Digital Traces in Context| Digital Traces in Context — An Introduction

Andreas Hepp, Andreas Breiter, Thomas N. Friemel


A consequence of living in a media-saturated world is that we inevitably leave behind digital traces of our media use. In this introduction to the International Journal of Communication’s thematic section, we argue for a need to put those digital traces in context. As a starting point, we outline our basic understanding of digital traces, generally defining them as numerically produced correlations of disparate kinds of data that are generated by our practices in a media environment characterized by digitalization. On this basis, we distinguish three contextual facets that are of relevance when considering digital traces: first, the context of the scientific discourse in which research on digital traces is positioned; second, the context of the methods being applied to researching them; and third, the aforementioned context of the empirical field. With reference to the articles in this thematic section, this introduction argues that, in a single study, all three contextual facets interact as the scientific discourse relates to the methods being used, which in turn relates to the entire field of research.


digital traces, contextualization, big data, digital methods, datafication, deep mediatization

Full Text: