Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Digital Methods

Digital Methods

Richard Rogers
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 280
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Digital Methods
    Book Description:

    In Digital Methods, Richard Rogers proposes a methodological outlook for social and cultural scholarly research on the Web that seeks to move Internet research beyond the study of online culture. It is not a toolkit for Internet research, or operating instructions for a software package; it deals with broader questions. How can we study social media to learn something about society rather than about social media use? How can hyperlinks reveal not just the value of a Web site but the politics of association? Rogers proposes repurposing Web-native techniques for research into cultural change and societal conditions. We can learn to reapply such "methods of the medium" as crawling and crowd sourcing, PageRank and similar algorithms, tag clouds and other visualizations; we can learn how they handle hits, likes, tags, date stamps, and other Web-native objects. By "thinking along" with devices and the objects they handle, digital research methods can follow the evolving methods of the medium. Rogers uses this new methodological outlook to examine the findings of inquiries into 9/11 search results, the recognition of climate change skeptics by climate-change-related Web sites, the events surrounding the Srebrenica massacre according to Dutch, Serbian, Bosnian, and Croatian Wikipedias, presidential candidates' social media "friends," and the censorship of the Iranian Web. With Digital Methods, Rogers introduces a new vision and method for Internet research and at the same time applies them to the Web's objects of study, from tiny particles (hyperlinks) to large masses (social media).

    eISBN: 978-0-262-31338-4
    Subjects: Technology, Library Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. Introduction: Situating Digital Methods
    (pp. 1-18)

    This is not a methods book, at least in the sense of a set of techniques and heuristics to be lugged like a heavy toolbox across vast areas of inquiry. It is also not the more contemporary exemplar of the instruction manual or list of answers to frequently asked questions, one that would describe how to operate the multipurpose software package by which a number of statistical and network analyses may be performed once the web data set has been collected or delivered separately. Rather, this book presents a methodological outlook for research with the web. As such it is...

  4. 1 The End of the Virtual: Digital Methods
    (pp. 19-38)

    An ontological distinction may be made between the natively digital and the digitized, that is, between the objects, content, devices, and environments that are “born” in the new medium and those that have “migrated” to it. Such a distinction opens up the question of method for Internet-related research. Should the current methods of study change, slightly or wholesale, given a focus on objects as well as the contents that are “of the medium ”? Such a question engages “virtual methods” that import standard methods from the social sciences and the humanities into the medium. That is, the distinction between the...

  5. 2 The Link and the Politics of Web Space
    (pp. 39-60)

    This chapter concerns efforts to see politics in web space. Here I briefly periodize understandings of web space, and the distinctive types of politics associated with their mappings, broadly conceived. In the web-as-hyperspace period, when random site generators invited surfers to jump from site to site, mapping was performed for sites’ backlinks. It tethered websites to one another, showing distinctive “politics of association” from the linking behaviors of government, nongovernmental organizations, and corporations. In the web-as-public-sphere or neopluralist period, circle maps served as virtual roundtables. What if the web were to decide who should be at the table? As ideas...

  6. 3 The Website as Archived Object
    (pp. 61-82)

    That the web arrived as infrastructure awaiting content, as opposed to content awaiting infrastructure, is not often appreciated. In the early to mid-1990s websites were under construction and databases were yet to be populated. Sites generally needed filling in. (The same could be said these days of people’s profiles on social media platforms, a subject of chapter 7. Often fields are empty.) The web’s initial emptiness could account for the importance placed upon the precious “content providers,” a phrase from the web’s early period. As noted in the previous chapter, creative encouragement for putting up content came in the form...

  7. 4 Googlization and the Inculpable Engine
    (pp. 83-94)

    The illustration of Google by Jude Buffum may be read as a shorthand reference for googlization, a term introduced in 2003 to describe the growing “creep” of the media company’s search technologies and aesthetics into more and more web applications and contexts, not to mention tradition-rich institutions such as the library.¹ (See figure 4.1.) In a post on his book-in-progress blogThe Googlization of Everything, the media scholar Siva Vaidhyanathan writes that Google has “altered the rules of the game for at least six major industries: Advertising, software applications, geographic services, email, publishing, and web commerce itself.”² Googlization connotes media...

  8. 5 Search as Research: Source Distance and Cross-Spherical Analysis
    (pp. 95-124)

    In the web-epistemological search engine critiques put forward in the previous two chapters, the analysis concerns both front-end and back-end politics. On the engine’s front end, the changes in the menu items from 1998 to 2007 show the promotion of algorithmic search over the human-edited directory. Beginning in 2004 it became difficult to find the directory at Google, as it was gradually demoted and placed multiple clicks away from the front page.¹ The demise of the human-edited web was seen through the gradual changes to the interface of Google (with the implication that the history of Google could tell in...

  9. 6 National Web Studies
    (pp. 125-152)

    The work described in this chapter offers an approach to conceptualizing, demarcating, and analyzing a national web. Instead of defining a priori the types of websites to be included, the approach put forward here makes use of web devices (platforms and engines) that purport to provide (ranked) lists of URLs relevant to a particular country.¹ Once gathered in such a manner, the websites are studied for their properties, following certain common measures (such as responsiveness and page age) and repurposing them to speak in terms of the health of a national web. Are sites lively, or neglected? The case study...

  10. 7 Social Media and Postdemographics
    (pp. 153-164)

    Research into social networking sites considers such issues as presenting oneself and managing one’s status online, the different “social classes” of users of MySpace and Facebook, and the relationship between real-life friends and “friended” friends.¹ Another body of work, often from software-making arenas, concerns how to make use of the copious amounts of data contained in online profiles, especially interests and tastes. I would like to dub the latter work “postdemographics.” Postdemographics could be thought of as the study of the data in social networking platforms, and, in particular, how profiling is, or may be, performed. Of particular interest here...

  11. 8 Wikipedia as Cultural Reference
    (pp. 165-202)

    InThe Long Tail, an account of popularity on the web, Chris Anderson argues that “Wikipedia is arguably the best encyclopedia in the world: bigger, more up-to-date, and in many cases deeper than even Britannica.”¹ With about 20 million articles, Wikipedia is sizable and also highly visible on the web. Of crucial importance for its significance is the appearance of its articles at the top of Google’s search engine results, which prompted the head ofEncyclopaedia Britannicato call Google and Wikipedia’s relationship “symbiotic.”² The overall popularity of the project is also often discussed in terms of how it empowers...

  12. 9 After Cyberspace: Big Data, Small Data
    (pp. 203-212)

    This chapter examines the web’s status as source of data, big and small.¹ The overall argument is to take the Internet far more seriously than we have in the past, specifically in terms of what it has to offer for social and cultural research.

    The first step is to dispense with the idea of cyberspace and the virtual as primary points of departure for Internet-related research, or rather to reposition those terms to reflect the conceptual opportunities they currently offer. Cyberspace, with its origins in science fiction literature and its legacy in cybercultural studies, most recently has become a specific...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 213-232)
  14. References
    (pp. 233-260)
  15. Index
    (pp. 261-274)