First Research Fellow at the Methods Lab

The Methods Lab is excited to welcome its first research fellow who arrived at the Weizenbaum Institute on November 20: Douglas Parry from Stellenbosch University, South Africa. His research focus lies on Socio-Informatics in the area of Communication Science, Human-Computer Interaction, and Media/CyberPsychology.

During his 4-week stay, Douglas Parry will contribute to work at the Methods Lab in different ways. On November 30, he will hold the workshop A Practical Introduction to Text Analysis, where he covers all important steps, from pre-processing text to visualizing results of topic modeling in a single day. On December 7, he will host a Digital Methods Colloquium together with Roland Toth, where German researchers focusing on digital methods will get together, present recent work, and discuss challenges and opportunities in the field.

Furthermore, Douglas Parry is collaborating on two research projects with the Methods Lab during his stay, both of which involve the processing of complex data surrounding smartphone usage that were collected using multiple methods earlier this year.

The Methods Lab is happy to host Douglas Parry and is looking forward to the results of this exciting partnership – stay tuned!

Call for Contributions: “Data, Archives, & Tool Demos” at the 2024 DGPuK Annual Conference

We are excited to announce that Methods Lab lead Christian Strippel organizes a panel on “Data, Archive & Tool Demos” at the Annual Conference of the German Communication Association (DGPuK) on March 13-15, 2024, in Erfurt. The corresponding Call for Contributions can be found here:

Similar to the “Tool Demos” at international conferences, the panel serves as a forum for sharing reusable research data, databases, collections, archives, as well as tools and R packages with a wider academic audience. This initiative builds on the success of the “Research Software for Communication and Media Studies” panel in 2019, but this time aiming to enhance the development, provision, and utilization of research infrastructures and resources in German-speaking communication and media research in general.

Colleagues who wish to present data, archives, or tools at the panel are invited to submit a short abstract (200-300 words), with relevant links or screenshots, to by the submission deadline of November 30, 2023. To be eligible for submission, your tool or resource should not have been previously featured in the research tools panel 2019 or the special issue in Publizistik. It should be openly available for scholarly reuse and not operated for commercial purposes.

For more information and submission guidelines, please visit this page.

Editorial to Special Issue and Software Presentation

We are thrilled to announce the contributions of Methods Lab members Christian Strippel and Roland Toth to the latest issue of Publizistik: Vierteljahreshefte für Kommunikationsforschung.

Christian co-authored the editorial and served as a guest editor of this special issue. The editorial “Data, archives, and tools: Introducing New Publication Formats on Infrastructures and Resources for Communication and Media Research” is available here.

Roland’s research on tracking and the Experience Sampling Method (ESM) app is featured in the same journal. Dive into his article, “One App to Assess Them All – Combining Surveys, Experience Sampling, and Logging/Data Donation in an Android and iOS App” here and learn more about MART, the open-source app designed to simplify data collection in social sciences.

Research stay at Universidad de Navarra (Pamplona, Spain)

From April 17-23, Methods Lab Data Scientist Roland Toth spent a week at the Institute for Culture and Society (ICS) at Universidad de Navarra in Pamplona, Spain. This flash visiting researcher stay was financed and took place in the context of their project Youth in Transition in which they have collected data every year for four years in a representative sample of the Spanish population. These data include various information on smartphone use, smartphone pervasiveness, and psychological traits.

Together with the researchers Aurelio Fernández, Javier García-Manglano, and Pedro de la Rosa, Roland wrote a first draft of a research article using these data. As mobile media use is typically measured using indicators of use quantity (duration and frequency) alone, the paper deals with the question whether qualitative dimensions of mobile media use should be involved in its measurement, too. Specifically, the researchers are investigating the role of gratification variety (e.g., for information, social contact, or escapism) and situation variety (e.g., while in a meeting, while watching a movie, or while eating). Both represent defining characteristics of mobile media devices like the smartphone, as we typically use them for various purposes, anytime, and anywhere. For conceptual validation, the researchers examine whether these two qualitative dimensions contribute substantially to predicting the concept of mobile vigilance – the constant salience of mobile media devices and an urge to monitor and remain reactive to them. As such vigilance is tied to mobile media use per definition and emerged in close alignment to its development, it is bound to be associated with smartphone use. In other words: If gratification and situation of smartphone use can explain a share of mobile vigilance that remains unexplained by the quantity of smartphone use, this indicates that both dimensions are substantial to the measurement of mobile media use. The researchers are currently finalizing the article.

Inviting Roland for this stay was a generous gesture of ICS and the researchers and the institute were very welcoming and engaged in the project during his stay. Aside from the productive cooperation, our colleague was delighted with the beautiful campus and the equally charming city of Pamplona (and Donostia-San Sebastián), where spring had actually begun already. We hope that the article can be published successfully and that the cooperation between ICS at Universidad de Navarra and the Methods Lab of the Weizenbaum Institute will continue in future projects!

Book Launch: Challenges and Perspectives of Hate Speech Research

We are thrilled to announce the release of “Challenges and Perspectives of Hate Speech Research,” a collection of 26 texts on contemporary forms of hate speech by scholars from various disciplines and countries. The anthology is co-edited by Methods Lab members Christian Strippel and Martin Emmer, together with research colleagues Sünje Paasch-Colberg and Joachim Trebbe. Divided into three sections, it covers present-day political issues and developments, provides an overview of key concepts, terms, and definitions, and offers numerous methodological perspectives on the topic. Whether you are a fellow academic researcher or a concerned netizen, this book is a must-read for anyone interested in the dynamic field of interdisciplinary hate speech research and the future of our evolving digital landscape.

Challenges and Perspectives of Hate Speech Research is open access!

This book is the result of a conference that could not take place. It is a collection of 26 texts that address and discuss the latest developments in international hate speech research from a wide range of disciplinary perspectives. This includes case studies from Brazil, Lebanon, Poland, Nigeria, and India, theoretical introductions to the concepts of hate speech, dangerous speech, incivility, toxicity, extreme speech, and dark participation, as well as reflections on methodological challenges such as scraping, annotation, datafication, implicity, explainability, and machine learning. As such, it provides a much-needed forum for cross-national and cross-disciplinary conversations in what is currently a very vibrant field of research.

Research Methods at the Weizenbaum Institute: Survey Results

In December 2022, the Methods Lab conducted an internal survey to map out the methodological experiences and needs at the Weizenbaum Institute. Thanks to everybody who participated! We have identified specific demands and requests at the institute. Even though there already is extensive expertise for a large variety of methods and tools, many Weizenbaum scholars also expressed a wish for additional support and knowledge-building in, for instance, the following areas:

  • Data collection: Automated observation (e.g., logging, tracking), Automated content analysis, Web Scraping, API-based data collection, and Eye-Tracking
  • Data Analysis: Network Analysis, Deep/Transfer Learning, Natural Language Processing, and Classification Methods
  • Software/Tools: R, Python, and Network analysis software

With these results as our polaris, we in the Methods Lab have embarked on the expedition of developing a future methods training and consulting program suited to your needs, which we will announce shortly. In the meantime, the results of the survey hopefully serve as a launch pad for networking amongst the scholars at the Weizenbaum Institute.

Software Review: BRAT Rapid Annotation Tool

Our Methods Lab group lead and WI research associate, Christian Strippel, has written a software review of the BRAT rapid annotation tool, co-authored by Laura Laugwitz, Sünje Paasch-Colberg, Katharina Esau, and Annett Heft. The review is published in issue 4/2022 of Medien & Kommunikationswissenschaft. Read the article here.

In the context of interdisciplinary collaboration, especially with colleagues from computer science, communication and media research has for some time been confronted with a wide range of research software with which it has had little prior experience. In addition to programming lan­guages such as Python or R, these include specific tools for text analysis that represent an alterna­tive to previous variants of computer-assisted content analysis. With the brat rapid annotation tool (BRAT) we present such an alternative in this paper and review it against the background of our experience in using it. BRAT is a web-based open-source text annotation tool that was developed by an international team of computer scientists about ten years ago. The article introduces the tool and its most important features, presents examples for its use in qualitative and quantitative content analyses on the basis of three case studies, and finally evaluates it with regard to potentials and difficulties for the field.

A few notes on the Methods Lab

Dear all, 

Welcome to the digital baptism of the Methods Lab blog. This blog will keep you informed about our work, future workshops, events, and other resources and materials that may be useful to you in your upcoming research.

As a unit, we are committed to three principal tasks: training, consulting, and research. We aim to assist you with all your methodological questions, issues, and needs, no matter how large or small, and to coordinate expertise at the institute. Think of us as a hub, a metaphorical Rome, if you will, where all your methods-related queries, and (non-)knowledge have a space to converge. If you have any thoughts, suggestions, or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact us – we will always lend you an ear. 

At the start of December, we asked you to participate in a survey in order to give us an overview of your expertise and needs regarding data collection, analysis, and software. With the help of the results, we have created a preliminary training program tailored to your wants and needs. To everyone who participated: thank you!

On that note, we are delighted to announce that our first official workshop will take place at the beginning of March. Besides that, we have two more workshops planned for spring.

So stay tuned for further announcements about many exciting things to come! We look forward to beginning this new chapter with you.