Stalking the wild discipline (Internet Studies & Research)

Locating internet research
methods within five qualitative
research traditions
Denise N. Rall, PhD candidate, [email protected]
School of Environmental Science & Mgmt.,
Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW Australia
19 September 2004, Sussex University, UK
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 1
Where is IS&R ?
a meta-field* or a
{the universe of all possible disciplines}
minefield ?
* (Silver, 2004)
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 2
Working definition. . .
“Internet Studies & Research, as it
develops within programs of study or
research projects at universities, research
centers or institutes, is elaborated by
scholars who work across the disciplines
and take the internet, its use and users as
their focus/locus of study and research”
(Rall, 2004).
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 3
“While simultaneously drawing and building
from other, older research streams (computers &
composition, computer-supported cooperative
work, hyper/cybertext theory, and humancomputer interaction, to name just a few) . . .
internet studies . . . continues to grow as what
can only be called a
Meta-field of study”
(Silver, 2004, p. 55)
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 4
internet-base research
methods. . .
the internet as a general-purpose research tool?
internet researchers who seek answers via the
internet to a more particular set of inquiries . . .
internet scholars pose their questions in a
variety of ways and to particular ends . . .
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 5
Locus & Focus
internet scholarship
{general purpose internet-based research}
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 6
Creswell’s research paradigms*
1) ontological
2) epistemological
3) axiological
4) rhetorical; and
5) methodological.
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 7
* from (Guba & Lincoln, 1988)
Five paradigmatic questions* . . .
- What is the nature of reality?
- What is the relationship between the
researcher and that being researched?
- What is the role of values?
- What is the language of research?
- What is the process of research?
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 8
* (Creswell 1998, p. 75)
Denise* rephrases the 5 questions . . .
- Where do we start?
-How do we travel (maps, guides, etc.)?
- How do we best treat others & ourselves?
- How does language facilitate meaning?
- How do we best connect our research to
other scholars?
* (Rall, 2004)
the internet as focus/locus
of inquiry*...
1) where do we start?
*(Schneider & Foot, 2004, “The web as an object of study”)
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 10
internet ontology. . .the bit
plastic - takes on representation, a container
the bit is the core of computation
computation builds an analytical engine
(Turing machine) designed to simulate*
various logic systems (computers)
meanings are assigned, manipulated, changed
or deleted.
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 11
* (Weizenbaum 1976)
ontology - as research direction
bit - takes on representation, a container
communication (media, packet)
cognitive, psychological
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 12
the internet as focus/locus
of inquiry*...
2) how do we travel?
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 13
epistemology - as research direction
maps & guidesmethods
locating core processes (vs.
surface representations)
So, what happens when what we see is nothing we can count?
Or what we wish to count is nothing that we can see?
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 14
the internet as focus/locus
of inquiry*...
3) how do we best treat
others and ourselves?
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 15
ethics - as research direction
ethical considerations-
data collection (methods, procedures)
data analysis (how to understand & represent
institutional requirements (review boards)
critical analysis (how to best portray informant
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 16
the internet as focus/locus
of inquiry*...
4) how does language
facilitate meaning?
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 17
rhetoric - as research direction
analytical frameworks textual
narrative, content &
discourse analysis
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 18
the internet as focus/locus
of inquiry*...
5) how do we connect our
research to others?
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 19
methodology - as research direction
building relationships betweenspecific tools (webtracker, webcrawlers, etc.)
research methods (social network analysis, web sphere analysis)
methodologies (critical approaches, methodological assumptions)
[in order to]
connect one’s specific inquiry to a larger
understanding of methodology and the role it
plays in social science research
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 20
Denise’s theoretical parameters for Internet
Studies & Research
interactive strategies
and/or relationships with people
(virtual or ‘real’’)
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 21
internet or other
new media(s)
research methods,
assumptions &
critical approaches
Denise N. Rall, PhD candidate
[email protected]
School of Environmental Science & Mgmt
Southern Cross University
“Web as mirror” workshop, 19 September 2004
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 22
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 23
Internet Studies & Research grows:
 1999 - Curtin University (Perth) opens the first under& p-grad degrees & diplomas - Internet Studies
 1999 - Brandeis University (small, liberal arts college)
in Pennsylvania - IS minor for u-grad’s
 2001 - Center for Internet Studies opens at UMinn. as a
p-grad degree program (Rhetoric & Sci. Comm.)
 AoIR continues to grow, meetings in 2000, 2001, 2002
 2002 - Oxford Internet Institute is formally launched
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 24
Locus for ISR:
 universities, with degree programs - Curtin  universities, with a program (study focus) & doctoral
students w/ ‘outside’ research assignments - Uminn  research centers with research commitments &
requirements for policy outcomes, symposia, current
post-doctoral fellows, pub’s & online Master’s) - Oxford Internet Institute -
Three sites viewed as exemplars — Locus
does not provide much commonality for ISR.
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 25
Chap. 3 - Interdisciplinarity & the
rise of ISR as a field of study*
 mapping ISR as a discipline is
probably not appropriate, as it is
 there are other structures & mechanisms
outlined in ‘interdisciplinarity’.
* includes many types of programs: e-science, egovernment, etc.
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 26
ISR conforms closely to other studies,
such as, Science Education Studies
Structural criteria
• Academic recognition
•Professional associations
•Research Journals - peer
•Meetings & Conferences- peer
•Active study/ research centers
Develop’tl. criteria
• models of research
•seminal publications
•research training
Intra-research criteria
• scientific knowledge
•distinctive questions
•concept/theory develop.
•Design & methodology
•Progression of research
Outcome criterion:
Implications for practice
cf.: Fensham, P, 2002: ‘Science education as a field of research’ ASERA 33, Townsville, QLD, July 2002 - from A/Prof. Keith Skamp
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 27
Prelim. Results - ISR is integrated with other
fields w/ ‘normal academic work practices’
 university programs; degrees awarded
 growing professional association (400; 4 years)
 many venues for publication, New Media &
Society; Journal of Internet Research, Internet
Research: Electronic Networking Applications
& Policy, etc.
 Online research strategies & methodologies*
*Mann & Stewart (2000) Internet Communication and Qualitative Research: A
handbook for researching online. Sage.
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 28
Internet Studies &
Research (ISR)
{all processes and practices
of interdisciplinarity}
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 29
structural disciplinarity
social practices
methodologies and tools
units of analysis
‘normal science’* epistemology &
metaphysics: ethics
epistemic core
Thomas Kuhn, 1970
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 31
heterogeneity means boundary issues
epistemic cores
technologies social practices
•government policies
methods & tools
units of analysis
epistemic core
‘normal science’*
epistemology & metaphysics:
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 32
•public health
•changing medical/research
laboratory practices
•gay activism & rights
•developing world needs
•geo-politics; immigation
ISR - as process of interdisciplinarity
 borrowing;
 instrumental
 integrative
 project/problem-based research
(IDR - interdisciplinary research)
– transdisciplinarity (Jantsch, 1972, 1984; etc.)
– critical interdisciplinarity (cultural & rhetorical theories)
– social theories: Bildung (Gibson & McHoul, 2001); social
identity approach (Lazenby, 2002)
– postdisciplinarity (Peters, (Ed.), 2001)
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 33
interdisciplinarity as continuum
instrumental (TOOLS)
online research methods
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 34
(extrapolated from Klein, 1990)
inter-d and project*-based research
instrumental (TOOLS)
online research
project-based research
(*problem-based research, extrapolated from Klein, 1990)
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 35
Chap. 4 - Research Methods
 qualitative interviews - BNIM model*
(biographic-narrative-interpretive) to
determine which processes of
interdisciplinarity apply (see next page)
 results will be correlated in NUD*ist
qualitative software (N6)
*(Wengraf, Qualitative Research Interviewing, 2001)
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 36
Quantitative (study #1)
LOCUS of Internet Researchers:
1. Clusters - their disciplinary affiliation (PhD)
2. Type of clusters (dense/dispersed) & shared areas:
contents of study? (no)
 citations? (possibly yes)
 methodological assumptions & theo. approaches?
 critical approaches? (possibly yes)
Mapping the ‘constituent’ disciplines of academics & their AoIR
conference presentations, 1999-2003 (200-350 papers)
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 37
Qualitative (study #2)
FOCUS of Internet Researchers:
 academic’s disciplinary affiliation (PhD)
 acad’s intro. to internet & internet-based research
 academic’s current study & response to ISR:
 themes of their study/research?
 citations that influence their study?
 methodological assumptions and/or approaches?
 critical approaches?
Mapping the thematics of practice & theory of ISR in relation to
borrowing - instrumental; borrowing - integrative; or other
structures (critical, rhetorical, post-disp.) or project-based research.
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 38
Chap. 5 - Prelim. Findings
{all possible interdisciplines,
transdisciplines, or fields of study}
{all processes and
practices of interdisciplinarity}
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 39
disciplinary processes apply to interdisciplinarity
knowledge seeking – epistemology –‘ways of knowing’
methodology – how to find/locate
synthesis/criticism – ‘how can I analyze/place this knowledge
in context’
‘how can I problematize this knowledge’
movement/development –
‘how can I communicate this knowledge to
others’ AND/or
‘how can I test this knowledge in society’
cf. “Future studies” (Slaughter, 1996:)
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 40
Academic tribes & territories (Becher, 2001)
Cultural &
ISR . .
*One interviewee: “they are just doing social science; they don’t
understand information”
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 41
Ontological – Where do we start?
Epistemological – How do we travel (maps, guides, etc.)?
Axiological – How do we best treat ourselves & others?
Rhetorical – How do we connect speaking and meaning?
Methodological – How do we connect our research to others?
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 42
Early findings suggest that:
 ISR is a field, not a discipline, that can be
explained by concepts - ‘interdisciplinarity’
 For some, not all scholars this may be at
post-disciplinary level
 ISR scholars may find some degree of
as they negotiate their
practices: study, teaching, research &
policy within three domains (see previous page)
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 43
Theories of inter+disciplinarity
should explain epistemic work. . .
As Brown and Duguid* explain in a footnote, ‘by
epistemic work we refer to the work people must
do to acquire, confirm, deploy or modify what
needs to be known in order for them to do what
they do’ and this statement should be of interest to
academics. In fact, epistemic work is what
academics (arguably) do best.**
*Brown and Duguid (2002:98)
** Rall, 2003
DNRall, Research Traditions, 19/09/04, 44