Methodological foci

The Studio will develop methodological innovation of the study of e-research. Of course, this should be relevant to other researchers in the humanities and social sciences as well. The Studio focuses on those methodologies that (1) are not yet well covered by methodologists in social sciences and humanities at the universities, and (2) are particularly relevant for the study of scientific and scholarly knowledge practices. Three methodological foci

  • Virtual Ethnography
  • Web Archiving for scholarly research
  • Simulation in e-research.

Virtual ethnography extends the notions of field and ethnographic observation from the exclusive study of co-present and face to face interactions, to a focus on mediated and distributed interactions. The key research question in the Virtual Ethnography focus will be how ethnography can be pursued in mediated settings. This research should establish which aspects of ethnographic research are challenged in particular in the shift from face to face interaction to mediated digitised interaction. This will make clear how ethnography can be conceived as a flexible practice, while remaining recognisable as a specific methodology. More specific questions are which new concepts of "field" or "research site" are needed for virtual ethnography, how virtual elements can be integrated in traditional fieldwork, and which new ethical issues arise in the practice of virtual ethnography.

The Web Archiving focus will develop a new methodology for systematic, longitudinal analysis of Web sites that are produced in the sciences and humanities. Presently there is no clear way how to make Web data available for scholarly research. Libraries and archives are now only beginning to develop concepts that enable the medium- and long-term archiving of Web sites. The emphasis in this focus will be on the analysis of the Dutch and European academic Web. The central question is which specifications and analytical tools are needed for the extraction of meaningful data sets for research in the humanities and social sciences from the flood of raw Web data.

The aim of the research in the methodological focus Simulation is to develop further expertise in simulations and systematic reflection on the heuristic value of modelling and simulation for theory building in the social sciences and humanities. The extended use of data visualisation technologies and virtual reality techniques in simulation research methods is often seen as one of the hallmarks of e-science. The respecification of general simulation models for research questions in the social sciences and humanities will be central in this focus. Both agent-based and network-oriented models and simulations will be included. The study of the heuristic and epistemic value of modelling and simulating as a research strategy in both the humanities (eg. language variation processes) and social sciences (eg. social selection) is intrinsic part of this respecification.