Computational Communication Science| Computational Communication Science: A Methodological Catalyzer for a Maturing Discipline
This article reviews the opportunities and challenges for computational research methods in the field of communication. Among the social sciences, communication stands out as a discipline with a relatively low-profile institutionalized focus on the in-house development of methods. Computational tools are changing this, and they are catalyzing a new set of methods directly suited to tackling foundational research questions in communication. We systematically review how computational methods affect the three fundamental pillars of the scientific method: observational approaches (i.e., digital trace data), theoretical approaches (i.e., computer simulations), and experimental research (i.e., virtual labs and field experiments). We stress that data are a catalyzer but not a requirement for computational science. We explore how observational, theoretical, and experimental approaches can be combined and cross-fertilize one another. We conclude that taking advantage of computational methods will require a systematic effort in our discipline to develop and adjust these methods.