Dr James Allen-Robertson

Senior Lecturer
Department of Sociology
Dr James Allen-Robertson
  • Email

  • Telephone

    +44 (0) 1206 872273

  • Location

    6.330, Colchester Campus

  • Academic support hours

    Autumn 2020/21 Tues: 10-11, Thurs: 3-4 See Moodle for Zoom link



Digital Sociologist and Computational Social Scientist interested in the relationship between humans and technology, radical online cultures, and in the development of new digital methods using data science. Designer and convenor of our BSc Sociology with Data Science, I teach sociologists how to program for research and social good. I am also the author of Sage Campus' course on 'Collecting Social Media Data' and frequently run workshops on Web Scraping for Social Research. I collaborate with a host of great academics, and have published on topics such as the history of digital piracy, the visual sociology of environmental protest online, the materiality of digital media and medical misinformation. In many of these collaborations I generate and work with large scale datasets deploying network analysis, text analysis , data visualisation and machine learning. My current substantive projects are mapping and studying radical far-right tech cultures; unearthing global trends in human rights violations using network analysis; and using text mining to explore tech industry responses to surveillance policy.


  • BA Sociology (2007)

  • MA Social Research Methods (2008)

  • PhD - Digital Culture Industry (2011)

Research and professional activities

Research interests

Algorithmic Power

Open to supervise

Web Scraping

Open to supervise

Text Mining

Open to supervise

Digital Cultures

Open to supervise

Software Studies

Open to supervise

Hacker Subcultures

Open to supervise

The Dark Web

Open to supervise

Science and Technology Studies

Open to supervise

Computational Social Science

Key words: web scraping
Open to supervise

Current research

The Networks of Business and Human Rights

Mapping the relationships between business sectors and human rights violations. The project utilises data provided by Business and Human Rights Resource Centre. Collaboration with Dr. Nicole Janz, University of Nottingham.

Computational Method: Visual Object Detection for Large Scale Social Media Analysis

Whilst social media data is routinely used for social science research, often users communicate through visual as well as textual material. Making this visual material interpretable by researchers at scales beyond manual coding is a key issue for future social science work. This project, funded by the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust aims to develop processes for utilising pre-trained neural networks for object detection in images, to make their contents more immediately accessible at scale for researchers.

Gig Economy Discourses

Utilising large scale semantic models of text to explore discourses within the gig economy, particularly in relation to algorithmic power and sexual assault.

Topic Modelling the Investigatory Powers Act

How did key stakeholders in the UK Investigatory Powers Bill Consultation frame their position to new state surveillance powers? Utilising computational topic modelling of the written submissions this project extracts and demonstrates the key topics expressed by different types of stakeholders and illuminates how they framed their interests.

Conferences and presentations

Medical misinformation and social harm in non-science-based health practices

EUROCRIM 2019, Ghent 18-21 September 2019, Ghent, Belgium, 20/9/2019

Encrypting Human Rights: The intertwining of voices in the UK state surveillance debate

International Conference in Ideology and Discourse Analysis 2019, Colchester, United Kingdom, 31/5/2019

What can Data Scientists Learn from Social Scientists?

Invited presentation, Interdisciplinary Alchemy: Data Science + Social Science, London, United Kingdom, 7/11/2018

The Uber Game: Exploring the User/Algorithm Relationship through new Computational Methods

Digital Cultures: Knowledge | Culture | Technology, Lüneburg, Germany, 21/9/2018

Activism against medicine on social media: untangling the #novax protest on Twitter

18th Annual Conference of the European Society of Criminology, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 31/8/2018

Computational Social Science

Invited presentation, National Centre for Research Methods Festival, Bath, United Kingdom, 5/7/2018

Representing environmental harm and resistance on Twitter: The case of the TAP pipeline in Italy

Global Issues, Cultural Perspectives, Utrecht, Netherlands, 29/6/2018

The Uber Game: Exploring Algorithmic Managment and Resistance

Networked Publics: Association of Internet Researchers 2017, Tartu, Estonia, 21/10/2017

Representing environmental harm and resistance on Twitter: The case of the TAP pipeline in Italy

Annual Conference of the European Society of Criminology, Cardiff, United Kingdom, 18/9/2017

October 2015 - ' The Materiality of Digital Media' presented at the Association of Internet Researchers (AOIR) Annual Conference (IR16), Phoenix Arizona - USA

Pheonix, United States, 2015

June 2014 - 'Music Mashups: Creative Consumption and Cultures of Constant Reference', presented at 'Creating Cultures', Kings College London

London, United Kingdom, 2014

November 2013 - 'Competing with Free: Lessons from the History of Digital Distribution', presented at 'Online Cultural Consumers and Museums Symposium'. Kings College London

London, United Kingdom, 2013

September 2011 - Internet Archives & Documentary Analysis, presented at A Decade in Internet Time: Symposium on the Dynamics of the Internet and Society.The Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford.

Oxford, United Kingdom, 2011

Teaching and supervision

Current teaching responsibilities

  • Navigating the Digital World (CS220)

  • Media, Culture and Society (SC106)

  • Social Data Science: Code, Text and Networks (SC207)

  • Digital Society (SC224)

  • Continuity and Controversy in Sociology: Sociological Analysis II (SC201)

Previous supervision

Kristen Michelle Schaubhut
Kristen Michelle Schaubhut
Thesis title: Digital Communication Technologies in Romantic Relationships
Degree subject: Sociology
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 3/11/2020
Irina Ilinca Straton
Irina Ilinca Straton
Thesis title: By Knot of One the Spell's Begun: Finding the Wiccan Path. an Investigation of Conversion Practices Within the Wicca Community.
Degree subject: Sociology
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 18/8/2020
Benjamin Joshua Turpin
Benjamin Joshua Turpin
Thesis title: Simulating Disempowerment: The Rhetoric and Reception of Social Realism in Video Games
Degree subject: Sociology
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 16/4/2020
Eduardo Vicente Goncalves
Eduardo Vicente Goncalves
Thesis title: Crowd Funding: Between Politics and Antipolitics
Degree subject: Sociology
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 24/6/2019


Journal articles (7)

Janz, N., Allen-Robertson, J., Hertel, S. and Majumdar, R., (2021). Big Data on BHR: Innovative Approaches to Analyzing the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre Database. Business and Human Rights Journal. 6 (1), 120-126

Stevens, A. and Allen-Robertson, J., (2021). Encrypting Human Rights: The intertwining of resistant voices in the UK state surveillance debate. Big Data and Society. 8 (1), 205395172098530-205395172098530

Di Ronco, A. and Allen-Robertson, J., (2020). Representations of environmental protest on the ground and in the cloud: The NOTAP protests in activist practice and social visual media. Crime, Media, Culture. 0, 174165902095388-174165902095388

Di Ronco, A., Allen-Robertson, J. and South, N., (2019). Representing environmental harm and resistance on Twitter: The case of the TAP pipeline. Crime, Media, Culture. 15 (1), 143-168

Allen-Robertson, J., (2018). Critically assessing digital documents: materiality and the interpretative role of software. Information, Communication and Society. 21 (11), 1732-1746

Allen-Robertson, J., (2017). The materiality of digital media: The hard disk drive, phonograph, magnetic tape and optical media in technical close-up. New Media and Society. 19 (3), 455-470

Allenā€Robertson, J. and Beer, D., (2010). Mobile Ideas: Tracking a Concept through Time and Space. Mobilities. 5 (4), 529-545

Books (1)

Allen-Robertson, J., (2013). Digital Culture Industry. Palgrave Macmillan UK. 9781349441501

Book chapters (1)

Di Ronco, A. and Allen-Robertson, J., (2019). Activism against medicine on social media: untangling the #novax protest in Italy on Twitter. In: Medical Misinformation and Social Harm in Non-Science Based Health Practices A Multidisciplinary Perspective. Editors: Lavorgna, A. and Di Ronco, A., . Routledge. 9781138388666

Other (1)

Allen-Robertson, J., Software: Twitter media Downloader with Gephi Support

Grants and funding


Deciphering Violence: New Network Analytic Tools to Improve Hate Speech Detection Online

Independent Social Research Foundation


The representation of environmental protest Online and Offline

British Academy


Human Rights and Information Technology in the Era of Big Data

Economic & Social Research Council

+44 (0) 1206 872273


6.330, Colchester Campus

Academic support hours:

Autumn 2020/21 Tues: 10-11, Thurs: 3-4 See Moodle for Zoom link

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