The realm of the digital offers both new methods of research and new objects of study. Because the digital environment for scholarship is constantly evolving, researchers must sometimes improvise, change their plans, and adapt. These details are often left out of research write-ups, leaving newcomers to the field frustrated when their approaches do not work as expected. Digital Research Confidential offers scholars a chance to learn from their fellow researchers’ mistakes—and their successes.
Almost anyone with a $40 mobile phone and a nearby cell tower can get online with an ease unimaginable just twenty years ago. An optimistic narrative has proclaimed the mobile phone as the device that will finally close the digital divide. Yet access and effective use are not the same thing, and the digital world does not run on mobile handsets alone.
When “metadata” became breaking news, appearing in stories about surveillance by the National Security Agency, many members of the public encountered this once-obscure term from information science for the first time. Should people be reassured that the NSA was “only” collecting metadata about phone calls—information about the caller, the recipient, the time, the duration, the location—and not recordings of the conversations themselves? Or does phone call metadata reveal more than it seems? In this book, Jeffrey Pomerantz offers an accessible and concise introduction to metadata.
With Obfuscation, Finn Brunton and Helen Nissenbaum mean to start a revolution. They are calling us not to the barricades but to our computers, offering us ways to fight today’s pervasive digital surveillance—the collection of our data by governments, corporations, advertisers, and hackers. To the toolkit of privacy protecting techniques and projects, they propose adding obfuscation: the deliberate use of ambiguous, confusing, or misleading information to interfere with surveillance and data collection projects.
We may imagine the digital cloud as placeless, mute, ethereal, and unmediated. Yet the reality of the cloud is embodied in thousands of massive data centers, any one of which can use as much electricity as a midsized town. Even all these data centers are only one small part of the cloud. Behind that cloud-shaped icon on our screens is a whole universe of technologies and cultural norms, all working to keep us from noticing their existence. In this book, Tung-Hui Hu examines the gap between the real and the virtual in our understanding of the cloud.
Shared public access to computers and the Internet in developing countries is often hailed as an effective, low-cost way to share the benefits of digital technology. Yet research on the economic and social effects of public access to computers is lacking. This volume offers the first systematic assessment of the impact of shared public access in the developing world, with findings from ten countries in South America, Asia, and Africa. It provides evidence that the benefits of diversified participation in digital society go beyond providing access to technology.
Online comment can be informative or misleading, entertaining or maddening. Haters and manipulators often seem to monopolize the conversation. Some comments are off-topic, or even topic-less. In this book, Joseph Reagle urges us to read the comments. Conversations “on the bottom half of the Internet,” he argues, can tell us much about human nature and social behavior.
In Knowledge Machines, Eric Meyer and Ralph Schroeder argue that digital technologies have fundamentally changed research practices in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities. Meyer and Schroeder show that digital tools and data, used collectively and in distributed mode—which they term e-research—have transformed not just the consumption of knowledge but also the production of knowledge. Digital technologies for research are reshaping how knowledge advances in disciplines that range from physics to literary analysis.
We turn on the lights in our house from a desk in an office miles away. Our refrigerator alerts us to buy milk on the way home. A package of cookies on the supermarket shelf suggests that we buy it, based on past purchases. The cookies themselves are on the shelf because of a “smart” supply chain. When we get home, the thermostat has already adjusted the temperature so that it’s toasty or bracing, whichever we prefer. This is the Internet of Things—a networked world of connected devices, objects, and people.
Internet trolls live to upset as many people as possible, using all the technical and psychological tools at their disposal. They gleefully whip the media into a frenzy over a fake teen drug crisis; they post offensive messages on Facebook memorial pages, traumatizing grief-stricken friends and family; they use unabashedly racist language and images. They take pleasure in ruining a complete stranger’s day and find amusement in their victim’s anguish. In short, trolling is the obstacle to a kinder, gentler Internet.