Accepted paper:

The hidden practices & knowledge in social media research: Mapping the rethinking of modes of observation


Katharina Kinder-Kurlanda (GESIS Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences)
Katrin Weller (GESIS Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences)

Paper short abstract:

Paper long abstract:

This paper presents results from qualitative interviews conducted with social media researchers from media and communication studies about the methods, objectives and challenges of using data gathered from digital social media platforms. Topics discussed in the interviews ranged from practical aspects, such as methods of data collection, data analysis and data management, to methodological, ethical and epistemological concerns. As was to be expected, the highly interdisciplinary research initiatives were shaped both by the necessity to acquire technical skills (Giglietto et al. 2012) and by researchers having to rethink modes of observation (Karpf 2012). With regards to practical aspects we explore social media researchers 'hidden' - i.e. mostly not evident in publications - practices and tacit knowledge concerning the collected data, its validity, potential and problems. With regards to theory building we focus in this paper on researchers' views of the highly unregulated, developing and ephemeral field that is contemporary social media research. We show the variety in approaches to seeking grounding for methodological, ethical and epistemological issues by referring to the wider sphere of internet and technology studies. We also describe researchers' attempts to map the emerging field by - following lines drawn by methods, institutions, disciplines and funding conditions - making distinctions between different approaches to social media research. We hope to contribute with our study to a better understanding of the empirical, methodological, and theoretical challenges as perceived by media and communication scholars, as we believe that it is here that social science methods are being reassembled (Ruppert/Savage/Law 2013).

panel G2
Digital mediation and re-mediation: What prospects for a future STS?