Research Articles

NOTE: The following articles are short-form academic and/or journalistic researches conducted by Sagar Hugar. A recurring theme is evident among these articles; they all deal with the Intersection of Media & Technology, which happens to be Sagar's broader research interest. Sagar employs methodologies  and approaches from the field of Humanities; like Political-economy approach, Intersectional approach, Comparative or cross-object approach, Media-materialist approach, Historical approach etc., to probe the intricacies of a given subject. 

Deplatforming an Infrastructure: a critical cartography of Huawei’s 5G technology

Huawei is a Chinese multinational technology company that provides telecommunications equipment and sells consumer electronics such as smartphones and laptops. In recent years they have gained a large share of the international electronics market in part due to extensive funding from the Chinese government. However, it is precisely this close relation between Huawei and the Chinese government that has caused most notably the United States government to hold Huawei to scrutiny, accusing them of espionage as well as fraud, which led to the 2018 defense funding bill in which the U.S. federal government is barred from doing business with Huawei due to security concerns. Furthermore, the U.S. government has since been convincing their allies not to cooperate with Huawei for the development of national 5G networks, a field in which Huawei is one of the leading businesses, due to precisely these security concerns, an effort which significantly impacts not only Huawei itself, but also rival companies, business partners, and other national governments. This research seeks to critically map the developments that have led to this current situation and closely examines the relations between various stakeholders and the ways they have been impacted as a result of these developments. Drawing upon a combined framework of infrastructure studies, platform studies, deplatforming, and critical cartography, this research attempts to answer the question “How have Huawei and its business practices been affected by different actors as a result of deplatforming efforts?”

Deep dive into deepfakes: Mapping the development of risk and deplatforming narratives of deepfake technology on news and social media

In late 2017, a Reddit user by the name of /u/deepfakes first started sharing so-called deepfakes: images and videos that have been digitally altered through the use of artificial intelligence in order to change the features of the people depicted in them to look like different people entirely. The most widespread application of deepfakes at this point was altering pornographic videos to make them depict various female celebrities. As their popularity grew, and a few months later in early 2018 an application that allows users to create their own deepfakes was released, tech websites and eventually other news media began to take notice, condemning the practice of sharing deepfakes on various grounds including but not limited to privacy concerns, questions of consent, as well as the potential undermining of our democratic society. While this quickly led to calls for deplatforming the practice, such promises are not easily kept due to the subversive nature of deepfakes themselves. Through use of the research question “What are the risk narratives surrounding the deplatforming of deepfakes?”, this research looks at the ways in which the risk narratives surrounding deepfakes developed over time, how the phenomenon spread throughout both news media and digital platforms, as well as the increasing calls for the deplatforming of the practice.

Replatforming the Deplatformed: A study on the role and response of external actors and communities in the de- and replatformisation of toxic content creators

Tyler ‘Tyler1’ Steinkamp is a video game streamer and content creator who became popular through playing and streaming League of Legends, an online game where two teams of five people work together to beat each other, on his Twitch.tv channel. He gained notoriety within the community because of his toxic behavior, which eventually led to the developers of League of Legends, Riot Games, banning him from playing the game on his stream. Nevertheless, his popularity continued to grow, and when Riot Games decided he changed his behavior enough to unban him, he broke the contemporary Twitch viewer record and has remained one of the most popular personalities the game has seen ever since. This research examines closely the ways in which actors within the League of Legends community played a role in the de-, and eventual replatformisation of Tyler1 through the research question ‘How do external actors respond to and influence the process of de- and replatformisation of content creators?’ Through analysis of different platforms and media outlets, this research shows how content moderators are influenced by in-flux group formations, and how this allowed a once controversial figure to become one of the game’s biggest figureheads.

News-work on Wikipedia: A Data-study on the 'European Migrant Crisis'

This research is a data-journalism take on Wikipedia as a news-source, and why & how news develops on Wikipedia. With a special focus on the English language Wikipedia page 'European Migrant Crisis' and its German, Polish, Swedish, and Danish versions, the research tends to analyse the meta-data of these wikipedia articles to know how journalistic gate-keeping is done on wikipedia (considering it is an open-source platform). The research also comments on whether Wikipedia articles on the European Migrant Crisis tend to nationalise as time progresses or universalise. The article employs the techniques of 'Digital Methods' as the methodology for the research and uses tools like Gephi and RawGraphs to visualise the data and seek further inferences.

Click Farming and the exploitation of human labor: what role does Facebook play?

Diving into the working of Click Farms, an industry dedicated to buy and sell social media vanity metrics (likes, views etc.,), this article sheds light on how tough a task it is for a person to work in these farms that are considered to be sub-legal or not fully legal. By taking a political-economy approach to the industry, the article investigates the ownership and power relations between click farms and its customers, Facebook and its advertisers. Subsequently, shedding light on how the extremely complex power relation and game for virtual satisfaction exploits human labor that goes into the field.

Twitter as a storytelling machine: Framing the Sudanese Revolution through Tweets

This research is a piece of data journalism that repurposes tweets and re-tweets on Twitter to identify different narratives around a single event. With regard to Sudan's recent revolution and the ongoing political developments in the country, this research sheds light on how the global news media reported the Sudanese revolution for a period of 1 week after the fall of the dicatator. Subsequently, how did the global twitter discuss the events reported. To do this, a set of tweets were scraped (that incorporate a relevant hashtag). These tweets were made by top global news organisations and by global twitter users during a selected time. The article employs the techniques of 'Digital Methods' as the methodology for the research. Digital Methods is the usage of natively digital data like hashtags, weblinks, search results, tweets etc., to tell a compelling story.

Search as Research: Comparing Journalistic Trends in Discourses Surrounding Gun Control During US Elections of 2012 & 2016

This is a piece of data journalism that aims to reveal how election campaigning in the U.S. may influence journalistic trends on topical issues like 'Gun Control'. By repurposing Google's search engine results, the article sheds light on how the narratives around 'Gun Control' were reported by US' top news media organisations during a selected time-period during Barack Obama's and Donald Trump's presidency tenure. The highlight of this research is the difference in Gun control narratives observed between Obama and Trump's administration. The article employs the techniques of 'Digital Methods' as the methodology for the research. Digital Methods is the usage of natively digital data like hashtags, weblinks, search results etc., to tell a compelling story.

‘We are our own Panopticons’: On Facebook Influencing Public Behaviour While Being Unaware of Its Role in the Process.

This article explores Facebook's affordances in the current political environment. By juxtaposing philosopher Michel Foucault's interpretation of a Panopticon (18th century prison model) against Facebook's structural setting, the article sheds light on how Facebook increasingly modifies public behaviour for both good and bad. The article employs cross-object and cross-historical methodology.

Mapping the evolution of public opinion on the Zwarte Piet debate as reflected on the Dutch & English language versions of the Zwarte Piet Wikipedia page

The article employs wikipedia as a tool to identify cultural differences between two entities. Looking into the on-going Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) controversy in the Netherlands, the article analyses the English language and Dutch language version wikipedia pages of Zwarte Piet to know how the local and global opinions (Dutch and English) surrounding Zwarte Piet have evolved over time. The article employs the techniques of 'Digital Methods' as a methodology for the research. Digital Methods is the usage of natively digital data like hashtags, web-links, search results, wikipedia edits etc., to tell a compelling story.

AI Fact Checking: Artificial? Yes. Intelligent?

Diving into the long-running academic debate on 'Humans versus Computers'', this article explores the role of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in the field of journalism. With the advent of Web 2.0 and social networking platforms, production and circulation of fake news experienced a rampant rise. As a reaction, human run Fact-checking platforms came into existence. This article sheds light on how AI and ML can bolster effective fact checking journalism.

News as a Product; but at what Cost?

This is a short academic article on the emergence of audience metrics, and commodification of news in the era of digital media. The article sheds light on how the the advent of new media platforms and audience metrics has turned the tables around by making consumers of news the ones who decide what should or should not go on a news report, contrary to the traditional norms of journalism where journalists held an editorial autonomy on what the public should read about. The article argues against the current notion of developments in the field.

'Masters of Media' blog over time: A meta-analysis

This article is a piece of data journalism that analyses blogs written by the students of MA New Media & Digital Culture (University of Amsterdam) from 2006 to 2019. The blog posts deal with A-to-Z about new media and the analysing them would shed light on how the connotation of 'New' in new media has changed over the years. The article also sheds light on the most popular new media objects and research concepts for new media students and scholars in the selected time period.
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