I found Knight’s comparison table of data gathering methods very helpful in thinking about my research project. I had no idea there were so many ways to gather information from the people you’re studying, although all of the methods listed made intuitive sense to me (although of course the more quantitative-sounding ones seemed a bit more artificial). I think that for my research proposal it is fairly clear what methods I will need to use, as most of them don’t suit the situation or would be far too time consuming. I also found the discussion on sample size interesting, because I had always wondered what really passed as “representative” and “legitimate”. I think most people with a higher education will have some sense of what representative samples are, but once you get in to things like ethnography and so on these things become less clear. What is “valid” and “representative”, really? What makes a study matter? Is it the fact that you can, maybe, extrapolate the findings to a larger population, and if you can’t do that do the study’s findings not “count” even though something very interesting might have been uncovered about the group studied? These are all questions I’ll be dealing with as I think about how I would like to go about studying my particular group for my research project proposal.
Reddit.com may seem like an odd choice for research on emotional information seeking. It’s stereotype is one of a technology, humor, and perhaps politically dominated timewaster where contributors post cat memes or rants against the latest attack on net neutrality. However, Reddit is in reality a highly heterogeneous grouping of “subreddits”, smaller forum-style sites where contributors (anyone who signs up with simply a user name and password) post, usually anonymous or semi-anonymously just about anything they want. There are many subreddits dedicated to different facets of emotional information seeking, including reddit.com/r/griefsupport, /r/depression, /r/petloss, and so on. Anyone can create a subreddit and contribute to any of them, and as a consequence it is not tailored to any one particular person. Although some unofficial studies have found the contributors to be predominantly middle class males in their 20’s and 30’s. This is the first challenge that would present itself, another would be the fully anonymous aspect. Together these would make it difficult to determine whether the population skewed in any one way. Additionally the choice of subreddit would most likely effect the outcomeof the project drastically. Finally the ethics of observing the contributors, and the inability, or high degree of difficulty in soliciting direct communication from them would provide additional challenges depending on the type of methodology employed. Overall, however, Reddit provides a wealth of information for emotional information seeking study unparalleled by perhaps any other online community today, due to its significant number of contributors, heterogeneity, and relative longevity. I therefore believe it would be worth pursuing as the community for study in this research project.
A a bit of a gadget nerd, Knight’s chapter “Doing It” made me feel thankful we’re not back in 2002. Discussions of the prohibitive cost of video cassette recorders are today somewhat irrelevant when nearly everyone walks around with a videocamera in their pocket every day. Likewise, we no longer have to worry about storing things on floppy disks our our websites when we can easily fit small-scale research data on our laptops and/or in the cloud. I think it would be interesting to read about how or if research has changed based on technological improvements over the years. Now that you can store and access much more data, disseminate questionnaires and even conduct interviews online, what impact has this had on research on both a small and large scale? I’ve read a bit about it in the recent past, but would like to learn more. Perhaps it’s the topic for another paper!
Due to the nature of my proposed research project Hine’s article was the most interesting to me out of any of the readings so far. It talks about ethnography online. I had to admit, I have not historically been a fan of ethnography, although it is fun to read works largely based on it, as it tends to be filled with characters and complex story lines that resolve in to interesting data on a particular group of people. But I admit, at least with small scale ethnography, even after everything I’ve learned about it, don’t consider it to be “the same” as other kinds of methodologies. I suppose that’s alright, though – it’s not the same. And I’m certainly not saying it’s unequal to other methods.
I had never considered in any depth what it would be like to conduct an online ethnography, however. I had just assumed, for whatever reason, that it wasn’t possible, as the people aren’t right in front of you. But Hine’s article discussed a number of studies that seem incredibly interesting, all using the internet and ethnography in different ways. I will certainly be looking through a number of the articles mentioned in Hine’s work, and I look forward to getting some idea of what does and doesn’t work for my research proposal.
So I’ve finally decided on a research…topic. I’ll call it a topic because I’m not entirely sure about the “question” part of it yet – for that I need to do more scholarly research, which I will be doing tomorrow. My process of getting to where I am now took a lot of thinking about what I’m really interested in – asking questions to get closer to the real interest was the most difficult part. Basically what I did is what I always do when I try to decide what to write about or, really, before I do anything in my life – I created a list. Here’s the exact list, word for word, that led to my research topic/question:
- identity formation
- identity change
- the media
- history of technology
- the information profession(s)
- anonymity online and offline
- are you a different person online versus offline?
- How does an increase in online communications effect individual identity?
- Are we more or less literate today then we were one hundred years ago?
- How does our identity change over multiple social media/interaction websites? Eg. Facebook reddit twitter etc.
As you can see, it’s basically just me writing down whatever came in to my head. I go from simple words to full questions that combine a few of those concepts. After doing this for a bit a question finally formed in my mind, more or less. That question, in very rough form was:
how does identity change from website to website among people who use multiple interaction-based websites (facebook, twitter, reddit, etc.). Hypothesis: a person’s “identity” is fluid and contextually dependent. Their “identity” changes with each different constructed identity on each site.
I will clearly need to find out things like “what are the correct words to describe these websites”, what other work has been done on the concept of identity online (and, more specifically how/if it changes from online to offline), and so on. I know there has been quite a bit of research done on the intersection between identity and the Internet, so I’m looking forward to reviewing it, narrowing down my topic and forming a more specific research question.
This week I did the readings a bit flustered, ready to give up, due to the feeling that I was very much not the audience Luker was writing for (as expressed in my previous post). However, I persisted, and eventually made it to the appendix, where I discovered, to my delight, pages on exactly the thing I was struggling with while reading the book – the fact that I had no specific research “case” in mind. Reading this appendix really helped me move forward in my thinking about how I will question my interests in order to find this necessary information. One of the main issues I am having right now is figuring out what I’m academically interested in in a *specific* way. I think I do every now and then, maybe even often, get interested in things this way, like thinking “I wonder why this is, someone should do a study on it”, but I can’t for the life of me think of what any of those are right now. And the few I can think of are not “social science” topics, they’re humanities topics/ways of thinking about things (ie. more opinions than things you investigate, for example “I think there is a communication immediacy inherent within visual art” (interest = (how) do art objects communicate?). So my next steps will be to take these jumbled artsci thoughts and figure out how to form them in to questions that could be researched using some social science methodology. I will use Luker’s appendix suggestions to work this out with the broad topics of identity and communication.
I found it interesting how reading a book, like Luker’s, that is intended for an audience that you don’t fall in to can be an alienating experience. The book is addressed to social science students, and as someone with a humanities background I found it difficult to ignore the constant references to this theoretical world I know very little about. It also reinforced how separate these two realms can be, despite what Luker was writing about regarding research being a crossover between disciplines. We may use each others thoughts and findings, but we don’t think the same or find things out the same way. The iSchool, however, does represent a type of scholarship and thinking that is able to cross multiple academic boundaries in multiple ways. The study of media, information, and culture is the study of what permeates everything else in our society today. Even the methods we use, and the scholars in our faculty, approach the issues they are interested in exploring in a multitude of different ways. We are going about a bit of an identity crisis right now, but thinking of information studies as a truly multidisciplinary realm not only allows for this so-called “crisis”, but gives weight to the argument that perhaps a little identity confusion should be not only tolerated, but welcome, and seen as evidence of multidisciplinary scholarship at work.