Information and the transformation of sociology: interactivity and social media monitoring

Mackay, Hugh (2013). Information and the transformation of sociology: interactivity and social media monitoring. tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique, 11(1) pp. 117–126.



This paper explores some key ways in which the scale and form of information today challenges some of sociol-ogy’s core methods and practice. Information has shaped sociology in two key ways. First, it has become an object of study, largely in the form of accounts of the epochal shift to ‘the information society’. This paper examines interactivity as a key element of such changes, especially in relation to the mass media. The second way in which sociology is being transformed by the growth of information is that, with the growth of huge volumes of commercial transactional information, social data is no longer the preserve of sociologists. Moreover, new tools have emerged to challenge the research methods that lie at the heart of sociology. This paper explores this argument, originally developed by Savage and Burrows, in relation to the BBC World Service’s use of social media monitoring tools. It examines some implications of the growth of interactivity, and the associated new forms of data and new research tools, to explore some key implications of information for the practice of sociology today. It concludes that the vast amount of available information affords new possibilities for sociologists as well as for the organisations that collect it, but that this requires sociologists to develop new tools and practices.

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