Digital Sociology and Startups – why? how?

Yesterday I was lucky enough to go to Silicon Milkroundabout 5.0 in Shoreditch. It was one of those days when you realise it’s special to live in London because there are opportunities right on your doorstep.

Firstly, it was good to gain insights into startup culture. In my background, I’ve not really had much to do with startups. It’s been more a lack of opportunity than a lack of willingness. I met a lot of people who are just getting on and running with their ideas. I enjoyed their willingness to have a chat about what they’re doing. In short startups have a lot of passionate people working really hard, but having lots of fun and enjoying it (from what I could see).

However, it’s hard to gain positive attention from startups if your skills don’t necessarily fit the bill. I felt as though I was evangelising Digital Sociology as well as looking for career opportunities.

My favourite reaction? “Digital Sociology? That’s a thing?”

My least favourite reaction? *eyes glazed*

Situations like that aren’t necessarily the best to explain exactly how digital sociologists can be useful to startups.  Digital Sociology has only been running for two years at Goldsmiths, so yes, it’s a thing but a very new thing.

To help explain what we’re about here are a few bullet points to outline some of the skills digital sociologists can bring to the startup (ping pong) table:

  • We bring an analytical view at how your products could impact customers/users/clients. We’ve completed a module about Sociology into Design which looks at communicating sociological research into design environments. I’m currently in my last week of an internship at a design research firm.
  • We are observant. And we’re good at noticing interesting issues or insights in user groups that could be relevant to your product.
  • We know big data (both the creation and uses of it) and we know empathy. We’re trained in both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies sand we have spent time getting our hands dirty, testing them out, making data visualisations, personas, experience models and lots of other cool things to communicate our research.
  • We’ve spent days, nights, weekends, holidays learning to code and putting it in practice. We’ve had experience using HTML, CSS, JS, MySQL, PHP, Python and Unix. For most of us, our weapon of choice is Python so we can scrape Twitter and other online media for insights.
  • We’ve learnt about innovation and startup culture in an Innovation Case Studies module.

Where would I see the fit? Somewhere in your design or R&D team or perhaps in business/project analyst roles. Although we have the knowledge of coding to hold conversations with developers and coders, we would tend to use those languages for research and communication purposes (but by no means should you dismiss a digital sociologist with real coding chops).

I hope that clarifies how digital sociologists and startups could play nicely together. Do get in touch if you’d like to know more, or carry you can also carry on the conversation in the comments section.

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