Are you a Data Scientist? A Conversation about New Methods and Sociology
‘Big Data’ and similar methods are both an opportunity and a challenge to epistemic practices in sociology: they make us reassess both the methods and the philosophical underpinnings of research. The trend towards computational methods within (not only) the social sciences poses many questions: Do we have to reconfigure the relationship between theory and data? What is the role of social media platform providers and ‘embedded researchers’? How can we enable a constructive collaboration of researchers with fundamentally different epistemological stances?
Professor Susan Halford (University of Bristol) and Dr Katharina Kinder-Kurlanda (GESIS – Leibniz-Institut für Sozialwissenschaften) discuss the possibilities of a sociology that opens itself up to interdisciplinary scrutiny drawing on experiences in the Web Science community. Since its inception Web Science has seen the web as an experiment whose understanding, building, archiving, and governing can only be achieved in interdisciplinary collaboration. From a sociological point of view this required finding ways to collaborate with computer scientists. It was necessary to identify fragile and temporary points of shared interest that allow combining a critical-analytical stance with the paradigm of problem-solving. These paradigms are reflected in very concrete, often disciplinary structures of influence and power in specific economies of attention. This makes the question of whether to identify as a data scientist a loaded one.