Computing for Democracy. Data journalism and the pursuit of objectivity
Sylvain Parasie will present his next book project
Event, Research Seminar
Salle du médialab, 13 rue de l'Université, 75007 Paris
"Over the last decade, many journalists have embraced computation as a means to address the multi-faceted crisis facing their profession – the contraction of news organizations’ financial resources, the decline of investigative reporting, and relentless suspicion of partisanship. Taking advantage of the growing availability of data and algorithms since the late 2000s, these journalists aim to demonstrate greater objectivity, become less dependent on their sources, and serve their customers more efficiently. Many news organizations, both in the US (e.g. ProPublica, New York Times’ “The Upshot”, FiveThirtyEight.com, etc.) and in Europe (The Guardian, Le Monde, Die Zeit, etc.), have embraced “data journalism” as a way to bridge the gap between journalism and science, and ultimately to boost journalism’s contribution to democracy.
This book is about how these emerging practices affect the whole journalistic profession and the role of journalism in a democracy. As journalists produce news based on the collection, processing, and analysis of data, they come to depend on a broader array of actors (data providers, software developers, computer scientists, and statisticians) who do not share their values regarding what constitutes worthy or useful information. How can journalists ensure that these emerging practices benefit democratic life? As citizens, can we expect these news products to make us more and better informed and more involved in public life?
Computing for Democracy answers these crucial questions by drawing on empirical studies conducted in the United States and France. It combines historical analysis and the study of contemporary news organizations. My main argument is that if we take this pursuit seriously – in other words, if we consider data journalists as knowledge producers in the same way as biologists or physicists – it becomes possible to identify the conditions under which the adoption of a computational perspective on news actually increases the journalistic contribution to democracy. I argue that when journalists manage to collectively maintain a high level of reflexivity regarding their practices in the new division of labor, this allows them to produce more robust and useful news."
Sylvain Parasie is a professor of sociology at Sciences Po. Student of the Ecole normale supérieure, he gratuated in economics and social sciences. He was a lecturer and then a professor at the University of Paris Est/Marne-la-Vallée.
Since 2010, his work has focused on how digital technologies are transforming the way people learn, debate and engage in the public space. He was particularly interested in how data displace established ways of producing and consuming journalistic information in the United States and France. His research also focuses on digital survey methods.
This seminar is open to all within the limits of available places. Please register in advance.