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Research Papers Library

Internet research: the question of method—a keynote address from the youtube and the 2008 election cycle in the united states conference

 

Digital studies on culture may be distinguished from cultural studies of the digital, at least in terms of method. This lecture takes up the question of the distinctiveness of “digital methods” for researching Internet cultures. It asks, initially, should the methods of study change, however slightly or wholesale, given the specificity of the new medium? The larger digital methods project thereby engages with “virtual methods,” the current, dominant “e-science” approach to the study of the Internet, and the consequences for research of importing standard methods from the social sciences in particular. What kinds of contributions are made to digital media studies, and the Internet in particular, when traditional methods are imported from the social sciences and the humanities onto the medium? Which research opportunities are foreclosed? Second, I ask, what kinds of new approaches are worthwhile, given an emphasis on the “natively digital” as opposed to digitization? The goal is also to change the focus of humanities and humanities computing away from the opportunities afforded by transforming ink into bits. The effort is to develop the study of natively digital objects (the link, the tag, etc.) and devices (engines and other recommendation machines) that make use of them. After critically reviewing existing approaches to the study of the digital, which largely import method onto the medium, I subsequently propose research strategies that follow the medium. How can one learn from methods in the medium, and repurpose them for social and cultural research? The lecture launches a novel strand of study: digital methods.

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