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Terminological Obfuscation in Online Research

Terminological Obfuscation in Online Research
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Author(s): Patricia G. Lange (University of Southern California, USA)
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 15
Source title: Handbook of Research on Computer Mediated Communication
Source Author(s)/Editor(s): Sigrid Kelsey (Louisiana State University, USA) and Kirk St.Amant (East Carolina University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-863-5.ch033


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Many concepts—such as “computer mediated versus face-to-face interaction,” “virtual versus real,” “flaming,” and “anonymity”—that scholars have used for decades have led to theoretical misunderstandings about online and offline communication. This chapter discusses theoretical problems that standard terms introduce. The goal is not simply to urge more precision by defining terms, but rather to show how concepts and their orienting frameworks complicate scholars’ ability to observe and analyze certain data. Use of ill-defined terms may obscure data that lies outside of an orienting term’s worldview. The chapter analyzes concerns with these terms and concludes with suggestions on how to resist unreflective use of terms that complicates open-ended empirical investigation of communicative phenomena.

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