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Links to my published articles online
List of Publications with Full Citations

Adolescent Diary Weblogs and the Unseen Audience

Conversations in the Blogosphere: An Analysis "from the Bottom Up". Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS-38) Best Paper Nominee.

Weblogs as a bridging genre

Bridging the Gap: A Genre Analysis of Weblogs. Winner of the 2004 EduBlog Awards as best paper.

Common Visual Design Elements of Weblogs

Women and Children Last: The Discursive Construction of Weblogs

Time until my next publication submission deadline
27 March 2006 23:59:59 UTC-0500

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The Performativity of Naming: Adolescent Weblog Names as Metaphor

Buxom Girls and Boys in Baseball Hats: Adolescent Avatars in Graphical Chat Spaces

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Adolescents and Teens Online Bibiliography
Last updated July 8, 2005.

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Last Updated November 22, 2005.

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My Book2
New books are added but reading status is rarely accurate.

December 08, 2004

The underlying issues - apophenia and jill/txt

After reading today's posts at both apophenia, jill/txt, and the posts to which they link, I've been thinking about the discussion of hard and soft social data. While the authors seem to place the blame for faulty research outcomes on the type of data acquired, I think the underlying issue is not hard vs. soft but rather one of the research design - in particular the research question, and data selection and integration - and researcher analysis.

Example: a question relating to participants social network within an online group/community would utilize network analysis within the community. Data acquisition may be accomplished via a bot such as danah describes as having been used in LambdaMOO. What this bot would likely provide is the link and the strength of that link, by capturing frequency of contact and duration information, within the boundaries of the space.

Does that tell the researcher anything about how a given link compares to one outside the boundaries? Nope, sure doesn't. So the discussion of frequency and duration of contact across the boundaries would be inappropriate. Likewise the data will not provide any measure of the emotional strength of the bond. Again any analysis that includes that component would be inappropriate.

Similarly the expectation that any research question will be truly answered in all situations is also inappropriate. While a researcher could - and I am sure some have done so in the past - dedicate their research agenda to knowing all there is to know about one person's social relations so that comparisons can be made across social contexts, the outcome would still be bounded and therefore incomplete. Assuming the monitoring began immediately it is still impossible for one researcher to be present at all times - something would slip past their view - therefore the data set would be incomplete. Likewise an entire universe of previous interactions, that impact the participants present and future interactions, would be lost because monitoring was not in place prior to the beginning this project.

I must admit I continue to be befuddled by the argument that there is one right way to analyze any or all human-related questions. To me the key is carefully framed research questions that are used in evaluating appropriate data. Readers of research reports need to apply healthy skepticism so they see flaws within the research such as inappropriate data sets, or analyzes that overstep their bounds. Additionally the reader must be aware of their own biases and work to curb them. In essence this would mean making sure that one does not torpedo valid research just because it was not done in the manner the reader would have utilized. Finally we must remember that each type of methodology gives a piece of the puzzle, neither gives the whole answer nor do they provide the "truth," further both have flaws and limitations.

Both quantitative and qualitative methodologies need be utilized appropriately and with a restrained hand. While it is often easy to believe that you are seeing patterns that extend beyond your current research question it is inappropriate to draw conclusions that are not fully supported by the data and for which another data set may be more appropriate. Too often that is what I see in the research I read.

Related posts:

The value of having a multiple methodology tool chest

Posted by prolurkr at December 8, 2004 05:18 PM

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