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Virtual Methods : Issues in Social Research on the Internet

Macgregor, George (2007) Virtual Methods : Issues in Social Research on the Internet. [Review]

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Abstract

For library and information science, the advent of the web continues to challenge our understanding of the profession and the services we provide to users. Meeting this challenge is by no means a simple process, but some might say that we are aided in our efforts by virtue of the fact that, as a profession, we have promulgated many of the said developments ourselves. Some might also say that we are aided in our efforts by the relatively linear nature of our discipline. There are many research questions within LIS which are conducive to quantitative analyses and robust qualitative explorations; sociological and anthropological questions relating to LIS account for a minority of research, for example. The situation is quite different for those in the social sciences and humanities. Here, the web has given rise to a plethora of new social formations. Individuals and societies communicate and organise themselves via web sites, social software, email, mobile communication technologies, and other forms of Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC). CMC has become such a significant component of normal social life that it is imperative social researchers research, interpret and understand these rich interactions and the social questions they expose. Yet, analyses of such phenomena by social researchers are fraught with difficulty and apprehension. Capturing robust data remains difficult and it is unclear how applicable previous methodological frameworks are within these virtual contexts.