Friday, November 09, 2012

Methods to Study Digital Media

I'm teaching a class next week on "Online research: New challenges & opportunities". In preparation, I was thinking of all the ways to study online (and by this I mean both Internet and mobile) phenomena and to use online methods to study other things.

As I love typologies, I thought I'd prepare one on this.  Although such a list doesn't express the complexity of online research, I thought it would demonstrate the diverse ways to investigate digital media.

Online methods to examine online phenomena:
  • computer-captured and compiled data (e.g., web metrics)
  • email, virtual reality, VoIP telephone or video call, or instant messaging interviews
  • diarying or user logs
  • remote observation (participant or nonparticipant)
  • online focus groups
  • web-based or email surveys
  • audience response systems
  • remote user testing or experiments
  • autoethnography (can be conducted through blogging)
Methods to analyze online phenomena:
  • social network analysis
  • semiotics or visual analysis
  • content analysis
  • discourse analysis 
  • hermeneutics
  • ethnography
Online methods to study offline phenomena:
  • web-based or email surveys
  • email, virtual reality, VoIP, or instant messaging interviews
  • diarying (e.g. through special software or blogs)
  • photo documentation via mobile device
Offline methods to study online phenomena (which may or may not involve having users interact with digital media while capturing data):
  • face-to-face interviews or focus groups
  • nonparticipant observation
  • contextual inquiry
  • verbal protocol analysis (talk-aloud method)
  • eye-tracking studies
  • user testing or experiments
As a colleague pointed out there's also design science and participatory design that involves creating digital media as research tool - this type of research could be place in every category.

Please let me know if I missed a major method, as I'd like this typology to evolve iteratively.

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