For my research topic I am planning on focussing on the online community of boards.ie. Ive been on this site for a year or so and although I havent posted much, I am very interested in how relationships between people on this have formed. Im unsure what approach to take this as anthropology leaves you with limited ways to approach this. The phenomena of online communities is certainly among us so i would like to just focus on boards for my ethnography.
Any help would be appriciated as to what approach I should take for this!
Thank you for your help!
A topic like this might be quite hard to pin down, you should try e-mailing an admin to get info on how the site was formed and how it has developed over time. Then maybe try pming a few very active members or attending a boards beers just to give you some ideas.
Somebody with more of a history on the site might be able to help you a little more. It's an interesting topic especially in an Irish context goodluck
That should be very interesting.
I'm sure there are stats on the demographics. That would seem to be a sensible starting point, if you can get a hold of them.
The other thing you could do (once you've got an idea of the demographics) is to formulate salient questions. You could then host polls in the relevant areas.
Say for example, you were interested in younger men () well then you could host a poll in the modified cars section of motoring. Or this forum, by way of balance.
Not terribly scientific, but it might help to get you thinking about method.
It is certainly do-able.
I hope you share your findings with your subjects.
Have you read Virtual Ethnography by Christine Hine? If not it should give you some ideas.
I can't remember where I've seen it but I recall reading a paper on the Ivenus community it might be worthwhile searching for it on google scholar, again for ideas on how to conduct your research.
Fantastic reference point to begin with.
To the OP, instead of focusing on how relationships are formed, perhaps incorporate the idea of how we interact with new people and the image we portray of the version of ourselves we want to be. You'll find on the interwebs that many people, especially on forums like these will say a lot and act a particular way but in the real world will have a very different attitude towards life.
If I were you I'd approach this from an ethnographic view point, perhaps even taking time to read The interpretation of Cultures by Clifford Geertz.
Best of luck with it, I studied Anthropology myself and still to this day find it interests me so I'd be very interested in reading your findings.
Hey, I haven't been here in a while, so sorry about the slow reply to the post... I recently completed a 6 months research for a masters in Anthropology on boarsds.ie I looked at other forums also, but mostly boards... I investigated the idea of communities online. It was difficult, but a lot of reading forums, and looking at interactions between users allowed me to develop a picture... I graduated with the MA in October 2012, and have since considered looking into a similar topic, with a stronger focus on linguistics for a Phd..
Personally I don't like this idea. I think the science is going to be very soft, very interpretive, no matter how much you try to be objective and control it, and don't feel comfortable with every poster being a guinea pig in an experiment.
Christine Hine is a good place to go as said, dana boyd is also good, and Ray Kozinets is really excellent. David Miller at UCL has started doing a bit of stuff too, and he's a more traditional anthro person.
If you're more interested in the quant side of things, Mike Thelwall is a really great place to start and Richard Rogers, from a slightly more theoretical vein though still doing actual research, is also excellent. It's much more difficult though, lacking any semblance of a traditional sample causes a lot of problems, as well as a lack of any real demographic information, which makes analysis pretty tricky.
In terms of institutes, the Oxford internet institute has lots of good staff, Microsoft and Google's research arms are always worth a look, UCL and Goldsmiths are both developing pretty strong programs in digital research and Sciences Po is starting to do a lot of work under Bruno Latour (some theory, lots of good empirical stuff too).
There's a hell of a lot of material to draw on, as you've probably found out, and it is still new, which is both good and bad because it allows you to experiment but makes it quite difficult to gather together a consistent approach/position. There's also so many ethical problems it'll make your head spin.
While your topic is interesting I would imagine it is going to be difficult from an ethical point of view. How would you retain permission from your subjects? As boards is used all across Ireland and users are anonymous then it seems impossible. You would have to chose a very specific topic and retain permission from a select number of users.