Calling BSA members: we’re trying to start a Digital Sociology study group and we need your support

Myself and Emma Head at Keele are proposing a digital sociology study group for the BSA. For it to be approved we need 15 statements of support from current BSA members. If you fall into this category and think the group is a good idea could you send  a quick e-mail (literally one sentence will be ok) to mark AT saying who you are, that you’re a current BSA member and that you support the group? Thanks. Also obviously please do forward to anyone you know who might be interested.

BSA Digital Sociology Study Group, co-convened by Mark Carrigan (LSE) and Emma Head (Keele University)

In spite of the increasing prominence of the Digital Humanities within the academic landscape, the form and practice which might come to be implied by the moniker ‘Digital Sociology’ remains strikingly inarticulate. While recent developments in computational social science and online research methods are certainly to be welcomed, it is our contention that the nascent ‘digital turn’ being witnessed in the academy has broader significance for the future of sociology than such specialisms can account for. Lupton (2012) identifies four major areas to the nascent field of digital sociology: professional use of digital tools by sociologists, sociological analyses of digital media use, sociological analysis of digital data and critical analysis of digital media and their attendant circuits of capital and power. Our proposed group would seek to represent each of these areas, drawing out the commonalities between them while taking care not to obliterate the distinctions between them.

The proposal is made against the background of what Savage and Burrows (2007) identify as the coming crisis of empirical sociology, particularly the profound challenge which the proliferation of ‘big data’ poses for the traditional analytical repertoires of professional sociology. While recognising that important initiatives have been undertaken at a national level towards these ends (e.g. Digital Methods as Mainstream Methodology) we nonetheless contend that there are limitations to the approach adopted and that, with regards to the long term vitality of professional sociology, there is a need for a distinctly sociological exploration of these challenges. We imagine that this would involve building digital research capacity, in a manner which would draw on and complement these existing projects, while also moving beyond them to address the broader questions contemporary circumstances pose for the future of sociology. We share Back’s (2012: 18) belief that, in spite of the profound challenges faced by sociology in an age of austerity, it is nonetheless the case that “there is more opportunity to reimagine sociological craft now than at any other point in the discipline’s history”. We propose the Digital Sociology study group as an open-ended forum which seeks to explore the nature and implications of these challenges but also to collectively elaborative creative solutions to them.


To identify and disseminate best practice in the use of digital tools by sociologists.

To develop and promote specifically sociological modes of inquiry into digital media use.

To develop and promote specifically sociological responses to ‘big data’, in terms of both secondary analysis and the broader methodological questions posed by this transformation in the information systems of late capitalist society.

To develop and promote specifically sociological analyses of the broader personal, cultural and structural changes of the ‘digital turn’ in social life.

To provide an open forum for exploration of what the digital turn entails for sociological practice, professional identity and the future of the discipline.

Events and network:

The inaugural event of this study group is tentatively planned to take place in London (at the BSA meeting rooms) in the first half of 2012.  This will involve invited speakers and time for discussion and networking to create wider ownerships of the developing aims of the group.

An event is also planned for March 2014, at Keele University, which would focus on postgraduate researchers.

The group would have its own developing online presence and the form that this takes will be discussed at our first event (and subject to BSA approval, where necessary).

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