Chronicling the vernacular and the middlebrow in post-digital culture.


IAMCR conference presentation on "Searching for Tasks"

July 21, 2020
Frederik Lesage

Due to the pandemic, this year's IAMCR conference had to move not once, but twice. It was first shifted from China to Finland in order to deal with the initial outbreak. When the outbreak reached Europe, the Tampere team shifted its entire program to an online format. The team did a wonderful job considering these exceptional circumstances. Sadly, this meant the conference presentations took place entirely through a webportal.

Frederik Lesage and Nicole Stewart presented some of their early findings for the "Searching for Tasks" project in a panel titled "Politics of Platforms, Platforms as Politics" as part of the Communication Policy & Technology section. You can access the abstract here and a link to the paper here (although the latter seems to be password protected). We were very lucky to be a part of this international panel chaired by Julia Pohle of WZB Berlin Social Sciences. The discussant was the, as always, fantastic Professor Robin Mansell from the Department of Media and Communications at LSE whose questions and comments proved extremely insightful.

Affect Probes and the Creative Publics research project

July 6, 2020
Frederik Lesage

The most recent paper based on research with Tara Mahoney of Gen Why Media (and currently a research fellow at the David Suzuki Foundation) has just come out.

The paper, Expectation and anticipation: research assemblages for elections, was published in Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies as part of a special issue on emotions, political work, and participatory media and edited by Sudha Rajagopalan and Krisztina Lajosi at the University of Amsterdam. The material for the paper was based on research for Publics: Art-Making Inspired by the Federal Election by Tara, Frederik Lesage and Peter Zuurbier during the 2015 Canadian Federal election. The specific goal of this paper is to show how alternative research assemblages can channel the anticipation generated by participatory politics to yield more diverse and critical forms of participation in the lead up to elections.

An earlier paper, Investigating politics through artistic practices: Affect resonance of creative publics, was published in 2019 in the European Journal of Cultural Studies. Both papers draw in part on theoretical and methodological experiments developed in a 2016 book written by Peter Zuurbier and Frederik Lesage titled Masamune’s Blade: A Proposition for Dialectic Affect Research in which the authors explored how to study affect using a combination of critical theory and cultural probes methodologies adapted from design research.

Searching for Tasks – Digital taxonomies for skills

June 8, 2020
Frederik Lesage
pedagogy skills

Skills and skills training remain, without a doubt, some of the big key words for any policy discussion concerning the future of work.

While compiling some literature for our Mitacs-funded investigation into digital skills I started to come across a lot of interesting pieces on how digital platforms are developing their own taxonomies for modeling skills.

The two big corporate players I can currently find are LinkedIn and Coursera.

LinkedIn’s “skills genome”

In response to the economic crisis of 2008 and the Obama administration’s response to the crisis, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner laid out a vision of an “economic graph”:

“Most of us are by now familiar with the value generated by the social graph concept popularized by Facebook, the professional graph developed by LinkedIn (LNKD), and the interest graph implicitly manifested by Twitter. What if we were able to extend that thinking to the economy itself and developed an economic graph?
Imagine a world in which every job opportunity, full-time and temporary, was digitally searchable and linked to the appropriate company and skills required to obtain the position. Now imagine if the 153 million people in the U.S. workforce -- or 3.3 billion people in the global workforce -- had a digital profile, highlighting their experiences, skills and, most importantly, their ambitions.” (Weiner, 2011)

This vision has arguably guided much of the platform’s evolution since including the billion-dollar acquisition of (now LinkedIn Learning) in 2016. More recently, researchers affiliated with LinkedIn have started to refer to the “skills genome”:

“LinkedIn’s skills genome analysis can track the skills composition of clusters of roles, industries, cities and regions for the purposes of comparing historical trends and contrasting skills profiles. Such measures can therefore provide the tools to identify reskilling and upskilling priorities across industries. The metric can be expanded to match emerging jobs to populations with the right skillsets to fill those new roles such as migrant populations or women. It can also be expanded to understand entry into the labour market for new entrants to professions and industries today and in the recent past.” (p.17) [Data Science in the New Economy: A new race for talent in the Fourth Industrial Revolution]

See also:

Lu, Jian. (2019, July 10). Skills, not job titles, are the new metric for the labour market. Economic Graph.


In parallel to LinkedIn, the online education platform Coursera has called its Skills Graph. In a Medium article from 2018 Emily Glassberg Sands, Coursera’s head of data science, described it as:

“a series of algorithms connecting learners, content, and careers through a common skills currency. At its essence, the graph maps a robust library of skills to each other, to the content that teaches them, to the careers that require them, and to the learners who have or want them. It’s built on data from across the site and powers a range of applications in content discovery and beyond.” [Sands, 2018]

Additional Links:

LinkedIn related

Adams, S. (2013). Everything You Need To Know About LinkedIn Endorsements. Forbes. Retrieved May 25, 2020, from

LinkedIn Economic Graph:

LinkedIn Buys Careerify To Build Out Its Big Data Recruitment Business | TechCrunch. (n.d.). Retrieved May 25, 2020, from

LinkedIn Economic Graph Research: Helping New Yorkers Connect With The Jobs Of Tomorrow [INFOGRAPHIC]. (n.d.). Retrieved May 25, 2020, from

LinkedIn to Acquire (n.d.). LinkedIn Newsroom. Retrieved December 5, 2016, from

LinkedIn. (07:40:54 UTC). LinkedIn Economic Graph Research: New York City [Data & Analytics].

Thoppil, D. A. (2014, June 25). Where Is the Top City to Spot Tech Talent? WSJ.

Weber, L. (2014, December 8). Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (Or Not.). WSJ.

Weinberger, M. (n.d.). LinkedIn is making its endorsements feature a lot smarter to help people find jobs. Business Insider. Retrieved May 25, 2020, from

Coursera related

Alex (2020, May 30). Skill Development Dashboards Product Guide. Coursera for Business. Retrieved June 8, 2020, from

Coursera. (2018, August 7). Coursera for Business Launches AI-powered Skills Benchmarking Tool. Coursera Blog.

Coursera. (2019). Global Skills Index (GSI) (v1.1; p. 48). Coursera.