Social Science and Digital Worlds: New Technologies, Old Methods

The conference organised by PhD students from the Department of Sociology will take place on Wednesday 21 October 2015 in Charles Wilson Building. It will gather masters and PhD students to explore the implications of emerging information and communications technology.

Registration is now closed!

Conference image


The first Sociology Graduate Conference at the University of Leicester is a platform to encourage discussion about the changes that digitalization has brought to social worlds and new social phenomena. We seek both theoretical and empirical contributions on the status, limitations and problems that social methods – both qualitative and quantitative - currently encounter, as well as the new lines of inquiry that have been opened up because of digital methodological innovations.

Participants will explore the role of social science at a time when citizens, companies and governments are continuously generating, sharing and processing data. Researchers now face challenges to data access, analysis, and dissemination that raise ethical issues related to copy right, data protection, privacy and surveillance. For instance, knowledge dissemination is vital to the advancement of social methods, even creating new links between social researchers and actors, yet it also requires far-reaching revisions to our ethical procedures. We encourage graduate students to present case studies on these topics, and also to show how they deal with these questions in their own research, and to discuss the solutions they reached.

The interest that ICTs have generated in social sciences might render other social processes invisible, which are equally worthy of study, for example social inequality or the role of vulnerable subjects in transnational capitalism. And although offline activity has a long research history in the social sciences, with the use of valid and reliable methods, the appearance of an ‘online’ sphere has created new implications for carrying out studies into both spheres. In this regard, we welcome contributions illuminating these social processes that either are difficult to study with digital methodologies or require the collaboration between “old” and “new” methods. The conference will deal with the challenges, risks and new possibilities that the digital turn brings for methodologies in social sciences, but also will revise the mere notion of “traditional methods”.

Conference organisers

Berrin Altin-Soran

Maria Gonzalez-Aguado

Katarzyna Kucaba

Zahide Yildiz


09:30-10:00 Registration and coffee

10:00–10:15 Welcome and overview of the day by the organisers

10:15-10:45 Keynote: Prof B Carter and Prof J Hughes Can Sociology Do Digital? The Case of DWTs

10:45-12:30 Panel session 1: Challenges of ICT 

  • The Problems with Measuring Cyber Capabilities - Francis Domingo, University of Nottingham 
  • Towards an ethnography of ‘the digital’ in everyday life - Mike Duggan, Royal Holloway University of London
  • Scoping civil agents and networks on Twitter. The case of Charlie Hebdo - Chiara Poletti, School of Social Science, Cardiff University
  • Fact or Fiction: The Limitations of News via Social Media - Chelsea Reid, Leeds Beckett University 

12:30-13:15 Academic projects: Dr Panayiota Tsatsou (M&C) ‘The role of digital technologies in social research in the UK: an emerging digital research community?’
                                               Dr Geoffrey Belknap (School of English) ‘From citizen science to citizen humanities: history, digital humanities and Science Gossip’

13:15-14:15 Lunch

14:15-15:45 Panel session 2: Community use of social media and online activism

  • Italians in Birmingham: social practices in the online world - Michela Pellico, University of Nottingham
  • Online displacement: Iraqi refugees in Jordan and their relationship with digital media - Mirjam Twigt, University of Leicester
  • Hierarchies of Activism: Issue-based organisations and digital stratification in New Delhi, India - Sarah McKeever, King’s College London
  • Young People, Online Political Participation and Humour in Turkey: The internet activities of university students during to the 2015 Turkish General Election - Songul Dilsiz, Loughborough University

15:45-16:00 Coffee break

16:00-17:00 Panel session 3: Online communities and health

  • Disability identity in China’s cyber world - Yuanyuan Qu, University of Glasgow
  • Can you smell cannabis? Sniffing out medical cannabis conversations on-line reveals challenges, insights and some surprises - Yewande Okuleye, University of Leicester 

17:00-17:45 Keynote: Prof Celia Lury Interface methods and compositional  methodology

17:45-18:00 Closing remarks and reflections


Garendon Room, 4th Floor

Charles Wilson Building

University of Leicester

University Road



Call for Papers

The conference will bring together postgraduate researchers from social sciences and humanities engaged in the interdisciplinary studies related to ICTs. The event will give them the opportunity to exchange views about their area of research. Suggestions for presentations topics include, but are not limited to:

  • digital social research and its implications
  • understanding Big Data
  • researching social media and the issues it raises
  • online identity and risk
  • social media and social change
  • people’s relationships with digital media
  • online activist communities and civic media activism
  • surveillance, privacy and conflict in the digital public sphere
  • media, culture and gender
  • web user experience
  • open knowledge and data sharing

Please, send your abstract proposal (300 words) indicating name, institutional affiliation and title in a word document no later than Friday 31 July to the email address:

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