The six challenges social media poses for social researchers

There’s a great post by Kandy Woodfield on the NSMNSS blog. Do read the full post – it’s a panoramic yet concise overview of the current terrain. I’ve listed the challenges below for my own notes rather than as a substitute for reading the original post.

  1. The methodological challenge: “we have yet to fully address the fact that a high proportion of social media traffic consists of pictures not text”
  2. The collaborative challenge: “most powerful insight from social media research will come from transdisciplinary efforts drawing on the varied insights and skills of for example statisticians, qualitative researchers, digital curators, information scientists, machine learning experts and human geographers.” 
  3. The ethical and legal challenge: “the critical moments which will shape and define the ethical and legal frameworks for the use of social media data will probably not come from social research but from the use of social media data in the commercial world or media realm, these industries practices may shape our future access to research data. Are we engaging enough with these sectors and issues?” 
  4. The capability challenge: How many of us are really au fait with the worlds we are researching on social media platforms?”
  5. The contextual challenge:many methods lecturers, research supervisors, research commissioners, and research ethics board members do not feel adequately equipped to make rounded, informed decisions about the quality, ethics or value of social media research projects and proposals.”
  6. The synthesis challenge: “how if at all can new forms of research and findings map onto, elaborate or further inform conventional social research data?”

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