Exploring the Dilemmas and Avenues of Digital Interaction and Distance in Research Methodology and Practice
Fundamental transformations in 21st century have raised challenging questions for scientists studying societal transformations in Indonesia as well as globally. The massive adoption of digital technologies, or as some will phrase as the virtualisation of society, ushered in new forms of being – homo digitalis – which exists primarily through virtual webs of exchange. Some inhabitants in cyberspace, have never met face-to-face and may have no intention of doing so. But more often there is not a singular virtual domain that can be distinguished from the ‘real’. People act and interact face-to-face as well as through social media.
So how can we come to grips with these changing and hybrid fields of interaction? How could we relate distant, virtual research with ‘conventional’ fieldwork that revolves around face-to-face contact while the Corona lockdowns challenged the dichotomy or sharp boundaries between materiality and virtuality? How could we actively participate in virtual settings? How could we judge the authenticity of online data and how do we triangulate observations in online spaces with material forms of observation? How do we act on aspects of portrayal, privacy and consent procedures in virtual and visual environments? And do we treat social media as a source of data, a tool for keeping in touch with participants or a form of contextualisation for other kinds of data (or a combination of all)?
These questions have led to a reflection on and an innovation in research methodology that will be central to this session. The ambit of this session is to take stock of these reflections and explore contemporary dilemmas in researching digital societies before moving to three examples of how researchers have tried to come to grips with these methodological challenges, particularly through applying digital techniques.