III International conference of the International Lab for Innovative Social Research (ILIS) - Research Methods in the Digital Society: areas and practices
III International Conference
International Lab for Innovative Social Research (ILIS)
Research Methods in the Digital Society: areas and practices
24-25 November 2021
University of Salerno
Basing on how the pandemic will evolve, the conference will be entirely on-site, in Salerno, entirely online or will take a hybrid format (online and on-site)
Doing research is an ever-changing challenge for social scientists. This is especially true in the digital society recently announced as Society 5.0 (Gladden 2019).
Internet and computer-mediated communication (CMC) are being incorporated into every aspect of daily life and social life has been deeply penetrated by the Internet. This is due to recent technological developments which increase the scope and range of online social spaces and the forms and time of participation such as the web 2.0 which widened the opportunities for user-generated content, the emergence of an “internet of things” and of ubiquitous mobile devices which make it possible to be always connected.
We can say that digital technologies are becoming central in understanding culture and society, human experience and social world since computer software and hardware actively constitute self-hood, embodiment, social life, social relations, social institutions, in a word us as humans (Lupton 2015). Thus, digital technologies are entangled in the structures of society in many different, complex, and even contradictory ways and are deeply changing the practices, symbols, and shared meanings of our societies. The distinction between real and virtual, material and immaterial, bounded and unbounded spaces, in group, outgroup become confused and overlapping (Veltri, 2021; Rabelo, Bhide and Gutierrez, 2019) with frequent incursions of virtual reality into real life, social relations developed in physically unspecified places, online interactions losing their space-time anchorage and strength of linkages and incorporation of technology into our daily materiality.
The “digital turn” (Caliandro, Gandini, 2019) provides both new objects of study (natively digital data objects, born in the web), digitalized and digital data and innovative source of methods, that is a natively digital methodological array (Rogers 2013; Caliandro 2018). Digitalized and digital data, also called big data, are related to our digital traces and our routine interactions (e.g. search engine queries, phone calls, shopping, banking interactions, social media posts, narratives and storytelling, etc.) (Kumar, Morstatter e Liu, 2013; Zafarani, Abbasi e Liu, 2014; Amaturo, Aragona, 2019b). The impact of such a turn on the epistemological and methodological asset of social research is undeniable due to the specificity of such digital data (Agodi 2010) and the opportunities of creative and innovative research practices (Giuffrida, Rinaldi, Zarba, 2016). Thus, some hypothesize a shift toward a fourth paradigm in social sciences based on the power of algorithms and computers (Stefanizzi, 2016; 2021). We can accept or not the notion of paradigm for such developments but what is undeniable is that the pervasive digitalization calls for interpretative schemes and methodological options more suitable for grasping the current complexity.
This calls for a tuning of the epistemological and methodological stances of social research from a twofold perspective: first by adapting the established social research methods to the practices and the interactions made by people when acting online (digitalized methods), then by creating new methods and techniques in order to analyze those online experiences that could not be framed using the tools of the traditional social research methodology (digital methods).
With reference to the specificity, a crucial epistemological and ethical issue refers to the nature of data collected online which are drastically different from those collected through questionnaires, surveys or interviews: they are collected without the actor is aware of it (Corposanto, Valastro 2014). It is a new ontological object that is referred to in different ways (digital life, digital shadow, digital footprint, algorithmic identity) (Addeo, Masullo 2021). If on the one hand this confers to this information a naturalistic character, making them paradoxically closer to ethnographic materials than provoked data (such as answers to surveys and interviews) (Cardano, 2011), on the other hand, it raises important ethical issues. On the quantitative side, big data together with the development in computational science have allowed for the spread of innovative explanatory models and simulations (topic modelling, machine learning) although their feature of being “searched” and “found” online may drive social research toward a data-driven approach and a naïve new empiricism (Kitchin 2014, Amaturo, Aragona 2019a)).
Digitalization gave also an opportunity for rediscovering methods that had never been mainstream, such as network analysis (Corbisiero, 2021) and content analysis (Punziano, 2021). On the qualitative side, the spread of spaces of online narration and storytelling, has strengthened the possibility of digital ethnography and biographic research (Delli Paoli, D’Auria 2021; Delli Paoli, 2021; Masullo, Addeo, Delli Paoli 2020).
In this conference, we annually bring together researchers from different disciplines who engage in wide forms of reflection on the future of the research methods in the study of the digital society in its broadest sense.
In the previous editions of this conference, which is now at its third edition, we discussed the future of digital research and the significance of the digital challenge to social research by reflecting on the epistemological impact of digital methods, on innovative methodological practices (digital ethnography, computational analysis, etc.), on the digital adaptation of traditional methods and on the methodological challenges opened by the digital which implies embracing the natural logic of online communication affordances in gathering, ordering, and analyzing data—as with tags, links, or hashtags.
This resulted in several publications which collect the outputs of the previous conferences:
A special issue in Italian Sociological Review (Class A journal -ANVUR rating) dedicated to the reconceptualization of social research in the digital era
A special issue in Cultura e Studi del Sociale (Scientific journal – ANVUR rating) dedicated to digital research during Covid-19 pandemic.
A book dedicated to ethnography and netnography
The advent of the global Covid-19 pandemic from late 2019 onwards have accelerated the adoption of digital solutions at an unprecedented pace, exacerbated the importance of digital innovations, the pervasiveness of the internet in daily life, the hybridization between “social” and “technological” processes and consequently the availability of information and of natively digital data objects (born in the web) to be studied.
In this conference we would like to examine both the impact of the digital on traditionally “offline” and face-to-face contexts such as education, policy and politics, sensitive topics and population such as gender and sexualities and the spread of innovative digital research practices.
Given the spread of digital technologies into most crannies of everyday life, it is impossible for one conference to cover all the areas that could be affected by digital research. The modest aim of the conference is to introduce a range of interesting areas most affected by digital innovations and presenting concrete research practices.
Thus, this conference especially (but not exclusively) calls for contributions that shed new light on the following topics:
Theoretical, epistemological, methodological, ontological and ethical reflections about the digital research methods;
Digital research in education;
Digital research in policy and politics;
Digital research on business, consumption and tourism;
Digital research on gender and sexualities;
Digital research on health and e-health;
Digital research on media and communication studies;
Digital research on territories and environment.
Abstracts need to be limited to 500 words and include goals, research methods and main findings. Please use the abstract form and send it as an attached file to: labilis [at] unisa.it ()
Call for abstract
Deadline to submit abstracts: 26 July 2021
Author Notification: 31 July 2021
Deadline to submit papers: 31 October 2021
Conference dates: 24-25 November 2021
Executive Board: Felice Addeo, Angela Delli Paoli, Giuseppe Masullo, University of Salerno, Gabriella Punziano, University of Naples Federico II
Scientific Committee (in progress): Enrica Amaturo (University of Naples Federico II); Alfonso Amendola (University of Salerno), Biagio Aragona ((University of Naples Federico II); Davide Bennato (University of Catania), Rita Bichi (University Cattolica Milan), Giovanni Boccia Altieri (University of Urbino), Gianmaria Bottoni (City University of London), Alessandro Caliandro (University of Pavia), Roberto Cipriani (University of Rome 3), Costantino Cipolla (University of Bologna), Fabio Corbisiero (University of Naples Federico II), Cleto Corposanto (University of Magna Grecia), Paola Di Nicola (University of Verona), Irina Dimitrova (Centrum for forskining om ekonomiska relationer, Mittuniversitet), Maria Paola Faggiano (University of Rome Sapienza), Brian Gilley (University Bloomington-Indiana, USA), Susan Halford (University of Britol, UK), Steven Eric Krauss (University Putra Malaysia, MY), Giuseppe Maiello (University of Prague, CZ), Emiliana Mangone (University of Salerno), Alexa Marcotte (Kinsey Institute, USA), Antonio Maturo (Unviersity of Bologna), Rosdi Roziah Mohd (University Putra Malaysia, MY), Paolo Montesperelli (University of Rome Sapienza), Massimo Ragnedda (Northumbria University of Newcastle, UK), Cirus Rinaldi (University of Palermo), Monica Scarano (University of Lille, FR), Eleonora Sparano (Univeristy of Rome Nicolò Cusano), Sonia Stefanizzi (University of Milan Bicocca), Johan Steinberg (University of Vermont), Luigi Tronca (University of Verona), Lucia Velotti (City University of New York, USA), Zuzana Virglerova (Bata University, CZ), Zeinab Zaremohzzabeih (University Putra Malaysia, MY).
The participation fee for the III International Conference ILIS is 30 euros, including VAT. The methods of payment will be communicated together with the acceptance of the abstract by the Executive Board.