[Air-L] Reminder: Call for Papers, "New Groups and New Methods? The Ethnography and Qualitative Research of Online Groups"

Stefano De Paoli Stefano.DePaoli at nuim.ie
Mon May 10 11:41:39 PDT 2010

Apologies for Cross-Posting.

Please circulate to interestd colleagues and students.

ERQ Call for Papers:

New Groups and New Methods? The Ethnography and Qualitative Research
of Online Groups

Special Issue (volume 4, number 2, 2011) of “Etnografia e Ricerca
Qualitativa” (Ethnography and Qualitative Research)

Edited By: Stefano De Paoli & Maurizio Teli

Abstract due: 15 May 2010 (500 words)

Online groups, also called "virtual worlds", "virtual communities", or
“digital collectives”, are those social groups whose members’
interactions are mediated primarily by the Internet. Participation in
these groups has a variety of purposes and takes place via a variety
of technological platforms. These include, for instance, platforms for
social networking (such as Facebook, Second Life and social networks
in general), platforms that have a productive purpose for participants
(such as projects for the development of Free and Open Source
Software), or platforms whose goal is to provide entertainment or a
pastime for users (for instance Multiplayer Online Games such as the
Massive Multiplayer Online Games or Online Poker).

Nowadays, the social relevance of this phenomenon has become quite
clear in several areas. For example, social networks like Facebook or
MySpace now count millions of users that interact online, with a
variety of goals, practices and tools (Beer, 2008). The proliferation
of socio-technical phenomena such as Wikipedia, Creative Commons and
Free and Open Source Software has changed some of the traditional
assumptions about organizational hierarchies and paid labour (Kelty,
2008). Or again, Online Games' virtual economies are tied to real
economies, in ways that challenge traditional assumptions about
property (Castronova, 2005).

Social, cultural, economic, and technological dimensions are,
therefore, closely intertwined in the phenomenon of Online Groups. In
this special issue (volume 4, number 2, 2011) of “Etnografia e Ricerca
Qualitativa” (Ethnography and Qualitative Research) we are looking for
contributions with a strong empirical bias that can tackle this hybrid
complexity and that specifically offer reflections and practical
experiences for a discussion on the theoretical and methodological
dimensions of the phenomenon. This involves reflecting on one or more
of the following topics:

Firstly, some reflections might focus on the theoretical dimension.
Often the literature, in both the social sciences and economics, for
example Benkler’s (2006) or von Hippel’s (2004) works, has associated
the birth and proliferation of online groups with a process of
democratization and the construction of a new democratic balance of
power and knowledge. (Consider the case of Free and Open Source
Software or the advent of Web 2.0 and User Generated Content.)
However, this literature is often linked with individualistic
approaches, the methodological dimension of which does not focus on
the “fine grain” of social practices and on the power relationships
these practices might imply. One of the goals of this special issue is
therefore to stimulate a debate on how ethnographic or qualitative
research in general can help to balance this optimistic view, in which
"online" is seen as a place of pure democracy.

Secondly, the research on online group interactions requires a
discussion of and reflection on the assumptions of traditional
qualitative and ethnographic research. Indeed, the researcher herself
is required to take part in online interactions and to use the
Internet to conduct the research. This consideration illustrates that
there is an inherent reflexive element: the researcher studies a
phenomenon that she is also contributing to identify. It is therefore
important for researchers to reflect on the use in research of the
same technologies and platforms used for online interactions. This
includes, for instance, tools for collecting qualitative data, for
analyzing data and also for the communication/dissemination of
research results. Examples could be: the use of blogs or wikis as
tools to keep and organize field notes or even to build a relationship
with participants in the online groups themselves; the use of online
resources (such as software tools) that can be used for data
collection and analysis, for example extensions for the Firefox
browser or web-based CAQDAS software; and the use of blogs, wikis and
other platforms to disseminate research results, in this way
contributing to the construction of online interactions.

Finally, ethnographic and qualitative online research requires
specific reflections on the ethical aspects of the research. For
instance, the availability of archived material in a space that is
neither public nor private, according to classical categories in the
ethics of research, and whose authors are not always reachable, poses
challenging problems. Indeed, often the user communications and
interactions are public, in the sense that they are easily accessible
by almost anyone through an Internet connection. This type of “sharing
in a limited context” by users raises ethical questions for
researchers, as the users' original purpose was not to provide “data”
for researchers (Bakardjeva and Feenberg, 2001). Therefore, an
approach that takes the situation into account should be used when
discussing the status of public/private information in relation to
Internet conversations and interactions (Teli, Pisanu, Hakken, 2007).

In conclusion, we invite empirically grounded research papers that
address one or more of the dimensions outlined above, but which may
also expand them and include other aspects. Contributions might
include (but are not restricted to):

The ethnography and qualitative research of online groups: social
networks, online games, Wikipedia, etc.
The construction of groups: the role of the researcher and qualitative research
Ethnographic and qualitative approaches to power and to online data
Power and knowledge: digital archives, avatars
Your experiences with using online technologies for the collection and
analysis of qualitative data
The ethics of qualitative research on online groups

Beer, D. (2008). Social network(ing) sites…revisiting the story so
far: A response to danah boyd & Nicole Ellison, Journal of
Computer-Mediated Communication, Volume 13 Issue 2, Pages 516 - 529
Benkler, Y. (2006). The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production
Transforms Markets and Freedom, New Haven: Yale University Press
von Hippel, E. (2004). Democratizing innovation, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press
Kelty, C. (2008). Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software
and the Internet, Durham, NC: Duke University Press
Castronova, E. (2005). Synthetic Worlds-The Business and Culture of
Online Games, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press
Bakardjeva, M. and Feenberg, A. (2001). Involving the virtual subject.
Ethics and Information Technology, 2, 233-240.
Teli, M., Pisanu, F., and Hakken, D. (2007).  The Internet as a
Library-of-People: For a Cyberethnography of Online Groups [65
paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative
Social Research, 8 (3), Art. 33,

Important Dates:

15 May  2010: Abstract of maximum 500 words. We will accept any
abstract we consider interesting for the aims of this special issue.
The selection of the articles to be published will then be done on the
basis of the Full Papers.

Full Paper Submission: 15 September 2010

Review Results: 15 December 2010

Final Paper (maximum ten thousands words), camera-ready: 15 March 2011

Abstracts and Articles may be submitted in English or Italian.
Articles must be submitted via email to the editors (see address
below) in the Journal's approved house style.

Please read the Guidelines for Submission first! They are at
or in English at:

You can access information about the house style at

Please note that submissions not in the house style will automatically
be returned to authors for formatting. The journal is peer-reviewed
and authors are expected to take reviewers' reports into consideration
when finalizing their papers for publication.

Queries: Stefano.depaoli [at] nuim [dot] ie  and Maurizio [at]
maurizioteli [dot] eu

About the Journal:

Etnografia e ricerca qualitativa (Ethnography and Qualitative
Research) is a peer-review journal that hosts high-quality, original
ethnographic and qualitative research, combining careful empirical
observation with sound theoretical reflection. The journal has a wide
and diverse audience, and the paper accepted and published are
directed toward such an audience, not only toward the readers of the
specific research field of the writers.

The journal covers traditional areas of ethnographic inquiry, such as
urban ethnography, deviance, work and occupational communities,
immigration and ethnic relations, but also promotes the ethnographic
analysis of scientific practices and knowledge, information and
surveillance systems, religion, politics, the media, sport and the
arts. ERQ is not committed to any specific theoretical approach, and
is open to papers influenced by different theoretical traditions,
provided they are based on accurate field research. It is published in
Italian, but the web version is bilingual (Italian/English). Some
articles are also published in French.

ERQ is edited by Pier Paolo Giglioli, Alessandro Dal Lago, Giolo Fele
and Marco Marzano. Some of the most well known Italian scholars
involved in ethnography sit on the Editorial Board, which is
complemented by a prestigious International Advisory Board.

Journal Web Site:

About the Editors of the Special Issue:
Stefano De Paoli is a post-doctoral researcher at the National
University of Ireland Maynooth, where he is conducting research on the
Future of the Internet. Stefano has worked in Science and Technology
Studies since 2004, focusing on an investigation of software licences.
Recently, his research interest has been Massive Multiplayer Online
Games, with a focus on cheating. More on Stefano at

Maurizio Teli is a researcher at the Museo Tridentino di Scienze
Naturali and collaborator at the University of Trento, Italy. He is
conducting research on the relationships between online technologies
and the construction of everyday societal facts. He has worked on
Science, Technology and Society, as well as in Organization Studies
and Internet Research, since 2004, mainly investigating the political
reality constructed by software developers' practices. Recently, he
has been working on the “My Ideal City” project (EU Grant Agreement n°
230554), questioning how three-dimensional virtual environments can be
used in the dissemination of alternative realities. More on Maurizio
at http://www.maurizioteli.eu
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Paper: https://journals.tdl.org/jvwr/article/view/865
Etnography and Qualitative Research
CfP: http://www.nuim.ie/nirsa/people/postdocs/documents/ERQ%20Call%20for%20Paper_FINAL.pdf

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