My name is Stefan Baack and in this blog I write about my research on civic hacking and data journalism. I’m a PhD student at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands and currently live and work in Berlin as a research fellow at the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society. I’m interested in the interconnections between civic hackers and data journalists and the related effects of ‘datafication’, the ongoing quantification and categorization of culture and society.
During the first half of my PhD, I studied the practices and values of civic hacking at the British NGO mySociety, one of the oldest and most influential civic tech organizations. Civic tech is a relatively new phenomenon that did not receive much attention in Media and Communication research or Journalism studies. As the popularity and the influence of the civic tech sector is growing, it is important to study its underlying practices and values to develop a better understanding of what civic tech is about and how it could affect society at large.
Building on the insights gained from this first case study, I currently study the relationship between civic hackers and data journalists in Berlin. The proliferation of data journalism led to an increased computation of journalistic practices and thereby also to an increased interaction between hackers and journalists, best illustrated by Hacks/Hackers. I’m interested in where civic hackers and journalists ‘meet’ each other: both in the sense of where they physically meet or directly communicate with each other and in a more abstract, metaphorical sense of how they overlap in their practices, in the way they think and so forth. How do civic hackers and journalists exchange, pick up, modify, ignore or reject each others practices, concepts or ideas?
Ultimately, I’m interested in how datafication affects civic engagement and journalism. By the end of my PhD, I will address this broader question by reflecting on the insights gained from the two case studies.