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  Friday, December 17, 2004

  Hard choices: researcher vs. blogger?

There is something that bothers me for a couple of weeks... First, a bit of history...

One of the comments I recieved from Inna Kouper on weblog conversation paper was about my involvement in it, the fact that as a researcher I could influence the conversation if I knew I was going to study it. I realised that Inna was right and included a statement that when the conversation was unfolding I wasn't going to study it.

Now I have to confess that it's not 100% true - somewhere in the middle of the conversation Aldo suggested to do a study on weblog conversations and I brought that particular case as an example. Although we didn't make a choice for the case at that moment, we made a decision to study weblog conversations. And there is even evidence in my own blog:

I guess this conversation (and especially it's hidden part) is a good example of tensions between "thinking together" and "doing together" as well as tensions between private and shared. To give you a feeling of the hidden part: some of the invisible activities related to this conversation (hope nobody gets angry about the disclosure):

  • [...]
  • me talking about this whole story with a colleague from another university resulting in our decision to study if/how weblog conversations (do not) support actions

I don't know if that decision influenced my participation in the conversation. Did it bring additional degree of reflection? For example, would I post this summary of hidden activities if not that talk with Aldo? Don't know... Probably I would, since it was a logical way to continue my thinking on hidden agenda, but there is no way to know.

At that moment I didn't think about this issue - I just continued to participate in the conversation regardless the fact that it could get back to me as a case. Now it's different: I became more aware of "me as a blogger" and "me as a researcher".

So, as a result two weeks back I was struggling with another choice. I saw an interesting conversation unfolding, I wanted to participate, but I also thought that it would be a great "another case" to add to our paper since we discussed some future work with Aldo. Those two seemed to contradict: as a blogger I wanted to participate, as a researcher I knew that a better choice would be to stay away, so I could claim more objectivity in a future analysis.

The only thing that saved me from writing at that moment was the fact that I was too busy to find time for writing :)

Now I probably should be happy with it, since it feels too late to contribute and I can safely study the conversation (although, I'm not 100% safe as the work we did with Stephanie was reffered to at several moments, so I managed to influence the conversation even without direct participation :)

The funny thing is that I'm not happy with it, because next to being a researcher, I'm a blogger. Deciding not to contribute because it makes easier to justify my research changes my usual behaviour and influences conversation anyway (Monica said once that once you are a member of the community silence is a participation).

Anyway, I'm in trouble. I combine researching blogs and blogging research. I study my own community and I write about it. It's a strange case of action research, where not only reflections are shared and shape the future, but also meta-reflections (like this one :). I will have hard time to justify it anyway...

So, I guess instead of making hard choices I'd allow myself to be myself doing heavily participative research that influence everything I study. It feels more authentic than making certain choices because it's easier to justify my findings at the end. I hope that I'm explicit enough about what I do as a researcher.

At the end I'm just one of the players in the community, so would be stupid to think that it goes in particular direction because of my influences. I'm just playing my role, which happens to be a researcher who blogs about research of own blogging community :)))

Related reading: Chapter 3 "Reflexivity and participation in Online Games" from Torill's dissertation.

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© Copyright 2002-2005 Lilia Efimova.

This weblog is my learning diary. Sometimes I write about things related to my work, but the views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.

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