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Making and doing transformations in STS research practices: methods, tools, and data 
Paolo Magaudda (University of Padova)
Attila Bruni (Trento University)
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Traditional Open Panel

Short Abstract:

The track aims at addressing challenges and critical concerns that the raising of digital social life brought to research practices in STS and social sciences at large, thus questioning how the reconfiguration of research tools, methods and techniques reshapes theoretical and empirical research.

Long Abstract:

The increasing digitalization of everyday life (including the prominence of internet-based interactions and the proliferation of social media and digital platforms) is leading to the introduction of new digital tools, techniques and artefacts for data collection and analysis. While a reflexive turn in social research already contributed to problematize the supposed neutrality of the researcher and of the accounts that s/he produces, the same cannot be said in reference to tools, artefacts and techniques today adopted by researchers and research collectives. From a STS perspective, tools, methods and techniques are not just transparent entities, but active elements in building the relationship with the field and in constructing research outcomes. For instance, several new research tools basically rely on old forms of statistical analysis; big data or so called ‘naturally occurring data’ are not ‘natural’ at all, as digital contents are often highly formatted and standardized. This also applies to search engine query data (which depend on the way the search engine itself works), and to software for qualitative analysis (with their own internal logic) or online ethnographies (where the digital infrastructure set the possibilities of observation). In a few words, data generated with digital-based approaches raise much more questions that they aspire to solve.

Accordingly, main topics of interest of this panel include, but are not limited to:

- technical and material infrastructures of social research in today’s digital society;

- challenges and changes in research practices since the adoption of digital-based research tools;

- materialities of digital ethnography, digital methods and software-based analysis;

- experimentations and new research patterns opened by new digital tools and data;

- challenges posed by platforms, social media and other internet-based environments to established methodologies in social sciences;

- critical analysis of the role of digital tools in theoretical and empirical research.

Accepted papers: