5 – Final Roundtable Event


Unfortunately we were unable to make a recording of this session.


The final event in this series was held on 26 November 2014. Below are details of the speakers and their abstracts. 

11:00 Introduction with Dr Bridgette Wessels

11.10 Robert Walker, University of Oxford

Title: Reflections on conducting comparative qualitative research in seven countries

Abstract: The Shame of Poverty was recently published by Oxford University Press, a volume that explores Nobel laureate Amartya Sen’s contention that shame lies at the absolutist core of poverty.  The book reports research which was conducted in Norway and Uganda, Britain and India, China, South Korea and Pakistan and involved use of creative writing, semiotic analysis of feature films, in depth interviews with adults and group discussions separately with children and adults, content analyses of newspapers and policy analysis of social protection policies. The research team concluded that that the negative consequences of poverty extended beyond material hardship. People in poverty typically feel deeply ashamed at being unable to fulfil their personal aspirations or to live up to societal expectations due to their lack of resources. Such shame not only hurts, adding to the negative experience of poverty, but undermines confidence and individual agency, can lead to depression and even suicide, and may well contribute to the perpetuation of poverty. Robert Walker reflects on the conceptual, analytic, practical and ethical issues raised by this research.

Robert Walker is Professor of Social Policy and Fellow of Green Templeton College, University of Oxford. He was formerly Professor of Social Policy at the University Nottingham and before that Professor of Social Policy Research, Loughborough University where he was Director of the Centre for Research in Social Policy. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and was awarded an MBE in 2012 for services to social policy research. He was a Member of the statutory UK Social Security Advisory Committee for 10 years until 2012 and chaired the Academic Advisory Committee during the design and launch of the ESRC UK Household Longitudinal Study. He is currently a member of the Expert Advisory Group for the evaluation of Universal Credit.

11.35 Richard Rogers, University of Amsterdam

Title: Situating Digital Methods

Abstract: There is currently a debate at hand over aligning political and social research with the digital age. How to cope with the challenges the Internet and the digital, including newly available online data, bring to research? Concomitant with the rise of the term Big Data, certain methods and tools appear to drive research as well as the complex of what could be called the programmatic agenda, e.g., special issues of journals, funding calls, conference titles, lecture series and so forth. For some, it has been termed the computational turn, meaning the importation of computer science techniques into social research practices. More dramatically, that turn supposedly comes with paradigm-rending consequences such as pattern-seeking supplanting interpretation. Another, subtly different means of phrasing the arrival of the stickered laptops and hacking workshop culture could be the digital turn, where the study of digital culture informs research that makes use of online data, software and visualizations. To make this distinction between the computational and the digital turns is also a means of resisting a monolithic, or unitary, understanding of the changing nature of research in the digital age. More specifically, there are variegated approaches across the digital humanities, e-social sciences as well as digital media studies that could be seen as having distinctive ontological and epistemological commitments and positionings. Here I briefly situate and discuss a series of digital research practices called cultural analytics, culturomics, webometrics, altmetrics and digital methods, providing short examples of what they could offer in terms of research.

Richard Rogers, PhD is University Professor in New Media & Digital Culture and Department Chair of Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam. His research interests include web epistemology, digital methods and issue mapping.

12.00 David Beer, University of York

Title: Punk Sociology and the politics of data

Abstract: This talk will begin with some brief reflections on the concept of Punk Sociology. This concept will then provide the context for an exploration of sociology’s potential futures, in terms of both its research questions and methodological challenges. Punk Sociology will be used to think about how social science might engage with new types of digital by-product or ‘big’ data. The talk will explore three key issues in this regard. First, it will begin by introducing the notion of the ‘politics of circulation’ and suggesting that this needs to be a central focus of work that explores the opportunities presented by new forms of digital data. It is argued that we should not just be trying to use such data for analytical purposes but that we should also be thinking about the data themselves – to understand how they accumulate, how they are ordered and how they circulate. We should ask questions of the data as well as asking questions with them. Second, the talk will reflect upon what this politics of circulation means for the way that sociology is communicated. In the context of social media’s whirlpool of data circulations we need to think about who gets heard and why. Finally, the talk will close by reflecting upon what might be thought of as sociology’s dual horizons. The suggestion here will be that we need to keep an attentive eye on sociology’s past and its future, and to try to put these into dialogue.

David Beer is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of York, UK. His publications include Punk Sociology (2014), Popular Culture and New Media: The Politics of Circulation (2013) and New Media: The Key Concepts (2008, with Nick Gane). He is also editor of the Theory, Culture and Society website theoryculturesociety.org, this site acts as an open access supplement to the TCS journal.

12.25 Michael Pidd, University of Sheffield

Title: Data in the Digital Humanities

Abstract: Data in its digital form has been underpinning humanities research since the 1970s when the Oxford Text Archive was instituted as a repository for preserving and providing open access to key texts for literary and language research. Semantically structured data in the humanities dates back to the 1980s and the development of TEI SGML, an encoding initiative for digital texts that later influenced fundamental web technologies such as XML. Further, it is claimed that “enormous” images of over 20MB in size – digitised images of the British Library’s Beowulf manuscript – were transmitted for the first time across the Atlantic to the University of Kentucky in 1993. The humanities has had a relatively long love affair with digital data, partly because texts and artefacts are central to humanities research, but also because digital versions of these materials enable us to ask questions that would not be possible in a pre-digital age. However, digital data in the humanities is also challenging. For example, historical documents will often be handwritten, and will feature dialect words, non-standardised spelling, characters that do not exist today, inconsistent narrative structures and a provenance that can often only be determined by examination of the physical codex. Applying digital methods to documents such as these – especially at scale – presents a range of technical and methodological challenges that both create and limit opportunities for research. In this talk I will explore how digital data is created and used in the humanities and the challenges that it raises for humanities research and related disciplines. Topics will include digitisation, crowd-sourcing, NLP, record linkage, data visualisation and data re-use. I will draw upon the work of HRI Digital at the Humanities Research Institute (http://hridigital.shef.ac.uk).

Michael Pidd is Digital Director of HRI Digital at the Humanities Research Institute, University of Sheffield, one of the UK’s leading Digital Humanities centres. Michael has over 20 years of experience in developing, managing and delivering large collaborative research projects in the humanities and heritage subject domains. Projects that Michael has been responsible for include: Old Bailey Online (AHRC), London Lives (ESRC), England’s Immigrants (AHRC), Locating London’s Past (Jisc) and Connected Histories (Jisc) which pulls together over 30 billion items of online historical research data.  He is currently part of the team involved in delivering the Large AHRC Digital Transformations project, Digital Panopticon, which is tracing the life-courses of convicts transported to Australia as well as being Co-Investigator on the AHRC/ESRC Intoxicants in Early Modernity project. As a practitioner, Michael specialises in data management and system design specifically within the context of humanities and heritage research.

12.40 – 1.15 Discussion (led by Bridgette Wessels and Mark Tomlinson)


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