THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Social Science blog

15 January 2013

Digital Methods as Mainstream Methodology

On the 7th December 2012, the Library hosted the second event of the “Digital Methods as Mainstream Methodology” seminar series. This guest blog gives an overview of the event, the speakers and the topics and issues discussed.

The “Digital Methods as Mainstream Methodology" seminar series is funded by the National Centre for Research Methods Networks for Methodological Innovation. The network consists of three seminars that started in June 2012 at the University of Bristol. This network aims to:

  • To inspire researchers to deploy relevant, effective, innovative, digital methods, via a series of three open seminars;
  • To identify future training needs so that the wider social science community can make use of digital methods;
  • To foster networks for sharing of expertise between social scientists from a variety of disciplines and career stages, and computer and information scientists;
  • To provide networking and dissemination opportunities and provide a space to share expertise for researchers at all career stages.

The second seminar kicked-off with an introductory welcome speech and an overview of Social Science resources and the UK Web Archive by Peter Webster (Web Archiving Engagement and Liaison manager at The British Library). The seminar had three guest speakers, including Professor of Information Science, Mike Thelwall from the University of Wolverhampton, Professor of New Media, Sue Thomas, from De Montfort University and Dr.Danah Boyd, senior researcher at Microsoft Research/Research Assistant Professor in Media, Culture and Communication at New York University.

Additionally, the event incorporated creative, specialist “Pecha Kucha” (Japanese for “chit chat”), presentations by postgraduate students and early career researchers currently working with digital research methods across a diverse range of subject areas, including the humanities and social sciences. Each presentation contained 10 slides, and forced presenters to concisely present their material in a rapid fashion, forcing them to deliver their talk in around 3 minutes.

The day was rounded off with a discussion session led by Christine Hine. The session reflected on a number of connecting issues that emerged across and between the two events, and across and between specific projects and overarching issues related to contemporary digital methods. These included: the thorny question of ethics and how to juggle authenticity and meaning with privacy and anonymity when working with digital content; working with secondary digital data as opposed to data that is produced (through, say, e-focus groups); and the difficulties of keeping up with the pace of change, particularly when it comes to dissemination. One thought provoking and challenging suggestion was for digital methods networks to initiate their own inter-and-multi-disciplinary open-access journals! A closing remark by one of the participants reflected on both the powerful opportunities and the powerful responsibilities involved in inhabiting a searchable world.

It was an exciting and informative day for all. More information about the seminars can be found at: http://digitalmethodsnmi.com/

This post was written by Dr Steven Roberts Lecturer in Social Policy and Sociology at The University of Kent, Haley Watson Associate Partner: Trilateral Research & Consulting and Dr Yvette Morey Research Fellow at University of the West of England.

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