Having just read the Orgad piece on online/offline research, I understand and agree with most of what she says about deconstructing the distinction between online and offline research. What still confuses me a bit is what she’s arguing against. What reasoning supports maintaining an online/offline distinction in research?
Early in the article she points out that looking at the Internet as either a cultural artifact or a culture informs our choices about whether to collect information in an online or offline setting, and seems to be saying that this is the reason people put online data in a different category. But rather than supporting a distinction, this seems to me to just confirm her point, that everything depends on what kind of information your research is trying to get at.
Towards the end, Orgad provides the quote by Pitts, who talks about the lack of offline data in her research as a limitation. Pitts writes that she can’t confirm the identities of her subjects, and that got me thinking that maybe that’s the real reason researchers might feel that online research isn’t as reliable as offline, whether consciously or intuitively. Is identity the whole issue? Is there more to it than that?
Again, I definitely agree with Orgad, but I’m trying to think about this from different angles.