The Digital Traces’ Diamond. A Proposal to Put Together a Quantitative Approach, Interpretive Methods, and Computational Tools

Davide Bennato


The paper aims to suggest a simple model for the interpretation of digital traces as a source of data in Social Science research. Digital traces are very interesting because in the sociological tradition there is no extensive use of traces: the great part of sociological methods prefer direct and indirect strategies of data collections. But today digital traces are important because the technological environment of the Digital Society produces a great number of digital traces that are an important source of data. While in sociology there is a little debate in the use of traces, in the Social Sciences and humanities there are several traditions in the interpretation of trace, and we focus our attention on the most interesting: the ethnomethodology, the school of suspicion, the interpretive anthropology, the evidential paradigm. What these traditions have in common is their interest in abductive reasoning or the way to use partial information to build probabilistic knowledge, a typical strategy of hunters, detectives, and physicians, archetypes of the social theory of traces. Then we propose a model for the interpretation of digital traces that is inspired by the cultural diamond of Wendy Griswold and for this reason we call it the digital traces’ diamond. Then we use a series of case study to describe how the proposed model works and how can be useful for the use of digital traces as a source of data.


digital sociology; digital traces; cultural diamond

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