Offline and Online Data

Offline and online data is important for understanding Internet use and online participation. Not every research project combines virtual methodology with non-digital methods, as it is oriented to specific research questions. Originally data used to be just one thing and there was no differentiation until the creation of the Internet. In regards to analysing and interpreting the data collected by both methods it can be hard to differentiate them. Orgad discusses that a distinction needs to be made between the two as it is being analyzed and interpreted. When one is discussing the data do they have to distinguish that this portion was from one method or the other or can they lump it together and say that these two methods was used to gather this data? Both online and offline data is highly beneficial for studies but it is interesting how Orgad says that there is a tendency to imply that online data is not as authentic as offline. If online data is not authentic then it leads to the question of credibility. It the data the researcher gathers online reliable? A researcher cannot control the virtual environment in the same manner than one can a physical and controlled environment. People have a tendency of showing or acting a specific way online but in the non-virtual environment they are completely different.

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One thought on “Offline and Online Data

  1. Brett Phillipson

    As I mentioned before, I really liked the point Orgad made about online data not being the only kind that is “virtual”. There are many forms of virtual data collection that predate the internet – phone interviews, mailed surveys, etc. – which makes me wonder if the distinction is between online/offline or virtual/face-to-face data. Of course, most of these virtual forms of data collection are now being done online, at least in part, as are certain forms of (what used to be) face-to-face data collection, such as participant observation. I guess a lot of Orgad’s arguments about authenticity and reliability of online data refer to this new online form of participant observation (which is, of course, relevant mostly to research about online communities, whereas other forms of online data can have greater relevance to research about offline phenomena) but I think a lot of the arguments she is countering could just as easily be made with regards to other forms of research “at a distance”. Overall, what I got from her article is that this distinction between two forms of data – online and offline – is pretty counterproductive in a world where there are many, many forms of data collection, many of which do not fit into a simple dichotomy of online vs. face-to-face.

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