Qualitative Inquiry in a Digital World: ‘New Media’ and Liquid Modernity in Environmental Discourses

By Conny Davidsen.

Published by The International Journal of Science in Society

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Qualitative inquiry has a long and rich tradition of powerful methods to grasp environmental discourses, but digital information and communication technologies (ICTs) from web-based news services to social networking platforms pose new challenges which require a re-thinking of qualitative and mixed methodological frameworks to capture their new dynamics and complexity. This paper uses the case of the Canadian oil/tar sands with its layered discourses of energy debates, environmental resistance, and deeper political critiques to highlight conceptual and methodological problems in capturing digital discourses in general. It uses Zygmunt Bauman’s (2000) concept of liquid modernity as a theoretical point of departure to identify methodological problems with increasing digital intransparency, instantaneity, and time- and spacelessness of virtual discourses. The paper explores possible qualitative strategies of validation to deal with the increasingly complex data environment of digital discourses, while continuing to address the needs of an in-depth (i.e. narrative, ‘digital’ ethnographic) qualitative understanding of the constructions behind the politics and dynamics of discourses.

Keywords: Digital Information and Communication Technologies, Environmental Discourses, Qualitative Inquiry, Liquid Modernity

The International Journal of Science in Society, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp.111-117. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 293.235KB).

Dr. Conny Davidsen

Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, Faculty of Arts, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Dr. Davidsen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Calgary. Her research interest is in environmental governance and policy processes, including the roles of learning from policy to media and environmental change. Her work involves environmental policy processes from a political ecology perspective, policy discourses on conservation and sustainable resource management, the local organization of resource use in communities, and most importantly global-local linkages between them. Her regional focus is on Latin America and Canada.