Vast amounts of digital data are now generated daily by people as they go about their lives, yet social researchers are struggling to exploit it. At the same time, the challenges faced by society in the 21st century are growing ever more complex, and demands research that is bigger in scale, more collaborative and multi-disciplinary than ever before. This cutting-edge volume provides an accessible introduction to innovative digital social research tools and methods that harness this ‘data deluge’ and successfully tackle key research challenges. Contributions from leading international researchers cover topics such as:  • Qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods research  • Data management  • Social media and social network analysis  • Modeling and simulation  • Survey methods  • Visualizing social data  • Ethics and e-research  • The future of social research in the digital age This vibrant introduction to innovative digital research methods is essential reading for anyone conducting social research today.

Sociology and the Digital Challenge

Mike Savage

13.1 Introduction

In 2007, with my colleague Roger Burrows, I published a paper ‘On the Coming Crisis of Empirical Sociology’ in the journal Sociology, the official journal of the British Sociological Association (Savage and Burrows, 2007). In all honesty, this was not a deeply researched piece of work, or a carefully crafted scholarly paper, but a set of provocative reflections on how the proliferation of digital data might affect the future jurisdiction of social scientific research. Noting the relative methodological conservatism of sociologists, who often preferred to remain loyal to their ‘tried and trusted’ methods of the interview and the survey which were now well over 50 years old, we speculated that the explosion of digital data offered fundamental ...

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