Post APIcalypse research | Komm wir fahrn nach Amsterdam…

I´m going to Amsterdam! I am excited to be a participant in the 2020 Winter school of the Digital Method Initiative in Amsterdam. My collegue Jule Scheper is going too, and thus it´ll be like a works outing of the Communication Data Science Projektes at IJK.
The winter school is focusing on the possibilities how we can gather data now, after Facebook has shut down its pages API and replaced it with Social Science One initiative. Social Science One is a program, where researchers are given access to selected Facebook data. This access is regulated by a review process organized by independent scientists. At first glance, this looks like a great initiative. But not at second glance, because it limits access to only a few selected researchers and cements the unequal distribution of resources (financial, personnel, know-how) that already exists. It is to be feared that critical research questions will not be submitted in the first place and that research besides the mainstream or that is relevant for minorities only will not be considered at all. The possibility of simply experimenting with Facebook data or exploring it is taken away. The demand to deliver transparent, comprehensible scientific research (Open Science) is being nipped in the bud. If you want to read critique on Social Science One you will find it here.
However, Facebook has switched off the Pages API and this is a reality that sets us back considerably in our everyday research. The comfortable API access is gone. Of course there is still the possibility to simply scrape the relevant data. But there is a great deal of legal uncertainty and many researchers are not sure what they are allowed to do and what they are not allowed to do (to be honest, I´m not sure as well). Fortunately, at least the EU has established in Article 3 of the EU Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market that there are exceptions for scientists in data mining. A weak compensation. Besides, it is of course hard to understand why this should only apply to scientists? After all, in many cases the data are freely accessible. So manual processing is allowed, automated processing prohibited? Surely this severely limits civil society involvement in this area…
Anyway, even if I really like to scrape – it is always such a nice DIY experience – web scraping cannot be the solution. It is often too cumbersome and error-prone. Other possibilities are data donations, ethnographic approaches and counter archiving. All of them offer advantages and disadvantages, but in my opinion, they can answer different questions, all of which are important. I am very curious about the solutions that we will work out in Amsterdam in January! I’m also looking forward to the week because it’s planned to be very eventful. Besides keynotes and tutorials there will also be a data sprint. I’m especially looking forward to the latter, because I’ve always wanted to try out the format, but haven’t had the opportunity to do so yet.
PS: Sorry for the cheese music clip. It my current Ohrwurm.

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