The Ph.D. defense of Janna Joceli Omena, iNOVA Media Lab’s coordinator of the SMART Data Sprint I Digital Media Winter Institute, will be on the 21st September at 9 a.m. at the Campolide campus of NOVA University Lisbon. To receive the Zoom link, please fill this form: https://forms.gle/pQzbhYfHUYAfydjD9  It will be also possible to attend the defense in person, in that case, please confirm your intentions in the form, to receive later detailed information.
 
 
Janna Joceli Omena addressed the role of technical knowledge, practice and expertise both as a problem and as a solution, in a variety of digital methods. The computational mediums (and respective regimes of functioning), the web environments and technical procedures were taken as key elements in the practice of digital methods. By demonstrating how technicity influences the ways we generate, present and legitimise knowledge in digital research, she argues that the practice of digital methods is enhanced when researchers make room for, grow and establish a sensitivity to the technicity of the computational mediums. To substantiate her argument, she proposes a reflection on the intersections between digital methods, technicity and digital fieldwork, while mobilising the concept of technicity-of-the-mediums (through practical case studies) and discussing three crucial aspects of the digital methods approach (namely software affordances and platforms’ cultures of use and grammatisation). 
 

Abstract

Digital methods are taken here as a research practice crucially situated in the technological environment that it explores and exploits. Through software-oriented analysis, this research practice proposes to re-purpose online methods and data for social-medium research but not considered as a proper type of fieldwork because these methods are new and still in their process of description. These methods impose proximity with software and reflect an environment inhabited by technicity. Thus, this dissertation is concerned with a key element of the digital methods research approach: the computational (or technical) mediums as carriers of meaning (see Berry, 2011; Rieder, 2020). The central idea of this dissertation is to address the role of technical knowledge, practise and expertise (as problems and solutions) in the full range of digital methods, taking the technicity of the computational mediums and digital records as objects of study. By focusing on how the concept of technicity matters in digital research, I argue that not only do digital methods open an opportunity for further enquiry into this concept, but they also benefit from such enquiry, since the working material of this research practice are the media, its methods, mechanisms and data. In this way, the notion of technicity-of-the-mediums is used in two senses pointing on the one hand to the effort to become acquainted with the mediums (from a conceptual, technical and empirical perspective), on the other hand, to the object of technical imagination (the capacity of considering the features and practical qualities of technical mediums as an ensemble and as a solution to methodological problems). From the standpoint of non-developer researchers and the perspective of software practice, the understanding of digital technologies starts from direct contact, comprehension and different uses of (research) software and the web environment. The journey of digital methods is only fulfilled by technical practice, experimentation and exploration. Two main arguments are put forward in this dissertation. The first states that we can only repurpose what we know well, which means that we need to become acquainted with the mediums from a conceptual-technical-practical perspective; whereas, the second argument states that the practice of digital methods is enhanced when researchers make room for, grow and establish a sensitivity to the technicity-of-the-mediums. The main contribution of this dissertation is to develop a series of conceptual and practical principles for digital research. Theoretically, this dissertation suggests a broader definition of medium in digital methods and introduces the notion of the technicity-of-the-mediums and three distinct but related aspects to consider – namely platform grammatisation, cultures of use and software affordances, as an attempt to defuse some of the difficulties related to the use of digital methods. Practically, it presents concrete methodological approaches providing new analytical perspectives for social media research and digital network studies while suggesting a way of carrying out digital fieldwork which is substantiated by technical practices and imagination.