This is a one-day PhD workshop I am organising with Dave Beer on using Digital By-Product Data in Social Resarch.
Sociologists seem to be deeply worried yet, at the same time, highly invigorated by the emergence of new forms of digital social data. Savage and Burrows (2007) arguments about a coming crisis in empirical sociology are now well known, with sociology’s value and jurisdiction being challenged by new transactional data forms and commercial analytics. But on the other side of this, sociologists have been imagining a future in which sociology harnesses the potential of digital data.
In this imagined future we are able to tell new stories about the social world through the mass of data that now accumulate as a result of our everyday interactions with media forms. In this session we will look at the infrastructural and cultural shifts that have afforded this accumulation of everyday digital by-product data. This will allow us to see more clearly what these data might actually be used to reveal. Building on this foundation, the session will then be used to think about how social researchers might draw upon this data and use it in different ways. In this regard the session will be highly exploratory and will reflect on some cutting-edge research in the expanding field of digital sociology.
Finally, attendees will also be involved in using the material covered to imagine and present (in groups) their own digital data research project. These presentations will then be used as the starting point for some discussions of the key issues that face future work in this area. Those attending the session will be introduced to key conceptual work in the field, as well as thinking through how new forms of visualisation, new data mining techniques and new forms of analytical software might be incorporated into the practice of critical social researchers.