call for papers: qualitative methods and data in digital societies

Call for papers: Themed Issue

Qualitative Methods and Data in Digital Societies

Qualitative Research [html:

Edited by William Housley (Cardiff University), Bella Dicks (Cardiff University) and Karen Henwood (Cardiff University).

The explosion of digital social data in recent years has required a response from both the social science and computational science communities. This has been framed as an attempt to move beyond the coming crisis of empirical sociology (Savage and Burrows, 2007, 2009; Edwards et al., 2013; Housley et al., 2014). The opportunities and challenges for social science from this ‘data deluge’ are wide ranging and a spectrum of thinking is emerging across the community that includes enthusiasts, skeptics and those with deep reservations. Yet, the rise of digital data and the claims being made for it also rest on human practices and social life in multiple ways (Dicks, 2012; Smith, 2014). Consequently, Qualitative Research is central to understanding how digital data is accomplished, lived and analysed.

This themed issue invites contributions that address the role of Qualitative Methods in responding, challenging and contributing to the reflexive interrogation and scoping of data in digital societies at situated, networked and system levels. The advent of Web 2.0, the open data movement and the rhetoric of ‘Big Social Data’ have opened up opportunities to analyse big qualitative data streams, such as those associated with social media, in ways that are not yet fully understood; new digital data developments include those associated with the emerging contours of the ‘Quantified Self’ movement and the navigation of health metrics through the use of body proxemic technology giving rise to forms of life characterised by data responsibilisation and self-analytics.

The themed issue will invite papers that report on these and associated developments. Topics of interest include:

  • Ethnographic studies of interdisciplinary collaboration in the area of digital data analysis, digital tool development, platform development and the associated context(s) of occupational identities and expertise.
  • The Qualitative dimensions and issues surrounding coding and annotation practices through new methods such as crowdsourcing techniques and citizen social science. Qualitative studies of the social life of methods in the digital era and the observation of ‘naturally occurring’ data generation practices that make use of new networked technologies in the pursuit of self-management and performance. This might also include studies that demonstrate how digital actors reflexively navigate data streams in ways that are nuanced and complex and not akin to being a ‘cultural dope 2.0’.
  • The interaction order in the digital age; the ‘Self’, identity and digital data.
  • Methodographic studies of the design and use of algorithms in digital tool development and data harvesting, the examination of code and machine learning as an accomplishment and artefact, the social organisation of statistics and modelling, the examination of demographic proxies in social media analytics and issues surrounding inference and evidence within the Big Social Data imaginary.
  • The relationship between ‘small’ and ‘big’ social data. Innovations in the Qualitative analysis of Big Text data and social media streams.
  • The ethical dimensions and politics of data in the digital age. Data inequalities: gender, race, class and the accomplishment of data.


Edwards A, Housley W, Williams M, Sloan L, and Williams M (2013) Digital social research, social media and the sociological imagination: Surrogacy, augmentation and re-orientation. International Journal of Social Research Methodology 16(3): 245–260.

Dicks B (2102) (ed.) Digital Qualitative Research Methods: Data Analysis. London and Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Housley W, Procter R, Edwards A, Burnap P, Williams M, Sloan L, Rana O, Morgan J, Voss A and Greenhill A (2014) Big and broad social data and the sociological imagination: a collaborative response. Big Data & Society 1(2): 1–15.

Housley,W. (2015) Focus: The Emerging Contours of Data Science. Discover Society, Issue 23.

Savage M and Burrows R (2007) The coming crisis of empirical sociology. Sociology 41(5): 885–899.

Savage M and Burrows R (2009) Some further reflections on the coming crisis of empirical sociology. Sociology 43(4): 762–772.

Smith, RJ (2014) Missed miracles and mystical connections: Qualitative research, digital social science and big data. Big Data? Qualitative Approaches to Digital Research 13.

Please send an abstract of no more than 250 words to: JonesA7[at] by 31 December 2015. Abstracts will be reviewed for fit. You will be informed if the article is invited for review. Full manuscripts are due by 1 June 2016.