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Repurposing digital media for collective inquiry. Notes from the Public Data Lab 2017-2023

Jonathan Gray and Liliana Bounegru, Cofounder of the Public Data Lab, will present this interdisciplinary network and the knowledge learned from 6years of projects and activities.

Event, Research Seminar

Salle K.008, 1 Place St-Thomas d'Aquin, 75007 Paris


The Public Data Lab was founded in 2017 as an interdisciplinary network exploring what difference the digital makes in attending to public problems. It aims to develop materials and formats for collective inquiry with and about digital data, digital methods and digital infrastructures.

It developed out of a network of researchers with backgrounds in fields such as science and technology studies, media studies, design studies, political ecology and participatory arts-based methods. This network had previously gathered through funded projects (such as the H2020 funded EMAPS project, led by Bruno Latour), activities such as the Digital Methods Initiative Winter and Summer Schools, and through a shared interested in tools and approaches for gathering, analysing and visualising data from the web and online platforms and devices.

While many labs are housed within universities, the Public Data Lab was set-up as a distributed, trans-institutional, trans-national, trans-disciplinary network and as an “experimental space” for collaboration – gathering around specific projects and activities either through physical workshops or online channels. While strongly grounded in a shared set of tools, methods and approaches, the Public Data Lab has also been designed to accommodate a variety of different research programmes and styles rather than a single shared agenda – including “digital methods”, “inventive methods”, “critical analytics”, “experiments in participation”, “issue mapping” and “controversy mapping”.

Building on previous lab stories and reflections on collective inquiry with digital methods, this talk will explore some of the different approaches and formats that have emerged in the course of the Public Data Lab’s projects and activities to date, including around "fake news" and misinformation, air pollution, tax justice, climate denial, COVID-19 testing, conspiracy cultures, fact-checking, data journalism, nature-based solutions, political bots, forest fires, forest restoration, diasporic solidarity and collective identity formation. These projects have sought to curate methods, materials, techniques and arrangements in order to create spaces where problems can be addressed differently. This includes through repurposing, modifying and re-assembling “methods of the medium” and associated tools and datasets in order to address different kinds of questions about digital infrastructures, cultures and societies.

We will conclude by reflecting on what we have learned from these experiences about the lab as a socio-technical gathering for organising collaborations grounded in the social sciences, arts and humanities and how such arrangements may contribute to reconfiguring universities as spaces of experimental collective learning and inquiry.


Liliana Bounegru is Lecturer in Digital Methods at the Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London. She is also co-founder of the Public Data Lab and affiliated with the Digital Methods Initiative in Amsterdam and the médialab, Sciences Po in Paris. More about her work can be found here.

Jonathan W. Y. Gray is Senior Lecturer in Critical Infrastructure Studies at the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London; Cofounder of the Public Data Lab; and Research Associate at the Digital Methods Initiative (University of Amsterdam) and the médialab (Sciences Po, Paris). His research explores the role of digital data, methods and infrastructures in the “composition of collective life”. More about his work can be found at jonathangray.org and at @jwyg.

Practical informations

The seminar will be held on the Sciences Po campus, located 1 place Saint Thomas d'Aquin (Room K008), 75007 Paris.

Mandatory registration.