Count me among those who are using (and theorizing) e-mail as a valuable
research tool. I share Karl's feelings about the benefits of e-mail as
an as yet underdeveloped medium for qualitative research. I've been
working with two methodological concepts which take advantage of e-mail
for my dissertation work...one is the asynchronous interview and the
other is the participatory data collection possible on discussion lists.
The most exciting feature of e-research methods is that they are, as Karl
points out, action-oriented, political, interventionist, etc.
transcending the traditional "nuetral observation" of naturalistic
research. I'd be interested in hearing more about the kinds of
approaches to qualitative research people are developing for e-mail and
the WWW...my CCCC proposal for Phoenix was about this too.
On Sun, 21 Jul 1996, karl soetebier wrote:
> Alice & Eric,
> I am a grad student in the professional writing program at Kennesaw State
> and I am currently engaged in developing a writing unit in hypertext for a
> Pedagogy course.
> I am working collaboratively with another student on this project, but due to
> geographical distance, the whole of the project must accomplished online via
> e-mail. It
> is my intent to maintain complete records of all of our e-mail discussions. I
> can see
> the real possibilites of ethnographic-type research being conducted using
> as a
> primary instrument. In this case e-mail will not only serve as the means for
> accomplishing the project, but also as an efficent way to identify and reflect
> on the
> assumptions, philosophies, and pedagogical theory that will shape the final
> product. In
> addition it may shed some light on the mentoring process between two students,
> as it is
> that I have had greater experience with hypertext as a medium and my colleague
> has had
> greater experience in the design and implementation of writing units.
> I think that the inclusion of such e-mail discussions in a dissertation or
> thesis would
> be an effective way to inform the reviewers and readers of the work about the
> involved in creating the work, which would then help to inform the work
> course, some might say that this would be like including all of your notes,
> unpolished and unstructured they might be, as an apendix. I would argue that
> fundamental difference between notes and e-mail is that e-mail usually implies
> audience other than the self (although I have e-mailed some notes to myself in
> the past;
> sort of a virtual talking to yourself if you will)and therefore the rhetorical
> value of
> such a disscussion is elevated. In essence it is a partial, but tangible,
> of some
> of the socially constructed elements of the creation act. The purpose of its
> in my view, would be to enlarge the scope of the work beyond what is provided
> text of the finished work.
> The question for me is: How much of our process do we really want those who
> judge the
> work to know? - it could easily work both ways.
> Alice Trupe wrote:
> > Eric,
> > You bet I have (thought of adding the email stuff in the appendix).
> > I've planned a section I haven't written yet on becoming a researcher
> > (tentatively titled "More Participant than Observer"). My process of
> > this diss. through has been a very social one, and my email is like a
> > think-aloud protocol from time to time. I cc'd every one of those messages
> > scrolled back through them as I started outlining my chapter that describes
> > study (of a basic writing class composed entirely of reentry women students
> > Daedalus classroom). I think that explaining and accounting for what I was
> > seeing for the specific recipients of my messages propelled me into the
> > writing process of turning out a linear text.
> > Now my only problem is that I'd really rather produce the dissertation in a
> > form that reflects the creatively chaotic workshop class I observed and
> > participated in than in a traditional dissertation. But I don't think I
> > to argue my case through the grad school right now--I just want to get
> > finished!
> > Alice
Bill Hart-Davidson firstname.lastname@example.org
Purdue University http://omni.cc.purdue.edu/~davidswf