Archives for posts with tag: digital methods

We (Katja Mayer and I) have just finalized our course on digital methods for next summer term. We’ll be teaching at the Department of Social Studies of Science, University of Vienna. The seminar will be part of the master program “Master of Arts – Science. Technology. Society”, but, in principle, everyone can join – if I understood it correctly. I’m not really familiar with the new curriculum yet though.. But I’m sure it will be fun since theoretical inquiry will be mixed with hands-on empirical research – fed by our own research and recent studies from our colleagues.

Here’s the syllabus. Join us if you like! Or otherwise, follow our seminar blog (we plan to write if we find the time to do so..)

© image credit: Digital Methods Initiative (Amsterdam)

Digital Methods – How Do We Know?

New information and communication technologies (ICTs) and social media like Google, Facebook and co. crucially change our daily lives. The “computational turn”, however, also affects the social sciences and humanities. Applications and software programs – ranging from simple presentation to complex network visualization tools – increasingly intrude into and shape scientific practices and the ways we conduct, present, and disseminate research. Rooted in the tradition of Science and Technology Studies (STS) this seminar addresses the central question of how digital methods of all kinds influence “how we know”. We will experiment with and critically examine various software tools and visualization techniques to better understand the growing number of digital methods used not only in the natural sciences, but increasingly also in the social sciences and humanities. We will ground these new tools respectively in older research traditions, discuss implications digital methods have in the process of knowledge production, and how to meet new challenges arising in the growing field of “digital social sciences and humanities”.

Drawing on literature from STS and critical new media studies, we aim to discuss the following questions: What are “digital methods” and what kind of knowledge(s) do they create? How do (digital) methods organize our research objects and what realities are enacted by them? How can hyperlink networks and Google analyses be used to analyze controversies like climate change or biofuels? How can social networking services, and Twitter in particular, be used to analyze political discourses and “hacktivist mobilization”? What information hierarchies and biases does commercial software trigger in the research process, and how can we handle this problem? What is “big data” and what are the benefits and dangers of large-scale computational science? And, finally, what are the implications of open access, creative commons, and Wikis in the context of both research and politics?

„Deep Search“ befasst sich mit den sozialen und politischen Dimensionen unserer Navigation durch die Tiefen des Wissens. Wir wollen den Vorgang der Datenkategorisierung untersuchen und fragen, was es bedeutet, die Beziehung zur Welt über digitale Suchtechnologien herzustellen. Jenseits von futuristischen Anwendungen und komplexen Rechenvorgängen verbirgt sich in kognitiven Technologien, die spezifisch für Ergebnisse in einem begrenzten Bezugsrahmen entwickelt werden, eine politische Philosophie in einem scheinbar neutralen Code. In der täglichen Wirklichkeit des Informationsüberflusses kommt es darauf an, derartige Setzungen als solche zu erkennen, und zu begreifen, dass Hierarchien nicht auf wundersame Weise von der Natur selbst hervorgebracht werden. Unscheinbare Dienstprogramme, die sich unauffällig in die Abläufe unserer täglichen Arbeit einfügen, verändern unsere Wahrnehmung und spinnen die Fäden im Gewebe unserer kognitiven Wirklichkeit.

Für zuhause gebliebene gibt’s jetzt die Vorträge online :)

Programm und Präsentationen..

Do we need new methods to do research on digital environments such as the web? Amsterdam-based new media scholars would answer this question with yes. They have been developing methods, techniques and tools since 1999, starting with the Net Locator and, later, the Issue Crawler, which focuses on hyperlink analysis (, 1999, 2001). Since then a set of allied tools and independent modules have been made to extend the research into the blogosphere, online news sphere, discussion lists and forums as well as search engine behavior.

Now they have created the “digital methods initiative”, a contribution to doing research into the “natively digital”. Their aim is to draw the focus away from the user and towards technical elements such as the hyperlink, the thread or the tag. Or how they put it: “the focus is on how methods may change, however slightly or wholesale, owing to the technical specificities of new media.”