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Discussing @digitalmethods book: Issue mapping for an ageing europe

by on February 22, 2016

It is not often that we come across a book that is relevant to both the topic and method of our research.  But this recent (and freely available via open access) book is a pleasing exception!  It is produced as part of the Digital Methods Initiative (

Rogers, R., Sánchez-Querubín, N., & Kil, A. (2015). Issue mapping for an ageing Europe. Amsterdam

In this book both the approach used and the results of the study are presented very clearly and accessibly so it will be of interest to those researching ageing or using digital methods approaches.

The overall aim of the research on ageing is to use a particular set of digital methods to “tell stories with maps” (p. 29).  There is a particular methodological focus on mapping throughout, and so this fits more with the ‘big data’ approach rather than our own qualitative means of digital research.   There is a clear review and explanation of different tools, though it was particularly interesting for us to see the way specific texts were sometimes used to illustrate and give depth to the maps.  These are the texts that tend to be the focus on our own qualitative analysis.

Nevertheless the emerging maps from the detailed and careful analysis that they have developed provide very interesting reading and I particularly liked the way they used mapping to focus in on particular issues that might otherwise have been obscured.  So for example there is a really interesting map of different anti-ageing foods that are referenced digitally across Europe as part of debates on ageing.  There is also some insightful analysis of the different representations of care workers and care worker migration across various web sources in their ‘home’ and ‘destination’ countries.  A further advantage of the research is the use of different language web resources within the analysis: one of the advantages of such a well-funded European project I assume.  Nevertheless this provides some really useful cross-European analysis.

In terms of informing our own research, I found their advice for researchers to be ‘methodologically promiscuous’ reassuring since that has definitely been a feature of our work.  It was also interesting to read about the different tools and search terms had been used, and realise that there seems to be as much ‘trial and error’ in such a big project as there often is in our own research.  Perhaps most importantly it confirms that there is a really important rationale for our own ‘small data research’.  As we are writing in work in progress on a methods paper ourselves, overall maps produced by big data approaches are able to covey much useful information but In contrast, qualitative ‘small data’ approaches tend to focus on human/digital interactions as we navigate these maps, examining experiences shaped through and by the internet.


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