Thickening behavourial data :Toward an increased meaningfulness in behavourial data

Bjur, J. (2011). Thickening behavourial data :Toward an increased meaningfulness in behavourial data. Zagreb conference: "New challenges and methodological innovations in European media audience research". 7-9 April 2011.

Abstract: The paper is aimed to illustrate how social science can get more out of professionally produced data depicting audience behaviour. It is argued that rethinking what the industry of audience measurement produce, thus approaching it diversely, serve a path to fruitful grounds for social and cultural inquiry. These grounds are today fairly unexploited because although audience measurement delivers complex information, professional audience analyses stay simple. In most cases it performs a surface expedition aimed at aggregates, and blind of everyday television viewing, as we know it. The gap, between the deeper information inherent in behavioural data (the potential) and the limited surface information in use of professional everyday practice (the actualized potential), is in the paper laid out as a land of possibility to social science. To approach this gap a process of ”thickening” (termed in tribute to the anthropologist Clifford Geertz) is mapped out in number of consecutive steps, and in this case exemplified in relation to television audience People Meter data. The basic idea of the thickening approach is to identify and extract unexploited dimensions of the data, and this way enhance its social and cultural meaningfulness as a construction of spatially and temporally situated real life behaviour. As will be evident, the scope of the thickening is not delimeted to People Meter data, but applicable to a broader range of behavioural data. Consequently, in a time when digital traces of human action grow exponentially, thickening lends the key to a doorway to future grounds for social and cultural scientific enquiry.