Repurposing Digital Methods in a Post-API Research Environment: Methodological and Ethical Implications
Keywords:digital methods, post-API, follow the natives.
Especially after the social media curtailing brought about the Cambridge Analytica scandal, it has become increasingly difficult to do social media research by using digital methods as well as following the medium. This condition brings in new methodological and ethical challenges. This article proposes some methodological strategies to ‘repurpose’ digital methods in a post-API research environment. The discussion draws on three case studies: 1) studying Instagram stories: the scraping dilemma; 2) studying smartphone in everyday contexts: researching digital environments not connected to APIs; 3) studying fake news on Twitter: dealing with increasingly useless APIs data. For each case study methodological and ethical implications are examined. In conclusion, the article suggests that a possible viable strategy to repurpose digital methods in a post-API era is to follow the natives (along with the medium), that is, to take advantage of the natively digital methods through which social media users manage their own data as well as emic conception of what is ethical (or at least acceptable) regarding the handling of their own data.
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