Research Questions

                So given this understanding of the impacts of digital architecture and gender how might a researcher move forward to study a group such as “There are Some Things Guys Should Always Do For Girls. Period.”?  In this case it is best to start with introductory and inductive exploratory questions.  For the extent of this study I asked the following:

  1. What types of people join this group?
  2. How does the environment mediate interactions and members, both in terms of the interface and the group description?
  3. What sort of discourse is taking place?

The accumulation of this series of questions consequently addresses the final overarching question: how does sexism get perpetuated on and through this digital community?

Study Design and Methodology

The research exhibited here is really very preliminary.  The ethnographic study was run as a side-project in parallel with a more significant (and unrelated) interview series for a qualitative methods course.  The IRB review process for the interview project took approximately 4 weeks to complete and the ethnography project spanned the time in between.  It actually only involved 3 sets of fieldnotes in total.  All of the data came from one Facebook group (as previously mentioned) and within that only one discussion post was examined in depth.  The information discussed here came from three primary sources: the interface and design of the website, observations and description of the actual group environment, and the limited discourse observed.  Since the study was so short (approximately 9 hours of observation) no key informants were really identified—in fact most discussants had only a few posts.  In all, it was a very short and very constrained study, not meant to be a long-term ethnography but more a glimpse into an intriguing Facebook group.

The Limitation of Being a Human Measurement Device

All of the data was gathered online, of course, with myself logged in and publicly observing the group.  The benefit of a perfectly replicable environment allowed me to capture quotes perfectly and inscribe them in a double-column fieldnote format, noting my analysis as I went along.  The two biggest limitations, I feel, were the length of the study and my own biases in regards to feminism.  I couldn’t help but read down the list and get angrier with each item.  The group really seems to be structured around the contention of gender roles and I often felt myself sucked into the debate and feeling far from anything resembling scientific.  Autobiography is becoming recognized as a legitimate method but honestly logging on and arguing (in notes or in actual discussion, it doesn’t matter) doesn’t really feel like real research to me.  I tried to expand my entourage of negative reactions by clinging to content analysis and really basic statistical observations at first, in an attempt to avoid losing myself in the setting.  It seems like most people who take on ethnography find the most unusual exotic culture they can and jump in head first, here I was poking around a group on a service I’ve spent the last two years studying that I happened to whole-heartedly take issue with.  It seems to implicitly raise the epistemological issue of conflict of interest.  Regardless, the exercise did unearth some worthy findings, particularly those related to interface in general that I might take with me into the future.  I present this study with full knowledge of its lack of viability and long-term analysis as an opening exploration.