Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Yin and Yang of Research

Shani Orgad posed an interesting question in her article relating to qualitative internet research. This being “what does ‘the internet’ stand for in a particular context, for particular agents?” (34) In answering such a question, data must be obtained. Presently, two main types of sources exist, online and offline data. This combination is a phenomenon that is just recently emerging and has never been made in the research of older communication media (36). It is quite fascinating the potential that the internet has provided becoming a medium in our world. We are now able to view and study various dimensions of an entity from a perspective we would have never considered (i.e. before the creation of the internet).

I enjoyed the parallels that Orgad’s article had with Zimmer’s article about data (i.e. Facebook) being public. In the article, through access to profile data on Facebook, a “snapshot of an entire class over its 4 years in college, including supplementary information about where students lived on campus, makes it possible to pose diverse questions about the relationships between social networks, online and offline” (313). Although the article does address the frequent and raging issue of privacy, the potential of data to be gathered from two polar sources is like a balance of yin and yang (although this may be the extreme example). Both online and offline data can be viewed as outwardly contrary forces that are interconnected and interdependent in the world. In turn, each can give rise to the other. This raises the potential of the power instilled on a researcher to be able to access and utilize such a multitude of source and information. While this novice field can present challenges, the window of opportunity can present endless possibilities for research.

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