Although he doesn’t use the phrase, this passage by Dave Beer in Popular Culture and New Media (loc 124-140) really resonates with my developing conviction of the need for digital social ontology:
there has been much written over the last few years about the problems and opportunities that are presented to the social sciences and humanities by the profusion of vast amounts of digital data –or what is sometimes rather optimistically called ‘big data’ (boyd and Crawford, 2012). There has been a good deal of prevaricating about what this means for social and cultural research. The focus has tended to be upon the scale of new forms of social data that are now out there, and how we might use such data to tell new types of stories about the social world. The worry has been over how we might access and cope with such a deluge of data, and even with how we might compete or demarcate our own analytical value in such a context of data, data play and predictive analytics (Abbott, 2000; Savage and Burrows, 2007). This is all fine and necessary, but I think we are missing something in these debates. We lack a developed understanding of what these new ‘digital’ social data are, how they form, how they accumulate, how they are organised, how they circulate and how they feed back into culture. In short, we know little about the data themselves or about the politics, infrastructures and agendas that underpin them. By focusing upon popular culture, as the site in which much of these data are generated and incorporated, we can begin to reflect upon these questions and in turn build a clearer picture of what these data are and how they are manifested.