I was delighted when Innovations in Digital Research Methods edited by Peter Halfpenny and Rob Proctor recently crossed my desk. Whilst many research students believe Research Methods to be a necessary but boring compulsory element of their studies I am doing my utmost to promote the exciting times we now live in in terms of digital’s positive disruption to how and what we research.
A wide range of contributors from British, Australian and American based academics have co-created the insight in this useful textbook published by Sage. Like me, the authors believe that the landscape of research has fundamentally shifted with the advent of digital technologies and they set about outlining the new e-social science landscape. Acknowledgement is made in chapter 2 of the increasing blurring of qualitative and quantitative data and the trend in treating qualitative data quantitatively in the analysis stage. Warnings about a potential overreliance on computer driven analytical tools and algorithms that lack transparency is an apposite reminder in chapter 3 with an interesting discussion on text mining in chapter 8. The new sources and types of data are outlined in Chapter 4 with explicit consideration of the dangers of the ubiquity of data and its convenience in collection versus the need for rigor. There are sensible suggestions made for future directions, such as an increase in use of mixed methods – which I am definitely seeing in my PhD students and in some conference presentations.
The nascent state of how we ‘show’ data through visualizations including real time geo-mapping of people’s movements in urban areas, citizen science creation of Open Street Map provides practical illustrations in chapter 11. Unsurprisingly, ethical issues within digital research methods now have greater complexity than ever before and the grey areas and abuses are presented through case studies in chapter 12 including the infamous Facebook experiment.
This text book is a well balanced and considered response from active researchers grappling with the realities of researching and justifying their research in the digital age. The reference list and the online resources at the end of each chapter are valuable to the novice and experienced researcher alike. This book will be marked as ‘essential’ on the reading lists for my Research Methods and for Digital Marketing Strategy courses.