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SESSION 6

DOING VIRTUAL ETHNOGRAPHIES, Part 4:


METHODS, 2/2
Rutter & Smith: RumCom.local:
Æ presence & absence
Æ boundaries of the field: problem of lurkers
Æ limitations of naturalistic research?
Æ asymmetric research methodologies
Æ questions:
• Ethically, how are we supposed to negotiate informed consent?
• Do we opt for maintaining the letter of the law with regular
postings that announce our research identities and our presence as
researchers or do we, after a general announcement of our
presence, slip into a more naturalistic mode?
Æ opted for face-to-face
Æ confidentiality vs. rapport?
Beaulieu: Linking Knowledge:
Æ how is the field of study constituted
Æ ethnographic study of the “trace,” hyperlinks
Æ “Via a consideration of hyperlinks as both functional and symbolic,
a rich ethnographic account can be given of practices of
knowledge production in terms of their meaning to participants,
and of the infrastructural elements involved in this kind of
activity”.
Æ can one ever find all the links to a site?

Æ reflexive interaction between theory and methodology – theory


changes with experience, which then changes the methodology

Æ so what about hyperlinks?


Kivits: Online Interviewing:
Æ cases where interviews by email are a necessity
Æ Can one establish the necessary rapport by email? What kind of
rapport?
Æ How does one reassure participants?
Æ How do you shape email interviews around the lives of
participants?
Æ Adding personal touches

Æ Pre-Consent
Æ Indicating emotion
Æ Sensitive to the time constraints interviewees face
Æ Regular reassurance
Æ Maintaining interest
SESSION 7
IDENTITIES ONLINE
Identity: Turning a “Network” into a “Community”?

Æ Peter Kollock and Marc Smith: identity is the basic building block
of social interaction
Æ identity – status, membership, recognition, intention,
accountability
Æ but online we have a “poverty of signals” = both limitation &
resource
Æ identity is performed
Æ racial identity is “interactionally negotiated”
Æ physical cues marginalized by cultural construction, performance
Æ rediscovering the primordiality of gender
Problems with Online Identity Theory

1: No authorial centre, the 2: A stable, fixed,


persona is a construction wrought centered self that
by multiple social relations, maintains ultimate
values, institutions—the self responsibility for all of
caters to social relations to the its social manifestations:
extent that it ceases to possess a self-determination
discernible core: decentered self
Æ Turkle: “MUDs make possible the creation of an identity so fluid
and multiple that it strains the limits of the notion. Identity, after
all, refers to the sameness between two qualities, in this case
between a person and his or her persona. But in MUDS, one can be
many” (12)
Æ O’Brien: “The notion of multiple selves that have no awareness of
one another, on the other hand, is a radical way to think about
social interaction. In the current clinical terms, such a state marks
a pathological disorder. I don't think that this is what the hypers
have in mind when they suggest that one can be anyone.
Underlying the hype the conventional foundation remains intact:
there is a master consciousness that sorts and organizes our
experiences, including various multiple self performances. How
does the "master consciousness" sort and organize and determine
what is memorable and in what form? In accordance with prevailing
cultural scripts.” (82)
TURKLE: Disembodied, Multiple “Selves”?

Æ eroision of boundaries “between the real and the virtual, the


animate and the inanimate, the unitary and the multiple self” (10)

Æ “unsure of our footing, inventing ourselves as we go along” (10)

Æ “The life practice of windows is that of a decentered self that


exists in many worlds and plays many roles at the same time” (14)
O’BRIEN: Coproreal Scripts

Æ “Gender categories evoke a deeply entrenched cognitive-emotive


script for who we can be and how we should relate to others” (77)

Æ “When persons confront instances of gender stretching they tend


to snap them back into the conventional physical sex dichotomy”
(78)

Æ “The female/male dichotomy is the main line of classification, not


only of bodies, but, by extension of the logic of a single, embodied
self, the central distinction of ‘self’.” (78)

Æ who/what becomes the site of interpretation and agency? What is


the organizing logic that ties the personas together?

Æ “At least two observations seem warranted at this point. One is


that persons do "gender online interactions. Another is that the
dynamics of this gendering tend to reproduce conventional gender
forms” (86)
Æ ARE BOTS A THIRD GENDER?

“most people reported a preference for human avatars that matched


their gender” (153)

Æ “they reproduce themselves as Barbie and Ken” (87)