It has been argued that digital data and data tools enable new ways of reconciling foundational oppositions in social research, including those between content and context, abstraction and experience, trend and situation. This argument tends to involve the claim that automat-able data analysis now makes possible the empirical specification of contexts in ways that were previously understood to require ethnographic presence “in the field.”

This talk by Noortje Marres from the University of Warwick will discuss an on-going study of a digitally native phenomenon – user-led technology testing on Youtube – to argue that such claims to methodological innovation suffer from an important blind spot. As a consequence of digital transformations, social life is today at risk of losing its ‘aboutness’: the situational specificity on which both qualitative and quantitative research have previously relied to secure the coherence of their empirical object.

About the speakers

  • Noortje Marres

    University of Warwick

    Noortje Marres is Associate Professor and Research Director in the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies at the University of Warwick, and a Visiting Professor in the Centre for Science & Technology Studies at the University of Leiden. Her book Digital Sociology (Polity) came out in 2017.