What is an important event? 175 million events and counting

Even a moderate sized media platforms like Github.com, a social coding site widely used by software developers, record millions of events. Such sites, with their millions of projects, participants, groups and organisations, can be understood as expressions of contemporary social life. But given such vast and complex forms of expression, how can social researchers get a feeling for what counts as an important event? Even if they have open access to the data, infrastructural, configurational, analytical, philosophical and financial problems make it hard to decide what counts as an important event amidst massive streaming data. Against the drive for immediacy and the allure of totality that characterises many engagements with data streams, the paper will describe our attempts to realise in numbers, graphics, code and language a feeling for important events on Github.

Adrian Mackenzie (Professor in Technological Cultures, Sociology Department, Lancaster University)

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