Description, relevance, motivation, goals and pointers to past editions
Bots, agents and trolls are well known problems for social and cultural research on the web and the validity of research data. But this is only the top of the data quality iceberg, from a humanities and social studies perspective, and just a side aspect of this workshop. A more urgent need for high quality research on the web is a general source criticism, as established in arts, humanities and social sciences.
Being critical with sources is a basic element of social and cultural research; regardless of whether historical or contemporary subjects are studied. Highly developed in historical research in particular, source criticism signifies a basic epistemological practice of academic knowledge production, which may be best described as a reflection of range and scope of what can be known from a particular source in a particular research context, such as a church register, a newspaper, a play, etc. Sources and the criticism of them thus include all forms of social and cultural forms of articulation from oral, textual, material, and interactional to performative representations that become part of data collection in empirical research. Source criticism reflects the nature of the reality, which is constructed in a particular type of source.
Moreover, this academic understanding of sources in the humanities and in social studies demarcates also a crucial difference in the understanding of what data are. In the understanding of cultural and social research, data are not just what is out there in the web, not the variety of information, textual, visual or oral articulations and representations of web communication, but what has been gathered in research processes and thus have gone through scholarly selection. Data in socio-cultural research thus have many faces, it may be notes on observations, it may be photographic documentations of scenes, it may be recorded group discussions or collected objects, and it may be as well data collected on the web.
Source criticism in web research thus raises epistemological questions at least in respect to three dimensions
the socio-material reality (re-)construction of web platforms,
the range and scope of social reality that is represented and performed on the web and can be accessed here through research, including the question of what is missing here,
the mixing of realities, from virtual to actual unmediated spaces, including the socio-material interfaces, which set epistemological conditions of what can be experienced.
The workshop takes these questions up in three dialogues, each with two speakers, who will firstly present their considerations on these subjects of source criticism on the web in short talks of 15 minutes and will conclude with theses on how of social and cultural research can adopt and enhance their epistemologies for including a significant and reliable source criticism on the web into their studies. The dialogues will be introduced by a key note on the grounds of web research: Data and Dataism, by leading scholar José von Dijck, Amsterdam, the session will conclude with discussing and summarizing the main aspects on source criticism in social and cultural research on the web on a draft poster.
Recent Publication (peer reviewed): Koch, G. Ed. 2017. Digitization. Theories and Concepts for empirical cultural research. London: Routledge.