Call for papers: Research Methods for Digital Work

Research Methods for Digital Work: Innovative Methods for Studying
Distributed and Multi-modal Working Practices

Call for participation

University of Surrey, Guildford, UK, 25-26 May 2017

As digital technologies have matured, various forms of distributed working
have become commonplace. The contemporary workforce includes many people who
move between different sites during the course of a working day or week, and
who switch between offline working and diverse forms of online work and
mediated communication. Virtual teams coordinate activities across
geographic locations, using multiple channels of communication to organize
their work and to build identity as a team. Organizationally-sanctioned
online communications and digital repositories are used alongside
extra-organizational resources such as social media and informal
face-to-face conversations. Professional and personal activities share
communication channels, and boundaries between work and non-work can become
blurred. Work is thus both spatially and temporally complex. This complexity
provides many challenges for the researcher aiming to capture and understand
these practices, tracking activities – and their meanings for participants –
across multiple formats connected in an unpredictable fashion. This meeting
focuses on a key question for studies of contemporary work across
disciplines: how can we combine methods or devise new methods to capitalise
on diverse forms of data to build rich and theoretically-fruitful
understandings of digitally-suffused working life?

This meeting focuses on methods to study distributed and multi-modal working
practices drawing on expertise across a range of disciplines, including
management and organization studies, sociology, anthropology, Science and
Technology Studies, work psychology, design informatics and HCI. Each of
these disciplines has a theoretically-motivated need for detailed insight
into what people do in their working lives and a distinctive set of
methodological expertise in capturing working practice. By focusing on
innovative methods for the study of work across disciplines, we aim to
promote cross-fertilization of approaches across disciplines and to
instigate conversations on the theoretical purchase offered by different
ways of studying work.

We are inviting contributions that present innovative methods for the study
of working practices, particularly those that present the method in the
context of successful use within a research project. We welcome papers that
involve practical demonstration of an approach to data capture or an
analytic technique.

Key themes at the meeting are likely to include:

·         capturing transitions between modes of work: what methods can we
use to explore how, when and why people switch between online and offline?

·         capturing experiences of fluid, unpredictable work: how can we
employ observational and diary-based techniques effectively under such

·         quantitative approaches and logging across media: how can we build
approaches that exploit the richness of data provided by individual media
but also recognise the complexity of transitions between media? Where are
“Big Data” approaches helpful?

·         how to research screen-work: what new methods for understanding
what is happening when a worker engages with a screen have become available?

·         private and professional social media: how can our research
methods enable us to understand transitions between formal work-spaces and
personal online interactions?

·         mixing methods for study of work: what challenges and
opportunities emerge when we attempt to combine different methods for
capturing the experience of work?

Extended abstracts of no more than 1500 words should be submitted by 31st
January 2017 using the online submission form at

Following the meeting we anticipate production of an edited volume drawing
on papers presented at the meeting.  Contributions from international
scholars and early career researchers are particularly welcomed.
Participation will be limited to 50 attendees. Registration fees are £60
(£40 for students/unwaged). Attendees will be responsible for their own
travel and accommodation – links to local accommodation will be available at
the time of registration via the event website

The meeting is being organized by Christine Hine (University of Surrey),
Katrina Pritchard (Open University) and Gillian Symon (Royal Holloway,
University of London) in association with the Digital World Research Centre
at the University of Surrey. The meeting has received funding from the
Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of Surrey and the
RCUK-funded NEMODE Network Plus.

Categories: Digital Sociology


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