What is Digital Research?
A quick search on Wikipedia will tell you that a Digital Researcher “uses digital technology such as computers or smartphones and the Internet to do research” and “differs from Internet research in that digital researchers use the Internet as a research tool rather than the Internet itself as the subject of study.” While it is useful to distinguish between studying the web and using it as a methodological tool, using the internet as a method also requires an understanding of the web itself. In fact, I would argue that the epistemological power of the web as a method comes from an understand of the socio-historical context in which the medium is used. It is precisely here that the cultural emphasis of media studies proves its value.
The internet, and especially social media (the web 2.0), has created vast sums of data that invite study and scrutiny. Academics, companies and politicians are turning to the field of data science for their decision making processes. It is, therefore, no wonder that the common trope about data science as “the sexiest job of the 21st century” is often evoked to highlight the need for people with knowledge about data gathering, cleaning, processing and presenting. In other words, every good project needs a data driven story.
However, while the power of data science is often sought in relation to big data approaches and quantitative methods, questions concerning the social, historical and political context within which such data is being generated is often overlooked. It is here that the Digital Methods — as taught and practiced at the New Media and Digital Culture program at the University of Amsterdam — offers a valuable contributions. This field teaches one to study ‘the social’ with digital methods while critically reflecting on questions such as: What does it mean for someone to use a hashtag? How are people actually using media to connect? What distinguishes conversation on Twitter from Reddit? In short it offers a medium specific approach that does not only use data to find quantitative links, but tries to understand the media ecology within which such type of data grows and the way that this ecology creates the conditions of possibility for users to engage. Digital Research, then, offers — beyond specific quantitative trends — a more qualitative understanding of web culture.
What Does Daniel Jurg Digital Research Offer?
Based on the philosophy of Digital Research, and Digital Methods, Daniel Jurg Digital Research provides the bigger picture behind the data. It focuses on both cultural analysis that situate specific cultural practices within their broader context. Moreover, it offers a way to study vast amounts of posts using NLP and other computational methods. It bring together the story telling power of cultural studies with the novel approaches of gathering, processing and visualizing digital culture.