Digital by-product data and the sociological imagination


Tomorrow I’m running a session on ‘Digital by-product data and the sociological imagination: Imagining the future of social research’ for PhD students in the WhiteRose Doctoral training centre. The details of the event are here. The session will cover a range of topics, but the more hands on stuff will be based on this article. Here is a brief description of the session:

Sociologists seem to be deeply worried yet, at the same time, highly invigorated by the emergence of new forms of digital social data. Savage and Burrows (2007) arguments about a coming crisis in empirical sociology are now well known, with sociology’s value and jurisdiction being challenged by new transactional data forms and commercial analytics. But on the other side of this, sociologists have been imagining a future in which sociology harnesses the potential of digital data.

In this imagined future we are able to tell new stories about the social world through the mass of data that now accumulate as a result of our everyday interactions with media forms. In this session we will look at the infrastructural and cultural shifts that have afforded this accumulation of everyday digital by-product data. This will allow us to see more clearly what these data might actually be used to reveal. Building on this foundation, the session will then be used to think about how social researchers might draw upon this data and use it in different ways. In this regard the session will be highly exploratory and will reflect on some cutting-edge research in the expanding field of digital sociology.‌

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