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AOIR 5.0: Workshop on qualitative research

Just arrived to AOIR 5.0, at workshop on qualitative research methodology. There is no Internet connection, so these are “written real-time, but edited and posted later” notes 😉

Have a strange feeling… Although I do internet research, this is not (yet?) my scientific community – unfamiliar names, methods, frames of reference… It feels like discovering the whole new world. What, btw, was my main reason of coming here.

I’m really happy that I’m not the only blogger at the workshop: Theresa Senft is blogging it, so I can be a bit more relaxed and stop being afraid of missing something. Theresa will be posting (remember, connection is not easily available 😉 a summary of the session, so I’ll just highlight some specific points.

The discussion was floating around several themes: field boundaries, ethics, researcher role and methods and tools for data collection, analysis and representation, so I’ll try to put my bits and pieces that way as well.

Field boundaries

  • Wouldn’t say that I 100% understand what is meant by that… I treat it as a question about defining what is in and what it out your research focus.
  • Being practical (re: publication) it’s not about telling truth, but about creating a persuasive case… We are studying dying technology (re: it changes faster than we can understand it). Either you rush to get it published or you say that you study prototypical behavior and functionality (but: there is a difference between early adopters and majority). Or: It’s not about technology, but about practices and social processes behind it (re: “so what?”)
  • One of the topics relevant for me was a discussion about online/offline components in the study.
    • If online doesn’t answer your question, go offline.
    • “You don’t have to go to offline for data collection, but you are likely need to include data about their offline life as nobody lives online”.
    • Why? Use each one to contextualize the other…
    • Different behavior online and offline à use as part of the analysis
    • What is being risked? What do we loose if you establish offline relations?
  • Re: defining specific categories: Different definitions of multitasking: for students using IM eating or browsing wasn’t multitasking… only paper writing and multiple IMs

Research ethics

  • Sometimes getting permissions from participants could be only a part of the solution: what if they talk about other people?
  • Private spaces in public. Although in many cases (e.g. specific communities or weblogs) online communication is public, participants always perceive it as private space, so general view is to treat it that way and to ask permissions for studying and (especially) referencing to specific examples. But there is an alternative view of a danger of honoring people’s sense of privacy where there it doesn’t exist, instead of educating them about risks of these views.
  • Taking care of ethics can enrich your research: asking for a permission to quote resulted in rich feedback from participants
  • Re: how interesting are your results if you are anonymising which group you are studying: “I’m anthropologist studying a country in South-East Asia”

Researcher role

  • Differences between virtual ethnography and real ethnography. From one side it’s easier to observe online (“for a ethnographer it’s difficult to lurk”), from another participating in a community you study provides an access to richer data, helps to interpret and analyse results and doesn’t cost much (“I don’t have to drive, it’s really easy to get there”)
  • How do you acknowledge changes in a community that could be a result of your participation in it?
  • People do not realize what we are doing…
  • Do we have responsibilities to the community beyond our research?

(Methods and tools for) data collection, analysis, representation

  • There are no universal answers; there is no “the toolkit”. It’s about your research question and tools that fit. If you are guided by established research procedures there is a risk of overlooking insights coming from your data.
  • Programs for qualitative analysis: they do not do analysis for you, just make some things (e.g. coding) easier.
  • How to get what we really want without influencing behavior?

And – if you are writing about AOIR 5.0 please notify http://topicexchange.com/t/aoir/

Archived version of this entry is available at http://blog.mathemagenic.com/2004/09/18.html#a1355; comments are here.

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