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The End of the Virtual: Digital Methods
Thursday, April 28, 2011 @ 4:00 pm EDT
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-á-vis those that are natively digital (such as recommendation systems and folksonomy)? Second, he will propose propose that Internet research may be put to new uses, given an emphasis on natively digital methods as opposed to the digitized. Rogers 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, he proposes 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.
Prof. Dr. Richard Rogers holds the Chair and is full University Professor in New Media & Digital Culture at the University of Amsterdam. He is Director of Govcom.org, the group responsible for the Issue Crawler and other info-political tools, and the Digital Methods Initiative, reworking method for Internet research. Among other works, Rogers is author of Information Politics on the Web (MIT Press, 2004), awarded the 2005 best book of the year by the American Society of Information Science & Technology (ASIS&T). His forthcoming book, Digital Methods, is also with MIT Press.