Faster than the speed of print: Reconciling ‘big data’ social media analysis and academic scholarship

Axel Bruns


The promise of ‘big data’ has generated a significant deal of interest in the development of new approaches to research in the humanities and social sciences, as well as a range of important critical interventions which warn of an unquestioned rush to ‘big data’. Drawing on the experiences made in developing innovative ‘big data’ approaches to social media research, this paper examines some of the repercussions for the scholarly research and publication practices of those researchers who do pursue the path of ‘big data’–centric investigation in their work. As researchers import the tools and methods of highly quantitative, statistical analysis from the ‘hard’ sciences into computational, digital humanities research, must they also subscribe to the language and assumptions underlying such ‘scientificity’? If so, how does this affect the choices made in gathering, processing, analysing, and disseminating the outcomes of digital humanities research? In particular, is there a need to rethink the forms and formats of publishing scholarly work in order to enable the rigorous scrutiny and replicability of research outcomes?

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