Main features of the methodological approach
The Internet could be seen as a field of research, in this case, the research on online creation communities and as a channel for research the Internet as a platform of the research methods. In this last sense, the methodological design of the research explore the potential of Internet research, and its combination with offline methods.
Using online methods one should be prepared more than when using offline methods to deviate from the chosen course when new and unexpected insights and revelations crop up. And also, in order to profit from the great potential of Internet research, it is worth incorporating an open and experimental spirit into the research and not to restrict the methodology to already known and proven options.
The data collection is planned from a multi-methodological perspective in order to grasp the complexity of an online community. It includes: Online and offline ethnography of the communities and participants in ongoing debates, interviews and e-interviews with the participants, quantitative visualization of the digital threads, and frame analysis of organizational documents.
Two methodological features that are used in the empirical research are:
- Establishing a channel to communicate the research: the building of this website allows to provide information about the project development and establish a channel for a more continuous interaction with the informants in the research and in order to make publicly accessible the results of the research.
- Digital threads research base: in the Internet sphere all actions are translated in to digital information, known as digital threads, and these digital threads always are traced on databases. This automatic documentation opens a new frontier up in research: the possibility of storing and elaborating information produced independently from direct research aims, as a kind of â€œindirectâ€ strategy to obtain and elaborate information and knowledge.
Data collection and analysis
The empirical research is based, first, on a large-N analysis of a significant number of OCCs (100) and, secondly, on four case studies.
A large-N analysis is adequate due to the novelty and the scarce empirical research developed on the online creation communities. The research will start by collecting and systematizing the information in a directory of online creation communities. From the OCCs collected, the large-N analysis will involve designing a sample of 100 units, elaborating a codebook, and producing a descriptive statistical analysis of the data.
Then the plan is to undertaken a case study of four diverse cases, the four candidates of case studies are:
- Wikipedia, an open online encyclopedia;
- Social Forums Memory platforms;
- Flickr.com a commercial platform for photo sharing.