry, while shifting focus from artefacts to their wider contexts, processes and infrastructures. It also outlines directions for future research on creativity and AI.

The paper is open access and you can download it here.