Introduction to Digital Methods

This course provides an introduction to digital research methods and digital research, in particular from a social sciences perspective.

The course is divided into two sessions, the first providing background and overview of digital research in the social sciences, including a brief historical overview of engagement between digital research and the social sciences dating back to (at least) the early 1990s, addressing both “utopian” and “dystopian” visions of the impact of the development of the internet and other digital and online realms on human/social interaction and everyday life and contrasting in particular, perspectives from early and much more recent research in the social sciences. The session also explores broad themes and issues related to digital methods/digital research in the social sciences, including management of the online vs. the offline (and related terminological considerations), issues of research design and methodology such as contextualisation of research and “defining the field” (e.g. polymedia), issues of verification of information and informants, methodological options such as interviews, participant observation, ethnographic research methods and other qualitative research methods, as well as ethical considerations, including those particular to digital and online research.

Having laid the foundations for thinking about digital research and digital research methods in session one, the focus of the second session is on case studies in digital research in the social sciences, ranging from research of engagement with digital environments conducted entirely offline to those incorporating mixed methods or “blended” approaches to attempts at ethnographic research in fully immersive online environments. The session will explore, through case studies, options for conducting research in different kinds of online environments, including social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instragram, etc.), discussion forums and groups, visual research and image analysis, network analysis and research in immersive environments such as virtual worlds and video games. 

 

Objectives:

1. Develop strategies for conducting effective and ethical digital research in the social sciences
2. Gain familiarity with themes and issues – ethical, practical, conceptual, methodological – involved in conducting research in digitally-mediated environments and/or utilising digital research methods
3. Gain familiarity with strategies, methods and tools available for conducing digital ethnographic/qualitative research in the social sciences, with particular reference to digital and online environments (discussion forums, social media platforms, fully immersive online realms)
4. Explore strategies and options for good research project design, potentially encompassing online, offline and/or blended research methods
5. Explore strategies for adapting research projects for utilisation of remote/online/digital research methods

 

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