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Concept and scopes of the school

In the last decade Digital Methods established themselves as the main methodological paradigm for studying the Internet from a sociological perspective. Over the years, thanks to Digital Methods, scholars have cast light upon several key and emerging socio-cultural phenomena such as, like economy, echo-chambers, the platformization of the Web, social bots, fake news (just to name a few). Since the beginning, Digital Methods privileged politics as their main field of research -intended as both the politics of the medium (e.g. algorithms) and politics within the medium (e.g. climate change). Curiously enough, consumption and consumer culture received scarce attention within Digital Methods studies. This amounts to be a notable gap, since consumption is not simply one topic among the others that might be interesting to explore through Digital Methods, but rather a key phenomenon that underpins the logic of functioning of the contemporary digital landscape. Consider for example that, among the top applications that dominate the contemporary 2.0 Web (as well as govern its functioning), there are (private) companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Uber and Airbnb, whose business models consist in extracting data from consumers in order to deliver them consumer products, experiences and advertising. Moreover, most of the more interesting current consumer phenomena are natively digital, such as self-branding, influencer marketing or brand publics. Nevertheless, few consumer culture and marketing scholars addressed those phenomena by using Digital Methods. Indeed, a more systematic focus on Digital Methods and Consumer Studies means advancing both the disciplines.

Therefore, the overarching scope of the Summer School is two-fold. On the one hand, it aims at introducing students to the basic Digital Methods’ concepts, strategies, techniques and tools. On the other hand, it teaches and stimulates students to apply such methodological array to consumer-related topics. As well, the School aims at fostering students an ‘activist’ attitude towards digital data by encouraging them to take seriously the ethics of digital research as well as redistribution of the social value of digital data to the public.

The topics covered during the Summer School will be, data collection (through scraping, API calling and free online tools), basic network analysis, digital content analysis, cross-platform analysis, data visualization. The course will be delivered using a mix of keynote speeches, frontal lessons, hands-on activities, and group works.

In its first edition the Summer School will focus on the topic of platformization of consumer culture. Students will be both introduced to the conceptual array of platform theories and invited to experiment with digital methods to explore consumer culture processes unfolding on digital platforms. Especially during the group work sessions, students will have the opportunity to explore the phenomenon of platformization of consumer culture through ad hoc case studies (such as the consumption of nostalgia on Facebook, the radicalization of food consumption on YouTube, or the creation of brand publics on Instagram).

The first edition of Summer School will be inaugurated by the keynote speech of Prof. Janice Denegri-Knott (Bournemouth University), one of the most prominent international scholars in the field of Digital Consumption and Co-Author of Digital Virtual Consumption (Routledge).