Reflections on the rise of transactional data in social research. Mike Savage Sociology & CRESC University of Manchester. Intellectual context. These reflections arise out of Editorship of The Sociological Review , one of the three ‘core’ UK sociology journals since 2001.
Sociology & CRESC
University of Manchester
These reflections arise out of
Initial arguments in Mike Savage and Roger Burrows, ‘The coming crisis of empirical sociology’ to be published in Sociology Sept 2007
The two main research repertoires of social scientists, namely the national sample survey and the in-depth interview, gained precedence in the post-war years, and are now rather old.
The intervening years have seen huge innovations in the generation of data and methods, yet academic social scientists don’t seem to be centrally involved in these.
In the 1950s, a special effort had to be made to collect ‘social’ data, now such data is routinely produced as part of normal transactional processes, making the role of specially commissioned social research less clear.
Nigel Thrift’s conception of ‘knowing capitalism’ allows us to recognise how ‘transactional data’ is both routinely produced by, and also constructs, circuits of production, distribution, exchange and consumption. The role of the academic social scientist is thus thrown into question
In defining their identities and activities, academic social scientists often invoke ‘depth models’, implicit in positivist, realist, and hermeneutic methods
Recent methodologists/ theorists seek to re-instate the discredited role of the ‘descriptive’ in social research.
Table . MCA cloud of individuals: preferences for classical music lit up, axis 1 and 2.
Transactional data collects data on whole populations ‘within a system’ (Amazon customers, Tesco users), rather than a random sample. This (partly) limits the applicability of this data.
Increasing capacity of ‘brokers’ of to merge and link transactional data sets to allow comprehensive maps of whole populations to be conducted. The applicability of ‘data capture’ methods
The neighbourhood becomes the main site around which such assemblage takes place, feeding into a new politics of classification and belonging.
We need to note the limits of the sample survey with its assumptions about bounded national units.