Mareike Wieland / Anne-Marie in der Au

Online Behavior Tracking in Social Sciences: Quality Criteria and Technical Implementation

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Despite the broad agreement on the potential of tracking data for measuring media exposure in a convergent media landscape, there are actually only few studies doing it. Moreover, the description of the tracking tool itself is usually only a side issue in journal articles. Researchers willing to conduct a behavior tracking study are therefore faced with a high degree of uncertainty regarding the study design and the technical implementation. Together with the lack of Open Source, easy-to-use tracking tools, and the limited coding skills of social scientists, we suspect these as main impediments for conducting online behavior tracking studies. In this contribution we thoroughly describe the designing process of a behavior tracking study from both a social and computer science perspective. We highlight methodological challenges and implications for a suitable technical concept and conclude by applying these considerations on a case study. Developed in a joint research project between communication and computer scientists, we introduce an extensible, mobile-enabled web usage mining framework for the measurement of online behavior.