Exploring online research methods - Incorporating TRI-ORM

Introduction: Online methodological futures

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Open/close headingInnovation and reflexivity on the 'research methodology frontier'

In an article entitled 'How virtual are virtual methods?', Andy Phippen (2007, 1) proposes that 'while there is a significant body of social research that considers the online world, the methods used to research such things are what one might describe as traditional in nature.' He suggests that the vast majority of research methods used to explore the virtual world to date have been 'conventional' in nature, and have involved a translation of onsite methods (including focus groups, surveys and interviews) to the online environment (see for example, Lefever et al, 2007). He suggests there is now the need to explore more novel methods that might be used to examine the virtual world. This call, especially to explore more novel web 2.0 technologies, has been mirrored by Beer and Burrows (2007). Similarly, Christine Hine (2005, 9) has suggested that: 'New technologies might…provide an opportunity for interrogating and understanding our methodological commitments. In the moments of innovation and anxiety which surround the research methods there are opportunities for reflexivity. Seizing these moments for reflexivity depends, however, on not taking the radical capacities of the new technologies for granted, nor treating them as poor substitutes for a face-to-face gold standard.' We believe that a moment for such reflexivity exists now as the technological artefact of the internet opens up possibilities for a 'research methodology frontier'.



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[Open/close heading]About this module

In the light of Phippen and Hine's comments above, we developed this section of this website between 2007 and 2009, with the aim of explicitly exploring new and innovative online methodologies. We received seven case studies. The first explores how people interact online and precisely measures levels of interaction through exploring the underlying technology of the internet and the data it produces. The second and third explore the use of online blogs for research. The first of these explores how online blogs can provide fascinating insights into the ways that citizens connect with political processes/institutions and elites in a community context, and considers the methodological and ethical issues of intimacy and the public/private divide presented by researching blogs. The second presents the use of blogs as a data collection tool and considers the methodological, practical and ethical issues involved. The fourth and fifth case studies explore new methods for examining social networking sites and considering their use and significance. The sixth considers moves towards performative social science, opened up through the development of new technologies. The final case study presents a review of Web 2.0 methodologies for research. This explores the methodological implications of employing Web 2.0 tools for data collection and considers issues such as how relevant 'offline' evaluation criteria continue to be in an online context and what the ethical issues around use of Web 2.0 tools might be.




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[Open/close heading]Learning activity: Background reading

[?]Read the following articles by Phippen (2007) and Illingworth (2006) and debate Phippen’s contention that to date the methods used to research the virtual world are traditional in nature.


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Author of this page: Clare Madge - Year of publication: 2009 - Affiliation: University of Leicester
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