Christine Hine: Virtual Methods: Issues in Social Research on the Internet.

A few weeks ago, I found some time to read through a very comprehensive book about online research methods. Here some of the main ideas / important quotes I took out of the context:

  1. “Online relationships can be highly potent ways of conducting research. Contrary to previous doubts, effective qualitative research relationships can be forged online. Online presence can be a means to enhanced understanding in and through it.”
  2. “Researchers have to pay considerble attention to their self-presentation. Establishing one’s presence as a bona fide researcher and trusworthy recipient of confidences is not automatic, and varies depending on the cultural context under investigation. The doubts of informants, the risks to which they feel research may expose the, and their expectations of online relationships may vary widely between settings”
  3. “Modes of internet behaviour indicate that individuals are willing to disclose more of their personality on the web than in real situations. [...] This has implications for online research, becausse the method used (online or paper&pencil) may produce different results by asking the same questions.”
  4. Self-disclosure tends to be reciprocated.
  5. Diffusion of responsibility: single persons tend to help when asked separately, “nobody” (=bystander) will help when asked a group / community of people
  6. Foot in the door technique: start with small tasks, and later with the bigger ones. The posivite reaction is much bigger than to ask for big tasks the very first time.
  7. The combination of high power request (”chancellor”) and personal salutation (”Dear Mark”) had the highest effect as an call to action.
  8. Email interviews: a method free of cost, travel and transcription concerns, but email interviewing is an interpersonal journey that demands from both the interviewer and interviewees a strong commitment towards the subject under stundy.
  9. Online ethnographers need to be very cuatious about the where that we are studying. Defining the field, conceptualizing how the research setting was to be constituted, turned out to be an issue never far away from the routine ethnogrpahic work.
  10. How can a researcher negotiate informed consent when virtual environments change constantly (persons go and come, often unnoticed)?


Hine, Christine. 2005. Virtual Methods: Issues in Social Research on the Internet. Oxford: Berg Publ Books Intl.

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