content and culture

I wasn’t too familiar with the method of content analysis in the context of social research before this week. However, as I read Thomas’s (1994) article, I found that I could relate to this concept easily enough because it has links to the kind of close reading and textual analysis done in the discipline of English literature. Content analysis takes that close reading one step further by looking for patterns and “truths” about the culture in which the artifacts being studied are situated (Thomas, 1994).

Despite the criticisms against content analysis, I think it is particularly valid and relevant today when the volume of cultural productions is increasing. Anyone can produce and distribute content publicly on the internet (whether it’s as simple as tweeting a few words or as complex as self-publishing an ebook or making a film and posting it to YouTube), and this content is all potential material for a study. And, as Knight (2002) points out, this type of research is relatively easy and inexpensive to conduct because the subject matter is available to anyone with internet access. I came across an interesting article today in the Globe and Mail that reported the results of a content-based study of news coverage and social media responses to the U.S. election campaign. I don’t know enough about content analysis yet to really critique the method used in this study, but it is just one example of many that show how content analysis is relevant and worthwhile in the context of instantaneous content production and distribution.
– Cynthia

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