[Air-l] update on comparative research

Sandra Braman braman at ua.edu
Sun May 26 12:56:52 PDT 2002


Folks -- A number of aoir members have responded to the call for
individuals interested in participating in collaborative comparative
research on internet-related issues, from a pleasingly wide array
of countries.  To help move thought about this forward -- and
hopefully to stimulate the interest of you more of you -- wanted
to report on the clusters of interest appearing.

As context for these comments, the goal as I personally imagine
it is developing a team or teams engaged in research on a
carefully defined common research problem with a methodology
also carefully worked out collaboratively among members of the
team to meet the highest standards for comparative research.
The particular problems of comparative research methodology
are addressed in courses at very few universities.  Much that
flies under the name of comparative research is in fact simply
compilations of studies from different places that do not offer
genuinely comparative data or insights.  These teams will
hopefully not fall into that category but, rather -- as is the case
with other aoir efforts involving standards for internet-based
research methods and the ethics of internet research --
provide a model for rigorous comparative internet research.

Individuals who have so far responded have expressed interest
in a very wide range of potential research topics, most defined
in the most abstract of terms, and with a preference for positions
along the entire spectrum of methodological possibilities.  Out
of all that has been mentioned, however, there do appear to be
a few clusters of interest appearing, each of which would require
different methodological approaches.

For those of you with whom I've been in communication, please
read these as what may be translations of the ideas you've
expressed into terms that I felt were common across the
many individuals involved.  And remember that this is just
a very tentative first step to defining a common ground, with
the expectation of many additional steps in full mutual
conversation to determine where we might actually wind up.

(1)  The internet and community development.

(2)  The internet and social movements.

(3)   The rhetoric of internet policy.

It could be imagined that the first two of these might be
addressed through a combination of survey research, focus
groups, and ethnographic work, and would require individuals
able to carry out such work on the ground in different
countries around the world.  The third would rely upon
some variety of discourse/content/rhetorical analysis of
government documents, and could be carried out by
individuals working from anywhere in the world.

A number of additional ideas came forward but none has
so far yet been mentioned by more than one person, and several
are already receiving a fair amount of attention in the
economics literature and elsewhere.  It is my own bias that
aoir members may want to devote their energies to addressing
lacunae in the literature as their "highest use," but of course
this also is up to the members of the group and I mention
this only to stimulate further discussion.

If any additional aoir members find these topics and this
prospect intriguing, please let me know at my personal
e-address:  braman at ua.edu.  If any aoir member, whether
or not personally interested in participating in a collaborative
comparative project, has thoughts about how to make such
work as valuable as possible, you may want to direct those
comments to the entire list.

Sandra Braman

Reese Phifer Professor
Dept. of Telecommunication & Film
University of Alabama
PO Box 870152
Tuscaloosa, AL  35487-0152

205-348-8657 * fax 205-348-5162
braman at ua.edu * www.tcf.ua.edu/braman







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