Prof. Richard Rogers is the Chair in New Media & Digital Culture at the University of Amsterdam. He's leading the first theme at our launch event and will be exploring the question: Are new social media changing the methods researchers use?
There is an ontological distinction between the natively digital and the digitized, that is, the objects, content, devices and environments that are “born” in the new medium, as opposed to those that have “migrated” to it. Should the current methods of study change, however slightly or wholesale, given the focus on objects and content of the medium?
The research program put forward here thereby engages with “virtual methods” that import standard methods from the social sciences and the humanities. That is, the distinction between the natively digital and the digitized also could apply to current research methods. What kind of Internet research may be performed with methods that have been digitized (such as online surveys and directories) vis-à-vis those that are natively digital (such as recommendation systems and folksonomy)? Second, I propose that Internet research may be put to new uses, given an emphasis on natively digital methods as opposed to the digitized. I will strive to shift the attention from the opportunities afforded by transforming ink into bits, and instead inquire into how research with the Internet may move beyond the study of online culture only. How to capture and analyze hyperlinks, tags, search engine results, archived Websites, and other digital objects? How may one learn from how online devices (e.g., engines and recommendation systems) make use of the objects, and how may such uses be repurposed for social and cultural research?
Ultimately, I propose a research practice that grounds claims about cultural change and societal conditions in online dynamics, introducing the term “online groundedness.” The overall aim is to rework method for Internet research, developing a novel strand of study, digital methods.
What do you think? Is the distinction between the natively digital and the digitized a useful one? Let us know over at Methodspace.