The authors provide a survey of the issues involving technical communication research both in and on Online Environments. That is, they consider how the Internet impacts the way that STC researchers might conduct research, and they consider the Internet as a site worthy of research in and of itself. The authors detail three methodologies: ethnography, rhetorical analysis, and surveys. They compare the way these methodologies have looked traditionally with how they look in Cyberspace, pointing out, for example, that ethnography in cyberspace is complicated by ethical questions such as how and whether to obtain informed consent from subjects (pp. 232-3), and whether online discussions should be considered conversations or texts when performing rhetorical analyses.(Interestingly on this topic, they cite Cavazos, Cyberspace and the Law, who claimed in 1994 that ' "the existing copyright system seems to hold up rather well" in cyberspace' (Gurak & Silker, p. 237). This seems to me to be a naive assertion, especially in light of James Boyle's 1997 essay "Foucault in Cyberspace" which outlined the complexities of power and surveillance in the early years of the Internet.)
Nevertheless, Gurak and Silker make a strong argument that STC research has the opportunity to "take the lead in examining research in the virtual forum" (p. 245), by virtue of its interdisciplinarity and its rich history.
All of this makes me wonder about possible case studies better understanding technology transfer. I'm thinking of the One Laptop Per Child program as an instrumental case study. (I think this would be the instrumental one.)
- This week's readings make me wonder about the overlapping of various methodologies. Could you do an ethnographic case study? How about a Cultural Studies Case Study?