Social science goes digital: developments, opportunities and challenges

James C. Witte About the author

Up until recently sociologists have been slow to recognize that the economic and social changes produced by the information revolution are as profound as those that came with the industrial revolution. Slowly, however, we have seen the development of a digital sociology. This paper begins by briefly looking at how searching and accessing literature, as a routine, day-to-day social science task, has changed with new, digital technologies. Then, the paper looks specifically at developments in survey research, face-to-face interviewing and experimental methods, as examples of the manner in which particular approaches to sociology have changed with new communication and information technologies. As with the Internet more broadly, these new technologies bring challenges, as well as opportunities. To highlight the ambiguity of the situation, the paper concludes with a discussion of the opportunities and challenges that come with the growing social importance of social networking sites and other forms of digital data, as well as the creation of analytical tools to directly scrape, mine and code this data.

Research methods; Social Sciences; Internet; Digital literature search; Embodied agent interviewers

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