What I found really interesting about the Living in Virtual Communities article was that is reminded me of a lot of research methods that I learned about in some of my other classes. I am first and foremost a Communications major. One of the classes that I took last semester was called Communications Research, and revolved around research methods and methodology. One of the things I found fascinating about this article was that the research methods that Carter used to study online communities and societies were, to my surprise, almost identical to how this type of research would be conducted in the real world. She described her research methods as the following: “As well as practising ethnography, I carried out other qualitative research methods including questionnaires and ofﬂine semi-structured interviews. Towards the end of my research I also met four of my informants face to face. Although my primary objective was not to compare online and ofﬂine contexts of social interaction, I saw these ofﬂine meetings as providing useful backup when discussing authenticity and truthfulness”.
Carter used questionnaires, created demographics of the ages, ethnicities, nationalities, etc. of the online users that lived in certain sections of the online community. I found that fascinating, especially with all the other readings we have been doing throughout the semester where research is beginning to point in the direction that virtual communities may actually be more literal translations of the real world than we might have previously believed. One such example being how a Disease specialist used online communities as a way to do research on how virtual players would react to a virtual plague because it might relate to real world circumstances.
It blows my mind that research is beginning to migrate to the Internet to conduct sociological, anthropologic and other kinds of research on humans and human interaction. I am really interested to see what this kind of research will lead to in the next few years as we begin to learn more about the Internet and how people interact on it. I think that we will start to see that the Internet is more or less a virtual, man-made abstract representation of our own universe. In other words, I think as time goes on we will begin to see more similarities between the virtual worlds that we have created that coincide with the reality that we currently live in.