Foundations of Internet Research: The Age of Global Communication (MA)

This course deals with a range of aspects of internet research – theoretical, practical, ethical, and more. It takes two main approaches, as well as an approach that combines the two. The first looks at how the internet can be used as a research tool. How can data collected through the internet help us understand the world around us? This includes the use of search engines, online databases, and other digitally-generated resources, such as the discussion pages for Wikipedia articles, hyperlinks, and Facebook profiles. The second looks at research of internet phenomena, such as social network sites, search engines, and more. These phenomena need not necessarily be researched using online tools: we might study online support groups by interviewing members face to face. The third approach is one where we use internet-based tools or data to study online phenomena. In brief, the course asks how we can use the internet as a research tool, and it asks how we can research the internet. Throughout the course special emphasis is placed on different aspects that set the Internet apart from other media environments: multimedia interactive contents, recorded behavior, technological and social structures as well as its capacity to act as a social environment in its own right. While the main class focuses on discussing the conceptual and theoretical implications of Internet Research, the tutorial has a practical orientation, and students will learn hands on how to use new tools.

Course Topics

  • Getting to terms: Fundamentals of Internet Research

  • Researching the Internet I: Questions & Applications

  • The Internet as Content I: Contents & Contexts

  • The Internet as Content II: Interactivity, Dynamism & Archiving

  • The Internet as Record I: Behavioral Traces

  • The Internet as Record II: Analyzing Digital Data

  • The Internet as Object I: Infrastructures & Protocols

  • The Internet as Object II: Algorithms & Platforms

  • The Internet as Structure I: Links, Relations & Networks

  • The Internet as Structure II: Analyzing Networked Data

  • The Internet as Environment I: Uses & Users

  • The Internet as Environment II: Ethics & Research

  • Current Developments: The Political Economy of the Internet

  • Researching the Internet II: Challenges & Futures