Digital Social Research

“For many employees a work day means a mixture of professional and private activities,” (Rosengren and Ottosson,181-195) this is even more so in light of covid-19 as organizations adapted new WFH policies to limit exposure and spend of the virus. Applications like Slack, Zoom and Google Drive allow constant contact and live working sessions to take place virtually. Email, phone and text oddly seem to have taken a back seat, even though the primary functioning of the applications are the same. For me the start of my work day is also the start of kindergarten for my five year old son, adding an extra dimension of professional and private activity meshing.

Social researchers exploring employee monitoring in a digital context find that monitoring has expanded beyond work related activities to social media postings and internet searches. This panopticon type of surveillance increases awareness of being watched and in most cases produces discipline from the professional or laborer although in some instances it could produce other effects when the laborer does not feel trusted. Studying how the presence of digital technology surveillance impacts how we speak online and use our professional devices privately is one way in which digital sociology contributes to the scholarship of issues relating to the proliferation of technology.

Professor Longo conducted an online ethnography and content analysis on conversations navigating national belonging on the basis of gender and location on self help immigraton websites. The term “red flag” was defined to mean the opposite of a genuine romantic relationship for foregin nationals seeking citizenship in the United States through an expedited green card track(marrying a United States citizen). Using Python to collect conversation threads  and conduct a keyword search on the term “red flag” allowed an efficient search of over 48,000 threads (posts and replies).

#NOTRACIST was my favorite section this week. I not only understood what is hashtagging but also what makes it unique on twitter is its ability to be a topic marker and be read as part of the sentence or “tweet”. This is an example of scholarship of the digital. It is defining what the internet is, or in this case what is hashtagging. Hashtagging is a part of the technocultural environment of Twitter and is used by social researchers as a way to tag and examine discourse on the internet. Chorus, a technology application was used to collect and analyze twitter data using the hashtag #NOTRACIST, the top terms within the data set and the occurrences of mutihashtagging within two subgroups of “humor” and “truth” categories  was analyzed and processed by Chorus- understanding how to navigate this tool was critical for the undertaking of this type of twitter data analysis.


  1. It’s interesting thinking about the “Employee monitoring in a digital context” through the lens of covid events happening right now. It seems to me that the monitoring of employees has increased since so many people are WFH. In the article, the results pointed to most people not caring about monitored, but I wonder if that’s still the case in this environment.
    This reading also reminded me of the panoptic reading we did in the previous semester with Dr. Stamm. The case still is that “the few watch the many”, but what’s concerning is that people are unaware they are being watched.

  2. I LOVED #notracist. I am a Twitter scholar so I am down for anything hashtag-related. I am interested in how their research would’ve changed if collected during the month of the election of 2016. That would have probably rendered a lot of situational results dealing directly with race relations.

    1. I watched a short video today where the researcher mentioned, “we do not know the twitter population” I never thought about that. I understood that to be because twitter does not collect certain information on users. What are your thoughts?

  3. Monti, your insights into how the study dovetails with our digital surveillance experiences during covid are spot on. What I find very interesting is that the research shows that people are not all that fussed about passive digital surveillance. Yet, we will not volunteer to surveillance even when it could contribute to the greater good. For example, contact tracing apps for COVID-19 request that you enter your information, so people who may have been in contact with you can be notified. Contact tracing is normally helpful during every stage of a pandemic. However, people won’t participate in it because they distrust how the authorities will use that information. This is understandable considering how governments have used surveillance against minority communities and political opponents throughout history. Yet, we give away far more information through digital passive surveillance, and we hardly care.

    1. I wonder how people would react if medical records were no longer private- if for the greater good information about critical health conditions was made available to inform initiatives like covid19 tracing. Similar to how sex offender status or credit is reported. You are right, people do share far more information. With digital data we could map out cases of covid, just by gathering tweets, FB posts, etc, however it might not be ethical…

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