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Observation of online communities: A discussion of online and offline observer roles in studying development, cooperation and coordination in an open source software environment

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Observation of online communities : A discussion of online and offline observer roles in studying development, cooperation and coordination in an open source software environment. / Nørskov, Sladjana V.; Rask, Morten.

In: Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung, Vol. 12, No. 3, 2011.

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@article{e2d2e39734434d2093ec7e0ba705921c,
title = "Observation of online communities: A discussion of online and offline observer roles in studying development, cooperation and coordination in an open source software environment",
abstract = "This paper addresses the application of observation to online settings with a special focus on observer roles. It draws on a study of online observation of a virtual community, i.e. an open source software (OSS) community. The paper examines general and specific advantages and disadvantages of the observer roles in online settings by relating these roles to the same roles assumed in offline settings. The study suggests that under the right circumstances online and offline observation may benefit from being combined as they complement each other well. Quality issues and factors important to elicit trustworthy observational data from online study settings, such as OSS communities, are discussed. A proposition is made concerning how threats to credibility and transferability in relation to online observation (i.e. lack of richness and detail, risk of misunderstandings) can be diminished, while maintaining the level of ependability (which is potentially high due to a greater degree of anonymity and {"}isolation{"} in online settings). The paper thus suggests that the less articipative the researcher's online observer role is, the more s/he should consider introducing offline data collection techniques rather than adopting a more participative role in the observed online setting. This methodological discussion forms the basis for making a well-considered choice of online observer role rather than passively sliding into a role assigned by the setting.",
keywords = "online data, observation, observer roles, mailing lists, open source software communities",
author = "N{\o}rskov, {Sladjana V.} and Morten Rask",
year = "2011",
language = "English",
volume = "12",
journal = "Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung",
issn = "1438-5627",
publisher = "Freie Universitaet Berlin * Institut fuer Qualitative Forschung",
number = "3",

}

RIS

TY - JOUR

T1 - Observation of online communities

T2 - A discussion of online and offline observer roles in studying development, cooperation and coordination in an open source software environment

AU - Nørskov, Sladjana V.

AU - Rask, Morten

PY - 2011

Y1 - 2011

N2 - This paper addresses the application of observation to online settings with a special focus on observer roles. It draws on a study of online observation of a virtual community, i.e. an open source software (OSS) community. The paper examines general and specific advantages and disadvantages of the observer roles in online settings by relating these roles to the same roles assumed in offline settings. The study suggests that under the right circumstances online and offline observation may benefit from being combined as they complement each other well. Quality issues and factors important to elicit trustworthy observational data from online study settings, such as OSS communities, are discussed. A proposition is made concerning how threats to credibility and transferability in relation to online observation (i.e. lack of richness and detail, risk of misunderstandings) can be diminished, while maintaining the level of ependability (which is potentially high due to a greater degree of anonymity and "isolation" in online settings). The paper thus suggests that the less articipative the researcher's online observer role is, the more s/he should consider introducing offline data collection techniques rather than adopting a more participative role in the observed online setting. This methodological discussion forms the basis for making a well-considered choice of online observer role rather than passively sliding into a role assigned by the setting.

AB - This paper addresses the application of observation to online settings with a special focus on observer roles. It draws on a study of online observation of a virtual community, i.e. an open source software (OSS) community. The paper examines general and specific advantages and disadvantages of the observer roles in online settings by relating these roles to the same roles assumed in offline settings. The study suggests that under the right circumstances online and offline observation may benefit from being combined as they complement each other well. Quality issues and factors important to elicit trustworthy observational data from online study settings, such as OSS communities, are discussed. A proposition is made concerning how threats to credibility and transferability in relation to online observation (i.e. lack of richness and detail, risk of misunderstandings) can be diminished, while maintaining the level of ependability (which is potentially high due to a greater degree of anonymity and "isolation" in online settings). The paper thus suggests that the less articipative the researcher's online observer role is, the more s/he should consider introducing offline data collection techniques rather than adopting a more participative role in the observed online setting. This methodological discussion forms the basis for making a well-considered choice of online observer role rather than passively sliding into a role assigned by the setting.

KW - online data

KW - observation

KW - observer roles

KW - mailing lists

KW - open source software communities

M3 - Journal article

VL - 12

JO - Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung

JF - Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung

SN - 1438-5627

IS - 3

ER -