BIG DATA BOOK: Making a Case for Csurvey as a Method in Digital Humanities Research

BIG DATA BOOK: Making a Case for Csurvey as a Method in Digital Humanities Research

Digital humanity, like other fields of study in academia and sectors in various economies, has undergone a series of transformations in the last ten years. The transformation has been largely driven by constant technological innovation aimed at improving people’s lives and simplifying corporate tasks. Scholars in academia are continuing to investigate various problems and conduct research in order to develop new products and services. Through cutting-edge research, they are also assisting society in appraising social and organizational behaviour.

This has always necessitated the use of appropriate methods and tools for collecting and analyzing large data generated by people and organizations on various digital platforms. A quick search on Google using the book category yields thousands of results revealing the availability of books on digital humanities. Using digital humanities+survey+user generated content, approximately 200,000 academic publications are revealed on Google Scholar, one of the world’s leading academic databases.

These findings indicate that individuals and organizations have conducted research and written books aimed at improving understanding of the field. It also implies, based on the number of times the term “digital humanities” appears in books normalized by Google Ngram, that the field is occupying authors’ minds and being considered worthy of writing about.

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Exhibit 1: Frequency of survey, content analysis, digital humanities and user generated content in books between 2009 and 2019

Source: Google Ngram, 2022

In other words, there are resources for developing skills and knowledge in the use of appropriate research methods and tools. However, a closer look at the data in Exhibit 1 reveals some surprising findings. Authors appear to have written about content analysis as one of the dominant methods for conducting digital humanities research, as well as user generated content as one of the dominant data sources. The prevalence of the survey method suggests that authors who published their book between 2009 and 2019 regard it as appropriate for conducting digital humanities research.

From the data in Exhibit 1, it is clear that scholars had little interest in reading about user-generated content or developing research using the source for academic conferences and publications, which would have required adopting quantitative and/or qualitative content analyses. Instead, reading about survey methodology and using it as a research method piqued their interest. This further suggests that scholars prioritized different technologies as study subjects and used survey as a research method to understand subjects’ opinions and behaviours while taking into account various research trajectories in digital humanities. Exhibits 3 and 4’s data, which show that for a period of time (between 2009 and 2021), surveys predominated in scholars’ methodological decision-making, provide additional evidence in support of this position.

Exhibit 2: Global interest in user generated content, survey and digital humanities in books and, academic conferences and publications between 2009 and 2021

Source: Google Trends, 2022; Infoprations Analysis, 2022

Exhibit 3: Global interest in digital humanities and user generated content in relation to survey research method within academic conferences and publications

Source: Google Trends, 2022; Infoprations Analysis, 2022

Exhibit 4: Global interest in digital humanities and user generated content in relation to survey research method within books

Source: Google Trends, 2022; Infoprations Analysis, 2022

These and other insights expressed in chapters I contributed to a book on big data for social sciences and humanities motivate me to advocate for Csurvey as a new method for studying organizations, people, texts, and other objects of interest in the digital humanities. In the book, which will be published in 2023, I distinguish the method from traditional quantitative and qualitative content analyses by stating that Csurvey converts users of digital platforms into natural populations and data sources for researchers.

Researchers only need to mine the generated data and situate it within the variables discovered in the existing literature and used for questionnaire development. Csurvey alleviates some of the major challenges associated with traditional survey research in developing countries. For example, research participants are unlikely to fully participate in and respond to traditional surveys. They are, however, usually eager to comment, reply, share, and retweet.

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