Thursday, October 18, 2007

Research possibilities in social networked spaces

Research possibilities in social networked spaces is an area i have been thinking about with regard to my own study on texting, internet message board postings and email counselling. In gaining ethical approval and in not wanting to damage an online community in any way, i am looking at self reported experiences rather than actual client experiences. I was beginning to get quite despondent about the research validity and reliability. When research occurs how do we know that everything involved is not contrived, if I want to study handwashing then self reporting is obviously going to give a different measure than observations. The presence or absence of reality was getting torturous. Sherry Turkle and Donna Harraway have convinced me that the borders of reality/unreality are blurred. I began to consider that all research is contrived to some extent, it all leaves a footprint, alters the events.... and then i began to think so the best i can do is virtual research in a virtual world. If i were an ethnographer in 2nd life then i might have observations, but again is it of any value, can it be useful for others in a terrestrial life... Fortunately some reading got me out of this funk. Bruce Mason's article Issues in virtual ethnography reminded me of actor network theory (as if i could forget....but had!) Latour says: follow the actors. So whether they are in this reality or a virtual one doesn't matter ....trace the connecting. Its of no real issue inside of ANT as to whether its a real person- its an actor, just stay with the actor in or out of whats called reality, trace the connecting through cyberspaces.
ANT is described in similar terms to a CSI programme, trace connections, let the evidence speak, doesnt need to be human (or a live human...) to be given voice. So I thought i would check out the soon to be released CSI that traverses 2ndlife:

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