Digital Traces in Context - An Introduction

TitleDigital Traces in Context - An Introduction
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsHepp, A, Breiter, A, Friemel, T
JournalInternational Journal of Communication
Keywordsbig data, contextualization, datafication, deep mediatization, digital methods, digital traces

A consequence of living in a media-saturated world is that we inevitably leave behind digital traces of our media use. In this introduction to the International Journal of Communication’s thematic section, we argue for a need to put those digital traces in context. As a starting point, we outline our basic understanding of digital traces, generally defining them as numerically produced correlations of disparate kinds of data
that are generated by our practices in a media environment characterized by digitalization. On this basis, we distinguish three contextual facets that are of relevance when considering digital traces: first, the context of the scientific discourse in which research on digital traces is positioned; second, the context of the methods being applied to researching them; and third, the aforementioned context of the empirical field. With reference to the articles in this thematic section, this introduction argues that, in a single study, all three contextual facets interact as the scientific discourse relates to the methods being used, which in turn relates to the entire field of research.