A clear case of ‘virtucoolness :P’. Conducting discussion groups in online communities.

Mijke Slot


Because of technological developments, it has never been easier to use the online domain as a research environment. Online questionnaires are already mainstream research practice, as well as analysing news groups, forum discussions and websites. Researchers are exploring the ethnographic possibilities of online communities by interviewing community members via e-mail. But still, most researches depend on textual analysis or a-synchronous communication with research subjects (for example through e-mail). In some cases, researchers arrange offline meetings with the respondents they have contacted on the Internet. However, meeting respondents online and carrying out discussion groups with avatars in their own virtual environment is still quite unusual.

In this article several issues concerning organizational, methodological and ethical aspects surrounding online discussion groups in a virtual environment are explored. The article does not intend to provide a recipe or guideline for organizing these groups. It first and foremost illustrates a selection of interesting and important issues that researchers might encounter in the online domain. Some are also common issues in more general research, but have different consequences online. The illustrations are based on the authors’ personal experiences with approximately 40 Habbos, which were met during online discussion groups in April 2007.


virtual communities; online research; discussion groups

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.15847/obsOBS312009244