First, we will examine the traditional criteria for immersion. We also will offer our thoughts and observations on how these criteria may be applied to the study of online communities. He explains:. To establish this credibility, Lincoln and Guba explain that the researcher is required to. Clearly, textual analysis alone, without interaction by the ethnographer with the observed community, is not enough to obtain this level of credibility. The main issues probably lie in the adaptability of some of the classic strategies of participant observation.
We will also address issues of depth of participation, sampling versus over time involvement, learning rhetorical codes, and approaching dissimilar people as an online observer. The researcher needs to be willing to commit as much time to online ethnography as he or she would to a more traditional on-site study. Properly done, this is probably no shorter than the amount of time taken, minus physical logistics, to do conventional ethnography.
Online ethnography offers a new temptation. One can access the record of an online community via archived e-mail from a listserv or newsgroup. In theory, one could power through that written record in a compressed amount of time and do a vastly foreshortened sort of field work. However, this won't supply the requisite engagement called for by Lincoln and Guba or the effective penetration of the community called for by Goffman.
One cannot sample a community's experience from the records, even if you have access to everything that has ever been said. The researcher must participate to achieve that depth of analysis. He or she needs continuity over time. One must learn their codes from the inside by participation. The researcher must effectively gain membership.
As the researcher slowly immerses himself into the community, he seeks to identify the issues, characteristics, and elements that are the most relevant to defining the complexities and culture of the group--he learns the secret language of the group in order to unlock the codes, meanings and constructed realities that have been embedded into the communication and actions of the members. Embedded in most postings are veiled allusions or references to past threads and subthreads, abbreviated thoughts, whose meaning for the group members extends far beyond the mere words.
The text of an e-mail message carries meaning for its members that transcends the mere words themselves. Single words or simple references evoke complex meaning and group memories. It is not uncommon for members of the AN group to throw out abbreviations of the medical terms for their surgical procedures. In this approach, the surgeon enters the skull from above the ear in attempt to do as little damage to the inner ear and hearing mechanisms as possible. Offline, through information from doctors and personal research, these members know that the size of the tumor is positively correlated with increased dangers of hearing losses and facial paralysis.
To the group outsider, however, the statement may contain nothing more than a clinical description of tumor size. For the online ethnographer, then, it may take a great deal of time and a commitment to persistent observation to recognize theses codes. There is a classic New Yorker cartoon of one dog saying to another, "On the Internet no one knows you're a dog. Online communities would seem to offer an almost ideal minimization of the intrusive nature of the outside observer. The authors have all experienced hostility in one online community group or another when someone figured out that we were studying the group, even if we were participating actively as members.
It still helps to either start as insider or develop sufficient community bonds through participant observation that one is trusted. Otherwise, online community members, just like real villagers, maybe be evasive, deceptive or even hostile. A researcher who is not a "natural" member of an online community, who enters the community for the purpose of participation observation, still has to gain trust. The Internet does greatly facilitate "casing the scene" prior to creating a strategy for entering into active participation.
It is much easier to lurk on the Internet in most cases than to unobtrusively hang out in an Amazon village. However, many Internet communities are very specific as to membership.
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Bennett compared online communities of Christian gays, Mormon intellectuals, college media advisers, and parents of children with learning disabilities. In several, she required a key informant who could gain access for her. In his study of the PRForum, Thomsen found that although the group had nearly 1, members, a small cadre of 10 individuals dominated the conversations accounting for more than 30 percent of the messages posted during the observation period.
By building relationships online with these individuals, Thomsen was later able to conduct offline interviews that provided rich insights into the history and collective cognitions of the group. Insights from these informants add to the credibility of the analysis. In reality, volumes have been written about ethnomethodology, the study of communities, and the work of an ethnographer. Likewise, applying and adapting this knowledge to the study of online communities is well beyond the scope of a single paper or monograph.
Our goal here has to been to initiate a dialogue or discussion among scholars that would serve as a starting point for those interested in exploring the phenomenon of the online, or virtual, community. We expect this dialogue to continue. This would enable a multi-source, multi-method triangulation.
As we have suggested, effective participant observation requires time and persistent observation. We recognize the challenges posed by this. A researcher cannot become disabled to study a newsgroup for paraplegics, nor could he develop a tumor to participate in the Acoustic Neuroma group. The challenge is for the ethnographer to find the means to overcome the barriers to effective entry into the group. Although these interviews were also conducted online via e-mail , they nonetheless provided insights into the effectiveness of the analysis.
The interviews focused primarily on the perceived uses, gratifications, and benefits associated with group participation. While the initial analysis, for example, revealed that one function of the group was for associational purposes, the interviews helped the researcher better understand the contributions of participation to the development of self-esteem and self-validation as a public relations practitioner, particularly for those members who felt they suffered from both social and professional isolation.
They write:. Finally, we recognize that there have been some issues that have not been addressed within this paper. Those who study online communities and e-mail exchanges recognize, for example, the existence of a certain amount of ambiguity as to the degree to which participants perceive the newsgroup as public or private space.
At the same time, many newsgroup members maintain they have an expectation of privacy.
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Researchers, in turn, have argued that many members would alter their normal communication patterns if they were made aware of the observation taking place. This is clearly an issue that should be explored in future research. In conclusion, we call for additional dialogue among scholars that addresses the ontological, epistemological and methodological issues of doing ethnography in cyberspace.
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Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis
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New York: Prentice-Hall. Sias, P. Silverman, D. Stone, P. Cambridge, Mass. Thomsen, S. This makes its present felt in his dissertation thesis. Harold Garfinkel created a countermovement to the structural functionalism with his basic approach of ethnomethodology. Ethnomethodology concerns with the world we usually do not appreciate. This raises further question: Why do we not take notice of it? It is not merely because the world is too sophisticated and far afield, but rather it is nearby and taken for granted. This means the practice of common humans.
Accordingly ethnomethodology wants to reveal knowledge and methods whereby members of society accomplish the quantity of everyday behavior. It is also important to mention that there were no sociological terms to have recourse to. For that reason Harold Garfinkel coined this phrase.
Preface vii. Action and interaction is based on common sense knowledge. This knowledge has to be seen definitely and as a matter of course to be able to operate. One of the main points of ethnomethodology therefore is to expose the knowledge and methods which society member use for daily routines. Preface vii-viii. Edmund Husserl established the term phenomenology using it to define philosophy as a serious applied science.
Parsons' Theories and Ethnomethodology
Phenomenology is the theory of phenomena in the sense of pure eidetic vision. It describes all items given as phenomena. Husserls says, that the sense is on a different plane, not approachable. For that he used the avoidance of neuropsychological perceptions. To discern the genuine essence of a matter one has to undertake a phenomenal reduction, which allows us to achieve a neutral glance on the facts of life.
Phenomenology posits all objects existing, because of the assumption and construction of human beings.
Phenomenology and Ethnomethodology
Actors create their own world by assembling life experience. Moreover, how it is constituted and understood by ordinary human beings in everyday life, concerning their daily routines. It is an enhancement of it. Harold Garfinkel argues that mentioned lived-in world is not only constituted and understood by humans. In his opinion humans produce and reproduce social structures, therefore also social worlds. Forethoughts of ethnomethodology were characterized by phenomenology.
The fundamental assumption of social sciences and therefor also for ethnomethodology is the position of humans to the environment: Humans are not only objects of natural environment, which is observable by academics and scientists, but also producers and creators of the cultural world. Permanent interaction embosses their own world.
Everyday interaction as everyday occurrence between humans stands in the center of this theory. Interaction produces occasions and matters of fact. The action, i. Humans acting relating to this common sense knowledge, understanding and being understood are basic elements of everyday life. Accordingly humans can possess knowledge about the subjective environment of other humans.