Digital Sociology at #BritSoc14

Plenary: The Social Life of Digital Methods

Deborah Lupton, Evelyn Ruppert, Noortje Marres, Mike Savage and Emma Uprichard
Friday 25 April 2014. 13:30-15:00

As an inaugural conference session for the BSA Digital Sociology study group, we propose a round table discussion exploring digital methods and their implications for sociological research. Our theme would follow a recent special issue of Theory, Culture & Society discussing the ‘social life of methods’ which has attracted much attention and discussion.

We expect the proposed roundtable would cover a diverse range of topics under the broad theme  of the ‘social life of methods’ including the ‘crisis of empirical sociology’, the significance of ‘big data’, the history of sociological methods, the digital  turn in social life and the problems and prospects for a critical social science under contemporary  circumstances. In doing so, our proposed session would not only address the conference theme of ‘changing society’ but do so in a way which explores how the repertoires of social research are both shaping and being shaped by these broader changes within social life.

An Invitation to Digital Public Sociology

Sarah Burton, Mark Carrigan, Jessie Daniels and Deborah Lupton
Date/Time TBC (there was a clash)

This session asks what ‘public sociology’ entails in a world of facebook, twitter, youtube, slideshare, soundcloud, pinterest and wordpress. What affordances and constraints do these tools entail for the task described by Michael Burawoy of “taking knowledge back to those from whom it came, making public issues out of private troubles, and thus regenerating sociology’s moral fibre”? What implications do these tools have for the relationship between the public and private in the occupational biographies of individual sociologists and, through aggregation and collective organisation, the discipline as a whole? In addressing such questions it seeks to draw out the continuities between the emerging field of digital sociology and the longer-standing concerns of public sociology. In doing so it addresses the claim made by John Holmwood at the previous year’s conference that the task of sociology in an age of austerity is to “occupy debate and make inequality matter” and argues that the digitalisation of social life entails profound challenges and opportunities for sociological inquiry.

Quantified Self and Self-Tracking: Data, self and health

Farzana Dudhwala, Deborah Lupton, and Karen Throsby
Date/Time TBC (there was a clash)

This panel has been arranged by the newly formed Quantified Self Research Network which was established in September 2013 in order to bring together scholars who are interested in understanding the development of self-tracking devices and techniques. This event will comprise of a panel of three speakers who will offer empirical or theoretical insights which will help to set the agenda for this new area of sociological study.

Although individuals and populations have been subject to statistical measures for more than a century the potential for quantification has increased dramatically in recent times. Perhaps the most distinctive characteristic of the contemporary quantification of the self is the extent to which individuals are encouraged, and often willing, to quantify themselves and engage with the analytical potential this enables.

We take quantified self in a broad sense to refer to the (semi-)formalised movement and community which has built up around the use of, and sharing of ideas on, commercial self-tracking devices and technologies. In addition we are also interested in those techniques and practices which are used by clinicians and patients to monitor health and the myriad ways in which our bodies and activities are monitored without our direct participation.

The impacts of quantification of bodies and practices on individuals will be explored from a number of different perspectives in order to unpick the social and ethical consequences of quantification as well as explore the professional and personal practices which enable it.

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