Reflections on Virtual Methods: Issues in Social Research on the Internet edited by Christine Hine, published by Berg, NY, 2005.
I’ve just finished reading the introduction to this book, which seems like it will be a most helpful volume! Hine is concerned with reducing some of the anxiety researchers may feel about trying to research social relationships and activities that go on on-line. And so, I have been promised that the chapters of this book will provide some precedents about how to research on-line networks, identities, and activities. This sounds useful but also curiously onesided.
You see, it considers ‘computer mediated communications’ (I think this means pretty much any form of electronic communication) as a new form of input into the research process. It is something new that you can study. And the suggestion is we may need new methods to study these new social practices. I may not end up doing any of this type of research.
Alternatively, information and communication technologies can be seen as a tool; for recruiting participants, conducting interviews and discussion groups. I will probably use the Internet in this way to some extent.
But what Hine hasn’t (yet) explored are the ways in which the Internet creates new possibilities for research output; for releasing information, providing access to the inner workings of a project, and imagining new ways to organise and display research results. For Johnson et al, this was a big part of the appeal of information and communication technologies. And this is exactly what I hope to harness in this project – and in this blog.