Thoughts on Research Methods and the question of Online/Offline

I’ve been researching cyberculture since early 1990s but yet each time either I am writing up/discussing  methods in my own work (be it an article or a book or for a talk) – I feel I have to re-invent the wheel in the telling.

Sometimes yes – its almost as if there is an academic amnesia around the issue but most of the times its because the intersections being explored have unique contextual nuances and specificities.

In this blog post – I want to collect some points and express my niggling irritation with both the assumption that online and offline are mutually exclusive AND the claims that online and offline are the same and somehow seamless.

In other words I am looking for the seams, the ruptures, the joinings and the unjoinable….

To this end – this exploration does not “begin” or “end” here nor are my points here comprehensive as literature review – this post is just a place marker for other things  I am writing and an invitation to others to join the conversation.

In 2008 I wrote a response to Shani Orgad’s excellent chapter in Markham and Baym’s book on “Internet Inquiry” – I quote myself here only for convenience – not out of any sense of self-importance – so I may use this as a point of departure/entry into opening this up for further reflection on my part as I revise and add to the Introductory chapters in the book(s) I am working on [yes I am one of those people who has to be writing in multiple documents and windows at the same time]. I will add on more quotes and literature and thoughts –  to this blog post/page by and by.


most internet research (and not just in reference to Shani Orgad’s essay) is based on the
assumption that “online” and “offline” are physical states of being and that they are implicitly treated as somehow distinct and mutually exclusive. When we actually scrutinize what it means to be online and to be offline, we see that they are not separable states of being in actuality— for when we are online we are simultaneously somewhere else physically as well—but we are definitely not disembodied (i.e., without body). Neither are we not online or not connected when we are offline, since we are simultaneously connected physically, hands typing, eyes reading, mouth speaking, and engaged with activities in the wider physical space surrounding us as well. We cannot really separate our being online from being offline, because online and offline are not discrete entities. In a sense, using this vocabulary, Orgad is trying to emphasize the simultaneity of being online and offline, and she does it well. But the vocabulary itself limits our ability to study practices of everyday life in relation to internet communication.

(2008-07-17). Internet Inquiry: Conversations About Method (Page 61). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.

So let’s start with — What’s the Research question? Where are you starting your enquiry

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