Thomsen Steven R.
Ethnomethodology and the study of online communities: exploring the cyber streets
Information Research, Vol. 4 No. 1, July. Drawing from the authors’ current research programs, this
essay explores the basic dimensions of online communities and
the concomitant need for scholars to rethink the assumptions that
undergrid historic paradigms about the nature of social interaction,
social bonding, and empirical experience (Cerulo, 1997).
doing, we argue that online communities are far from the “imagined”
or pseudo communities explicated by Calhoun (1991); that they
are, in fact, “real” in the very way in which they reflect
the changing nature of human relations and human interaction.
Finally this paper discusses the epistemological and methodological
implications of studying cyber communities. We will discuss how
computer-mediated interaction, or telelogic communication, as
it has been characterized by a number of theorists (Ogan, 1993;
Ball-Rokeach &; Reardon, 1988), can be analyzed to contribute
to phenomenological or ethnographic understandings of what it
means to be a member of a cyber-community. We suggest that one
of the best approaches to taking such a phenomenological snapshot
is through a multi-method triangulation, employing qualitative
interviews and descriptive and inferential analyses of message
content. We also will address limitations and restrictions for
using the Internet to do ethnomethodology.