Bella Struminskaya, Florian Keusch
Mobile devices and the collection of social research data

S. 101-114 in: Jan Skopek (Hrsg.): Research Handbook on Digital Sociology. 2023. Cheltenham: Edward Edgar

As our daily lives are becoming increasingly digitized, researchers make advantage of the exciting opportunities to study human behaviour. In this chapter, we review the opportunities and challenges of measurement using new technologies such as sensors, apps, and wearables for the social sciences. Smartphone sensors and apps allow to measure social phenomena in situ, taking into account the physical and social context, thus providing high ecological validity for measurement. However, not everyone has a smartphone and not everyone is willing to use their device to provide data about themselves. There are measurement issues as well such as missing data and potential behavioural changes due to apps providing feedback about people’s behaviour. We present various examples of social science studies that implemented this kind of research and discuss methodological challenges and practical considerations for researchers who wish to set up studies using smartphone sensors, apps, or wearables with an example of the IAB-SMART app study. This German study used numerous smartphone sensing technologies and enabled researchers to gain more insight into the behaviours of employed and unemployed individuals. We conclude the chapter by focusing on the methodological challenges that are yet to be solved when implementing data collection using new technologies.