What is digital research?

Thoughts on Digital Qualitative Research – Part 1

In this short series about qualitative digital methods, I want to introduce basic assumptions, challenges and definitions for qualitative research in the digital space. The first part sheds light on the definition of digital research.

© Gerd Altmann – geralt /pixabay

As Hine (2005) and Quinton and Reynolds (2018) state, there is no clear paradigm or restriction for digital research by now. Researchers try to adapt their methodological principles to the digital environment and migrate their ontological and epistemological views into the digital research field.

The distinction between the diverging nature of online and offline data stood in the focus of early Internet research, but as the two realms started to merge, digital researchers needed to discuss the integration of the digital (Dicks, 2012). Early digital research focussed on Internet as an alternative place for social realities, where new forms of communities emerge. However, it did not recognize the Web as a tool for answering research questions concerning both the online and offline realm (Hewson, 2014; Markham, 2012). With the evolution of the Internet into a more fluid, organic and collaborative space (Hewson, 2014) and digital media as an overall platform for interactive communication with electronic and connected devices (Quinton & Reynolds, 2018), the relevance for research and scientific knowledge evolved as well. Nearly every aspect of social interaction and social interaction incorporates both spheres, online and offline. Therefore the online and offline realm cannot be clearly distinguished anymore (Hine, 2005). The Internet is not just simply platform for data collection and analysis but consists of multiple social spaces and cultural phenomena (Markham, 2012).

Before researching phenomena in the digital, the nature of the digital has to be clearly defined.  Rogers (2013) distinguishes between natively digital (e.g. recommender systems) and digitized, migrated methods and data (e.g. online surveys). These native digital data also embody specific ontological objects like links and tags, which only exist in the digital domain. Snee, Hine, Morey, Roberts, and Watson (2016) emphasize the epistemological aspects to consider in digital research. What does the type of platform, data or community represent in the online? Can researchers draw conclusions to offline phenomena and if yes, how? What assumptions do scholars make when they enter the digital research field?

To find the valid answers to research questions, scholars have to focus on the methodological context, and not just specific research methods, to understand the context and the value of digital data (Dicks, 2012).

” Drawing from sociology of scientific knowledge, we could argue that the instruments that are used to view the world play a large part in shaping what we see.”

Hine (2005, p. 245)

The next part of the series will discuss the tension between Big Data and digital qualitative research

For further ideas, input, critical questions or discussions to these thoughts about qualitative digital research, just leave me a comment and I’ll be happy to discuss with you!


  • Dicks, B. (Ed.). (2012). Digital qualitative research methods. Los Angeles: SAGE.
  • Hewson, C. (2014). Qualitative Approaches in Internet-Mediated Research. In P. Leavy (Ed.), Oxford library of psychology. The Oxford handbook of qualitative research (pp. 423–454). Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199811755.013.020
  • Hine, C. (2005). Internet Research and the Sociology of Cyber-Social-Scientific Knowledge. The Information Society, 21, 239–248. https://doi.org/10.1080/01972240591007553
  • Markham, A. N. (2012). The Internet as Research Context. In B. Dicks (Ed.), Digital qualitative research methods (pp. 375–403). Los Angeles: SAGE.
  • Quinton, S., & Reynolds, N. (2018). Understanding research in the digital age. Sage Publications Ltd.
  • Rogers, R. (2013). Digital methods. Cambridge, Mass., London: The MIT Press.
  • Snee, H., Hine, C., Morey, Y., Roberts, S., & Watson, H. (Eds.). (2016). Digital Methods for Social Science. London: Palgrave Macmillan UK.

The full text on digital qualitative methods was part of the course “Qualitative research II” at the University of Innsbruck.

Looking back at the OS ConJunction Students and Alumni Day 2018: “The Value of Organizing and the Organization of Value(s)”


Last Friday, the 3rd OS ConJunction Students and Alumni Day took place at the Haus der Begegnung in Innsbruck. As the title already gives away, this year’s event was all about values.

After a theoretical introduction by Richard Weiskopf, where he gave an overview on “The Value of Values in Organizing”, the panel discussion related theory to organizational praxis.

In a vivid discussion, the panelists Stephan Laske (Transformation Management AG), Tabea Ebel (Lebenshilfe Tirol), Ursula Randolf (BTV) and Konrad Frank (Accenture) shared interesting insights on the role of values in their respective organizations. Continue reading “Looking back at the OS ConJunction Students and Alumni Day 2018: “The Value of Organizing and the Organization of Value(s)””

Call for Papers for a Special Issue in Organization Studies: »Open Organizing in an Open Society?«

Please find below the Call for Papers for a Special Issue in Organization Studies on “Open Organizing in an Open Society? Conditions, Consequences and Contradictions of Openness as an Organizing Principle” (PDF), co-edited by Georg von Krogh, Violetta Splitter, Peter Walgenbach, Richard Whittington and myself. In case you are interested to submit a paper to the Special Issue, please also consider to submit a short paper version of it to the upcoming EGOS sub-theme 55 onOpen Organizing for an Open Society? Connecting Research on Organizational Openness . Submitting authors are not in any way obliged to participate at this sub-theme, and papers presented at the sub-theme are not guaranteed publication in the Special Issue. We just see this sub-theme as an opportunity to develop papers for submission. Deadline for submitting short papers to the EGOS sub-theme is January 14, 2019, deadline for submitting manuscripts to the Special Issue in Organization Studies is November 30, 2019. Continue reading “Call for Papers for a Special Issue in Organization Studies: »Open Organizing in an Open Society?«”

Tagung: »Wahrheit und Postfaktizität«

Am 24.11. veranstalten das FWF-Projekt Language and Violence sowie das Critical Theories Network am Institut für Philosophie der Universität Wien eine eintägige Tagung zum Thema “Wahrheit und Postfaktizität” statt, bei der ich einen Beitrag mit dem Titel “Algorithmische Entscheidungen und spektrogene Prozesse: das Profiling im postfaktischen Zeitalter” beisteuern darf. Hier geht es zum Poster mit dem gesamten Programm der Tagung.

Neuer Buchbeitrag: »Lernen und Lehren im Zeitalter des Remix«

Im Wintersemester 2017/2018 durfte ich einen Vortrag im Rahmen der von Kollegen Theo Hug organisierten Ringvorlesung “Medienpädagogik – Herausforderungen für Lernen und Bildung im Medienzeitalter” beisteuern. Inzwischen ist auf Basis dieser Ringvorlesung ein Sammelband bei innsbruck university press erschienen, inklusive meines Beitrags mit dem Titel “Lernen und Lehren im Zeitalter des Remix”. Der Abstract:

Wir leben im Zeitalter des Remix. Kultur, Bildung und Wissenschaft bauten schon immer auf bereits Bestehendem auf. Internet und digitale Technologien ermöglichen aber die kreative Nutzung existierender Werke in völlig neuen Dimensionen und eröffnen große Potentiale für Medienpädagogik: Nie zuvor war es so vielen möglich, Werke auf so unterschiedliche Arten zu erstellen, zu verändern und anderen zugänglich zu machen. Gleichzeitig floriert Remixkultur zu einem großen Teil in (urheber-)rechtlichen Graubereichen, wenn nicht gar in der Illegalität. Eine Auseinandersetzung mit rechtlichen Rahmenbedingungen, (il-)legitimen Rechtsverletzungen und alternativen Regulierungsformen wie offenen Lizenzen („Creative Commons“) ist deshalb unabdingbar, um die medienpädagogischen Potentiale digitaler Technologien für Lehren und Lernen auszuschöpfen.

Der Buchbeitrag ist als Pre-Print-PDF online verfügbar.

Call for Applications: Doctoral Program »Organizing the Digital«

Recently, the increasing transdisciplinary importance of the digital has become obvious by a growing number of PhD projects, which address their respective questions from various theoretical and methodological perspectives. Across research centers, digitization poses new and relevant research questions and provides new sources of data for addressing them.
The Doctoral Program “Organizing the Digital: Relations, Publics, Societies” promotes transdisciplinary research on digital phenomena that bridges and transcends micro, meso and macro levels of analysis. The Doctoral Program thereby takes a multi-method and inter-disciplinary lens and advances conceptual research, driven by experimental, qualitative and interpretive studies, as well as related quantifications and network analyses.

The Doctoral Program assumes that its doctoral students meet the requirements of the respective curricula of the PhD/doctoral program in which they are enrolled. Additionally, students affiliated to the Doctoral Program #OrganizingtheDigital will attend specific courses focusing on topics of the DP and participate in different types of conferences in order to acquire and deepen presentation and academic discussion skills. Continue reading “Call for Applications: Doctoral Program »Organizing the Digital«”

Rückblick und Ausblick: Die lohnenswerten Zumutungen des Momentum-Kongresses

Von 18.-21. Oktober trafen sich in Hallstatt wieder rund 250 Menschen aus Wissenschaft, Politik und Zivilgesellschaft beim alljährlichen Momentum-Kongress um über sozialen Fortschritt zu diskutieren. Die Eröffnung habe ich dabei zum Anlass genommen, mich für die Zumutungen zu entschuldigen, die mit einer Momentum-Teilnahme verbunden sind. Gleichzeitig habe ich aber versucht zu erklären, warum es genau diese Zumutungen sind, die Momentum so lohnenswert machen. Der Call für Momentum 2019 mit dem Generalthema “Widerspruch” von 10.-13. Oktober ist bereits online verfügbar. Im folgenden die Notizen zu meinen Eröffnungsworten beim diesjährigen Kongress: Continue reading “Rückblick und Ausblick: Die lohnenswerten Zumutungen des Momentum-Kongresses”