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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

Text, Image, Context and MMR: Observations and reflections regarding digitally augmented Cultural Sociology

 October 2023 - ongoing

My work on Japan’s Future Imaginaries of Extended Reality and their interrelatedness with Sci-Fi literature is based on a mixed-methods-based methodological approach which incorporates multimodal corpora analysis as well as the combined analysis of fictional and nonfictional text corpora. Consequently, the approach is not only situated between quantitative and qualitative, digital and nondigital, fictional and nonfictional, but also between texts, images, and societal or cultural contexts.

This combination of several types of data, analysis modes, and underlying assumptions entails challenges that are explored against the backdrop of broader methodological discussions in the field of MMR (mixed methods research). Combinations of quantitative and qualitative methods have gained considerable traction, for example, in sociology, psychology, as well as in research on health and education. Combinations of MMR with Natural Language Processing, i.e. digital methods, are also put to the test. However, these discussions rarely include the analysis of cultural artefacts such as literary texts and instead tend to focus on a combination of different sociological methods such as qualitative interviews and quantitative surveys. Thus, one of the main questions this methodological project addresses is how MMR-related discourse can be applied to the combined analysis of fictional and nonfictional text corpora.

Such a combination produces issues not only in terms of scalability regarding the merging of macro-, meso-, and micro-level analysis (e.g. correlations between micro-level textual features and macro-level contexts) or the varying dimensions of different corpora types. As with MMR in general, it is also important to consider logistical aspects such as the procurement and curation of different types of data, the development and design of analysis tools and techniques, and, very importantly, the validity and suitability of data and tools with regard to the specific research interest. Furthermore, the merging of different types of data not only entails the question of how to deal with conflicting results for different data types, but is also related to an epistemological or philosophical framework which usually differs for quantitative analysis (positivism) and qualitative analysis (interpretivism). This calls for strategic reflections on the merging of different types of data, on the merging of different processes which can be characterized as “integrated”, “explanatory sequential”, “exploratory sequential”, or “(convergent) parallel”, and subsequently, on the decision if our MMR approach is primarily quantitatively- or qualitatively-driven.

Against the backdrop of these considerations, the methodological project examines the potentials and pitfalls of MMR with special attention to the combination of fictional and nonfictional corpora analyses, to the interdisciplinary merging of sociological, literary and cultural analyses, to the implementation of digital methods, and to the analysis of multimodal corpora, i.e. text and image data.