Digitalization is affecting not just private sector businesses but also the public sector. At the same time, the whole notion of “public” is changing in the course of ongoing digital transformations. By referring to the “Public Sphere”, this course seeks to capture both these dynamics. Consequently, the course comprises two main parts. The first part focuses on the digital transformation of public sector institutions such as public administrations, public service providers and public utilities. The second part addresses the public more broadly and looks at new forms of platform-based publics as well as provision of public goods with private means.
Didactically this is the first course that I designed following a point-counterpoint format: in each session two students will open with talks representing oppositional viewpoints on the subject before we enter into a joint plenary discussion of the readings.
Although the digital space offers many opportunities in terms of data collection, analysis and new data itself, part 3 of the series ” Thoughts on Digital Qualitative Research” addresses the challenges going hand in hand with digital research. Although each method and each research project may face other or additional questions and difficulties, the challenges presented here are valid for all scholars who aim to conduct digital qualitative inquiry.
The Nature and Quality of Data
The nature and quality of data are crucial for coherent and transparent interpretation. In early research, digital data often required grounding in the offline world to be seen as valid (Rogers, 2013). Although today not all data require grounding outside the digital sphere (Rogers, 2013) as they often describe natively digital phenomena, the methodological context is essential to understand the nature and meaning of the data analysed (Dicks, 2012). Quinton and Reynolds (2018) argue that researches have to define their stance but can freely classify their approaches in terms of methodology.
Part 2 of the series examines the emerging tensions and questions for qualitative research in a Big Data world.
Boyd and Crawford (2012) define the shift to Big Data as a socio-technical phenomenon. The term Big Data describes the huge amount of data aggregated through interaction online and the ability to cross-reference these large data sets for new insights. Discussing the troubling concept of data, Markham (2018) and Rogers (2013) argue that datafication as ideological focus and the methodological turn towards digital research techniques quantifying social processes pose a temptation as well as a challenge for qualitative research at the same time.
The technological ability to collect data does replace the question if qualitative oriented scholars should collect such large amounts of data (Tiidenberg, 2018), from an ethical as well as from a practical point of view (Markham, 2012). Further, these large data sets do not fully represent social phenomena (Markham, 2018), but Big Data changes the way knowledge is created and research is done by changing the instruments, the focus and the process of research (boyd & Crawford, 2012). Markham (2018, p. 520) sees the turn to the quantification in data analysis, the subsumption of qualitative inquiry as an add-on for data-driven science and the pursuit of generalizability as an “ongoing risk, which the interpretative movement has long sought to combat.”
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.
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.
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«”→
Andrea Hemetsberger and I, together with ten other founding faculty members from various departments at the University of Innsbruck, are very happy to invite everyone interested in the newly founded Doctoral Program “Organizing the Digital: Relations, Publics, Societies” to a kick-off event on June 26, 17:30, at the Dekanatssitzungssaal der Theologischen Fakultät (Karl-Rahner-Platz 1, 1. Stock).
The opening guest lecture will be given by sociologist Jan-Hendrik Passoth (Technical University of Munich) on the topic “Cultures of Calculation.
Software, Data and Algorithms in Contemporary Society”. After this lecture we will focus on the planned activities of the doctoral program and expectations provided by potential doctoral students.