Josh Cowls joined the OII as a Research Assistant in 2013, to work on the Sloan Foundation-funded project on Accessing and Using Big Data to Advance Social Science Knowledge.
Previously, Josh obtained a BA in History and Politics from the University of Exeter and an MSc in the Social Science of the Internet from the OII. For his MSc thesis he investigated whether and how the online social network Twitter impacts on the traditional agenda setting relationship between the media, politicians and the public.
Josh also has experience in front-line politics, having worked in the Policy Unit of a UK political party and on US presidential and senate campaigns. His research interests include the impact of big data sets on democracy and government, and the new forms and functions of the public sphere facilitated by online social networks.
big data, political participation, e-government, agenda setting theory, social networks
Positions held at the OII
- Research Assistant, September 2013 - August 2015
- MSc Student, October 2012 - August 2013
January 2014 - March 2015
The Big UK Domain Data for the Arts and Humanities project works with data derived from the UK domain crawl from 1996 to 2013, in order to develop a framework for the study of web archive data and produce a major history of the UK web space.
October 2012 - May 2014
The project will follow 'big data' from its public and private origins through open and closed pathways into the social sciences, and document and shape the ways they are being accessed and used to create new knowledge about the social world.
- Taylor, L., Cowls, J., Schroeder, R., and Meyer, E.T. (2014) Big Data and Positive Change in the Developing World. Policy & Internet 6 (4) 418-444.
- Hale, S.A., Yasseri, T., Cowls, J., Meyer, E.T., Schroeder, R., and Margetts, H. (2014) Mapping the UK webspace: Fifteen years of British universities on the web. ACM WebSci'14, Bloomington, Indiana.
- Schroeder, R. and Cowls, J. (2014) Big Data, Ethics, and the Social Implications of Knowledge Production. Paper presented at Data Ethics Workshop, KDD@Bloomberg, August 24 2014, New York, NY.
- Cowls, J. (2014) Mapping the UK Webspace: the topology of a national web domain. Presentation to 'Web Archiving and Archived Web — a new Research Method, a new Object of Study?', Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark, June 2014.
- Bellagio Big Data Workshop Participants (2014) Big data and positive social change in the developing world: A white paper for practitioners and researchers. Oxford: Oxford Internet Institute.
16 April 2015 Monocle
Monicle's broadcast news programme talks to Josh Cowls about the EU antitrust case against Google. (15.30 on the clock)
25 March 2015 Monocle 24
Josh Cowls talks about diplomacy on twitter after the US Ambassador to Libya left the site as a result of online attacks after she tweeted about an air strike. (from 20.00)
9 December 2014 Guardian Sportblog
Why the global football clubs are put so much store on scoring via social media. Josh Cowls talks about the online relationships between clubs and their supporters around the world.
28 August 2014 Washington Post
A feature on the this year’s Association for Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining conference mentions a presentation by Josh Cowls.
1 June 2014 BBC Radio Oxford
Josh Cowls joined the Sunday morning discussion show on local BBC Radio Oxford talking about the upsides and downsides of social media. (c17:44 on the clock)
Josh Cowls on 21 Dec 2015 21:50PM
Cowls, Josh and Schroeder, Ralph (2015) Causation, Correlation, and Big Data in Social Science Research. Policy & Internet 7 (4), 447-472. The emergence of big data offers not only a potential boon for social scientific inquiry, but also raises [...]
Josh Cowls on 26 Jun 2015 11:19AM
The following is a slightly edited version of a talk I gave at the Data Power conference in Sheffield this week, presenting work by myself and Ralph Schroeder. The question of what drives news coverage far pre-dates the Internet and the rise of social [...]
Josh Cowls on 21 Apr 2015 20:26PM
Grant Shapps is in the headlines after being accused of self-serving edits made to his own entry on Wikipedia, as well as unflattering changes made to rivals’ pages. But he may not be the only politician giving himself a virtual facelift. Analysis [...]
Josh Cowls on 2 Feb 2015 22:17PM
Fjeld, Morten, Woźniak, Paweł, Cowls, Josh and Nardi, Bonnie (2015). Ad-hoc encounters with big data: Engaging citizens in conversations around tabletops. First Monday 20 (2). The increasing abundance of data creates new opportunities for communities of [...]
Josh Cowls on 18 Dec 2014 07:37AM
In definitional terms, big data is, as we are repeatedly told, a matter of volume, velocity, variety and sometimes veracity. But perhaps as a result of a fifth v, the vagueness of this definition, those discussing the present and future impact of big data [...]
Josh Cowls on 27 Oct 2014 21:08PM
I’m currently in Washington DC to attend the IEEE International Conference on Big Data. The first day is set aside for workshops, and I’ve just attended a really insightful one on ‘Big Humanities Data’. The diversity of work [...]
Josh Cowls on 26 Sep 2014 22:39PM
Cowls, Josh (2014) The Crowd in the Cloud? Three challenges for gauging public opinion online. IPP2014: Crowdsourcing for Politics and Policy, September 2014, Oxford, UK. Much excitement surrounds the use of social sources of big data – harvested from [...]
Josh Cowls on 23 Jul 2014 16:28PM
I’m currently writing up a paper for submission to the Internet, Politics and Policy 2014 conference to be held by the OII in September. My paper – which draws substantially on interviews conducted as part of the Sloan Foundation-funded [...]
Josh Cowls on 14 Jul 2014 15:42PM
The past fortnight saw the first ripples of reaction to the European Court of Justice’s assertion of a citizen’s ‘right to be forgotten’ online. Following the court’s ruling, Google began the implementation of a process [...]
Josh Cowls on 13 May 2014 10:13AM
One of the early discussions emerging at our ‘Big Data for Social Change’ at the Rockefeller Center in Bellagio surrounds how the act of capturing of big data impinges on our understanding of it. There are three strands in particular which [...]
Josh Cowls on 31 Mar 2014 13:37PM
During the construction of a jigsaw or model, there is invariably a moment in which one’s perception shifts from the level of ‘parts’ to the level of ‘whole’ – when, as it were, the bigger picture becomes clear. [...]
Josh Cowls on 19 Feb 2014 16:11PM
“What social data can tell you: pretty much everything” proclaimed Azeem Azhar, founder of PeerIndex, in a popular post on LinkedIn earlier this week. We can perhaps forgive Azhar the hyperbolic lead-in, but hisarticle as a whole indulges in [...]
Josh Cowls on 28 Jan 2014 16:51PM
“Like Noah’s ark, (there was) every kind of creature in every walk of life. They included a town wit, a grave citizen, a worthy lawyer, a worship justice, a reverend nonconformist, and a voluble sailor.” The above description comes from [...]
Josh Cowls on 11 Dec 2013 09:53AM
Following an earlier, somewhat rantier post on this blog when the news originally broke, I’ve written a more academically-oriented piece on British political parties’ cyber-revisionism with Mor Rubenstein, a current MSc student here at the [...]
Josh Cowls on 28 Nov 2013 10:32AM
To Google Campus in east London to hear what a number of practitioners thought were the most controversial questions surrounding the use and abuse of big data. After a couple of lightning pitches from big data startups (if you dream of using augmented [...]
Josh Cowls on 28 Oct 2013 16:05PM
On Friday I attended the British Sociological Association’s Presidential Event at the British Library, titled ‘The Challenge of Big Data’. The venue couldn’t have been more symbolically appropriate: the British Library collection holds more than 150 [...]