Virtual Methods: Issues in Social Research on the Internet

By Christine Hine | Go to book overview

14
Epilogue: Methodological Concerns and
Innovations in Internet Research

Nicholas W. Jankowski and Martine van Selm

This book represents a valuable addition to the growing literature on Internet research methods. The authors address important and sometimes problematic features of empirically investigating Internet-based phenomena. At the same time, the collection – like previous forays into this methodological niche area – attends to only a portion of the entire array of issues and concerns. And, the chapters as a whole leave one wondering: what next, what still needs to be undertaken?

In this short epilogue we cannot cover the entire gamut of issues and concerns related to Internet research. We do, however, wish to indicate where methodological clarity is increasing and where more work is needed. In this regard, we wish to contribute to establishment of an agenda for methodological refinement of Internet studies.

As a first task related to that objective, we briefly review the history of new media and new methods. We consider the contributions of this present collection according to a typology of methodological innovations devised for a previous collection in this genre. This exercise produces insight into the kind of methodological innovations currently being developed.

The second task related to our overall objective in this epilogue is to share some of the tensions and problems one of us is encountering in co-launching an international cross-country comparative research project about the use of the Internet in political campaigns. These experiences may broaden our collective awareness of the complexities of doing certain kinds of Internet research not represented by the chapters in this book.

Third, we pose suggestions as to where energy should be spent in the search for solutions to some of the methodological issues and problems plaguing Internet research. In a sense, many of these suggestions are generic and applicable to other arenas of inquiry; still, we feel much is to be gained through attention to them in relation to the empirical study of the Internet.

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