The Electronic Anthropologist : on sources of information, strategies, techniques and timing of online research/ Antropolog wobec współczesności

Dublin Core

Tytuł

The Electronic Anthropologist : on sources of information, strategies, techniques and timing of online research/ Antropolog wobec współczesności

Temat

Zadrożyńska, Anna
metodologia badań internetowych
informacja cyfrowa
wyszukiwanie informacji w Internecie
elektroniczne archiwa
cyfrowy warszatat badawczy
wyszukiwarki internetowe

Opis

Antropolog wobec współczesności pod red. Anny Malewskiej-Szałygin i Magdaleny Radkowskei-Walkowicz s.148-162
tom w darze Profesor Annie Zadrożyńskiej

Twórca

Ciołek, T.Matthew

Wydawca

Instytut Etnologii i Antropologii Kulturowej UW

Data

2010

Prawa

Licencja PIA

Relacja

oai:cyfrowaetnografia.pl:publication:4999

Format

application/pdf

Język

pol

Identyfikator

oai:cyfrowaetnografia.pl:4636

PDF Text

Text

T. Matthew Ciołek

Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies (RSPAS)
Australian National University, Canberra

The Electronic Anthropologist:
on sources of information, strategies, techniques
and timing of online research

1. Introduction
Information of relevance and value to social scientists is scattered - as individual
items as well as clusters and collections - across three vast and vastly different habi­
tats of knowledge. The first of them is formed by the overlapping networks of inter­
connected, data-swapping computers. There the information is stored as electronic
bits. The second habitat is a great planetary labyrinth of interacting and competing
museums, archives, and libraries. This is the physical world where information is
stored as tangible objects - books, manuscripts, microfilms, artifacts - and kept on
shelves, or in vaults. Finally: there is the boundless archipelago of groups and clus­
ters of people themselves. Researchers, experts, archivists, journalists, court-clerks,
shamans, interested laymen, students, librarians, managers, and so forth form the
third habitat of knowledge. There the information is stored in biological form, either
etched in the memories of people, or created by them afresh.
This article is concerned w i t h research uses of the first of those three informa¬
tional environments, that is, w i t h quests for digital pointers and digital contents that
are available via the Internet. It represents an abridged extract from an extensive
2009 work entitled "The logistics of effective online information seeking", a re¬
search paper w i t h a number of technical appendices, now available online at
www.ciolek.com/PAPERS/logistics-of-online-information-seeking.html address.
Earlier studies of information-seeking practices
Literature on the uses of the Internet for research purposes tends to fall into five
groups:
(1) W o r k dealing w i t h types and characteristics of sources of online information
(Beck 2008, Blackhurst 2008, C. Harris 2006, R. Harris 2008, N I A S L I N C n.d., Ravia 2000b, Zillman 2008).
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The Electronic Anthropologist

(2) Quality and evaluation of information gleaned online (Alexander & Tate 1999,
Blackhurst 2008, Harris 2007, Jacobson 2008, K i r k 1996, Ravia 2004a, Sebek 2007,
Smith 2008).
(3) Discussions of the most useful information-seeking tools (Bergman 2001, C o hen 2008e, 2008d, Google 2008, Ravia 2008d).
(4) Analyses of the finer points of information-finding techniques (Cohen 2008a,
2008b, 2008c, 2008d, Harris 2000, Monash University Library 2004, Overture Services 2007, Ravia 2000a, 2002a, 2002b, 2004b, 2008a, 2008b, 2008c), and finally,
(5) Admonitions regarding the pitfalls faced by novices or careless online researchers
(Cohen 2008d, Harris 1997, Mississauga Librarians 2008, N I A S L I N C n.d., Ravia
2008a).
A l l these works are feely accessible on the Internet where they are frequently
updated to keep up w i t h technological progress. This type of material does not need
to be restated here. Instead, our attention will be focused on the evalutation of me¬
thods of electronic investigation that people can undertake w i t h i n the domain of
the Internet. Therefore, the questions posed by this paper are not "what are the best
ways to obtain information online?", or "what are the best sources of electronic
information?", but rather - "under what methodological circumstances is our online
research most likely to succeed?" So it is not an enumeration of tools and opportu¬
nities, but rather a meta-assessment of these.

2. T h e Internet, the electronic environment of information
T w o things about the Internet, the electronic environment of information, are im¬
mediately apparent to any observer: its dire lack of organization and its enormous
physical size. The Internet is a highly unpredictable and confused place, and the materials it carries are of very uneven quality: Gorman (1995: 34) wrote:
T h e net is like a h u g e v a n d a l i z e d l i b r a r y S o m e o n e has d e s t r o y e d t h e c a t a l o g and
r e m o v e d t h e f r o n t matter, indexes, etc., f r o m h u n d r e d s of t h o u s a n d s of b o o k s and
t o r n a n d s c a t t e r e d w h a t remains... ' s u r f i n g ' is t h e process of s i f t i n g t h r o u g h t h i s dis¬
o r g a n i s e d mess i n t h e h o p e of c o m i n g across s o m e useful f r a g m e n t s of t e x t and
images t h a t can b e r e l a t e d t o o t h e r fragments.

Tellingly more than a decade later the situation remained unchanged. Thus Beck
(2008), w r i t i n g some thirteen years after the initial damning assessment by Gor¬
man, concurs w i t h the earlier criticisms by noting that the Internet continues to be
"disorganised, volatile and dynamic. Web sites appear, disappear, move or mutate
daily [...] The useful and useless co-exist in cyberspace much as they would and do
at a flea market".
The other outstanding feature of the N e t is its immense size, and the fact that it
continues to grow very quickly In late 1995 the world wide web (which is only one
of many component parts of the Internet ) consisted of approximately 300,000
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I Matthew Ciołek

servers and of 2 million W W W documents (Ciolek 1996:106). This explosive
g r o w t h continued unabated for over a decade. Consequently, in mid-2008 there
were approximately 175.5 m servers (Netcraft 2008) and over 8 billion web pages
(Google 2008).
Importantly, all these figures refer only to the information that is visible to stan¬
dard search engines and their data-harvesting "spiders". This is an important ca¬
veat. In addition to the popular surface Web, there is also a massive - approximately
500 times larger than the commonly defined World W i d e Web - and largely unac¬
knowledged constellation of other, i.e. n o n - W W W containers, of electronic infor¬
mation. These other resources remain largely invisible and unknown to Internet
users at large, and to the search engines people rely on (Bergman 2001).

3. T h e logistics of online informationn seeking
Finding the right information in vast masses of all potentially relevant electronic
materials is a complex undertaking. Therefore, it requires a work plan which cor¬
rectly matches the available: (a) research strategies; (b) favoured sources of online
information; (c) time available for completion and finally, (d) online research tech­
niques. Each of these four key variables has its idiosyncratic aspects. Let's look at
them, one by one:
T h e First Logistical Element: Research Strategy
Every research operation is based on the researcher's passionate involvement w i t h
their questions and answers, as well as w i t h the relevant sources of data and know¬
ledge. These questions, sources, and answers can be unambiguously and directly
stated, or not. These are important distinctions, as explicit scholarly questions (as
well as explicit definitions of sources of data, and explicit factual answers) are pre¬
cisely those statements which one can argue w i t h and subject to testing and refuta¬
tion (see Popper 1969: 51-53, 1972: 242-244). A t the same time, ill-defined ques¬
tions, sources, and answers form a background intellectual fog which has the poten¬
tial to generate endless future revisions and revolutions to the established frame¬
works of knowledge.
Firstly there are Questions, which usually involve the traditional cluster of phrases
revolving around such words as "Who?", "What?", "When?", "Why?", "Where?",
" H o w ? " , "What If?" and "To W h a t End?" If the researcher states his or her ques¬
tions clearly and explicitly, then we will call them by their generic upper case label
"Q". Should they remain at a given stage of investigations implicit, unstated, unarticulated, then they will be labeled here w i t h the upper case character "X".
Secondly, there are the Sources that a researcher seeks and uses. Examples of
sources are many: a book, database, web site, library, archive, newspaper, field notes,
an expert, an interview, and so forth. Naturally, such containers of information 150

The Electronic Anthropologist

whether large or small and whether electronic, analogue, or biological - in order to
be of use to anybody need to be: (a) precisely defined, (b) located (i.e. learned
about, identified, and found); (c) accessed (i.e. visited, handled, and unlocked), and
(d) investigated (i.e. read, critiqued, consulted, verified, etc., etc.). Sources, de¬
pending on whether the researcher defines them explicitly or not, will be labeled
here as "S" or "X", accordingly.
Thirdly, there always have to be some Answers. These are thoughts and ideas
that the researcher pursues and which need to be stated, deduced, discovered, or
just postulated on a purely temporary basis. Again, depending on the ontological
status of these answers (i.e. depending whether the researcher states them explicitly or only hints at them), they will be accordingly labeled here either " A " or "X".
A l l this means that at any moment of any imaginable line of inquiry all investiga¬
tors face a choice between one of the eight theoretically possible research strate¬
gies. Obviously not all of them are used equally often. W h i c h particular research
strategy a researcher adopts fully depends on the explicitness and clarity (or other¬
wise) w i t h which he or she has defined their Questions, information Sources, and
Answers. A n y of these strategies can be initial, or interim, or final. Moreover, they
can be mixed and combined. Above all, they can be interchanged at a moment's
notice.
-

The eight theoretically feasible research strategies are:
Confirm - Confirm details of the findings and/or details of the sources; verify
and proofread the collected data; find another example of an answer that you
already have. The logical structure of this research strategy is denoted by its
acronym: Q S A ( = definite Questions, definite Sources, definite Answers).

-

L i n k - L i n k your research to the correct sources; document the findings estab¬
lished thus far; test earlier findings against new, presently unidentified sources;
collect additional answers from new, presently unidentified sources. Logical
structure: Q X A .

-

Deliver - Deliver answers to the explicit research questions; identify the
sources, access them and look for answers relevant to the questions; collect new
data. Logical structure: QSX.

-

Chase - Chase the promising sources to get answers to your explicit research
questions; look afresh at the range of possible sources and think of new ways of
investigating them. T h i n k of new answers that they can yield. Logical structure:

-

-

QXX.
Form - Formulate your explicit research question in the light of the temporary
findings supplied by the identified sources; look for the existing new questions
to be asked of the known sources which have given us the current answers; contest
the existing framework of thought and methodology. Logical structure: XSA.
M a t c h - M a t c h your tentative inklings, your tentative and conjectural answers
w i t h the best questions and the most promising sources; use the answer you
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already have to think of new data sources and new questions you could pose.
Logical structure: X X A .
-

Explore - Explore the located sources to formulate your explicit research ques­
tions; investigate the available materials; t r y inventing a new conceptual frame¬
work. Logical structure: XSX.
- M u l l - Examples: M u l l and brainstorm over the best questions, apt conjectures
and the likely sources of data; look afresh at everything related to your research;
be creative and iconoclastic. Logical structure: X X X .
So, for every potential research scenario we have a gloss, a mnemonic label, and
a logical skeleton. In the above taxonomy the Confirm strategy is the simplest and
quickest. A t the opposite end of the scale rests the hazy, open-minded, time-hun¬
gry M u l l strategy.
T h e Second Logistical Element: Online Resources
The Internet is a planet-wide archipelago of sources of online information con¬
nected by a lattice of general and directional pointers. These archipelagos of con¬
tainers, contents and connections are furthermore surrounded by a comet's tail of
contextual hints, oblique references, tags and metadata (Dublin Core Metadata Ini¬
tiative 2003, National Academy of Sciences 2000). Some of these electronic
resources and metadata reside on intranets and other protected sub-sets of the In¬
ternet. However, a great mass of informational resources is freely accessible to any¬
body w i t h access to the N e t .
There are no less than nine basic types of online information sources. For specific
examples of those nine types of sources, and their online pointers (i.e. URLs) please
see "The Electronic Anthropologist" paper at the online address mentioned above.
A l l these resources can be summarised as follows:
- Databases - Containers of digital information in which data are organised in
records, w i t h each record comprising a number of precisely defined numeric,
alphanumeric, or image-storing fields. Examples: Bookstore Catalogues and
Bibliographies, Dictionaries, Directories of People, Library/Museum/Archive
Catalogues, and Telephone Directories.
-

Search engines - Automatically constructed indices of contents of such
resources (see below) as Directories, Repositories, "Flowing" and "Frozen" web­
sites, Collaborations and Gatherings. Search engines make every w o r d and every
image in the harvested online documents separately indexed and linked to its
exact electronic address w i t h i n the document, and w i t h i n the resource itself, and
w i t h i n the Internet as a whole.

-

Online directories - Manually constructed online bibliographies and catalogues
of online resources. Examples: Bibliographies of links and Lists of web directo¬
ries. Users of such directories can access stored information, and suggest adden¬
da, deletions and modifications.
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-

Repositories - Online collections, warehouses, libraries, and archives of substantial and well-formed bodies of digital information. Examples: Bibliographies of
Paper Publications, Digitised Books, Digitised Documents, Digitised Images
and Documentary Photographs, Digitised Maps and Digitised Periodicals.

-

"Flowing" websites - Containers of online information whose content, size and
scope are heavily influenced by input solicited from or volunteered by their
users/readers. The web sites act as small-scale repositories.

-

"Frozen" websites - Containers of online information whose content, size and
scope do not significantly change in response to input from their users. These
web sites frequently resemble "flowing" web sites in terms of content and architecture. However, they do not have a policy of either inviting or acting on readers' input.

-

Collaborations or collaborative environments - Containers of online information
whose contents and, to some extent, architecture are either under the control of
all, or only some of its readers (such as site administrators, registered co-editors,
registered readers/commentators). Examples: Blogs and Wikis. Users of collab¬
orative work environments can access the stored information, as well as add to
it, delete from it, edit it, rearrange it, or annotate w i t h a tag or comment.

-

Gatherings - Two-way online communication systems used for the speedy
exchange (i.e. sending and receiving) of digital i n f o r m a t i o n . Examples:
Discussion Groups, Chat Rooms, M a i l i n g Lists and information Bazaars.
Feeds - One-way manual distribution channels for the sending of news and alerts
from a source directly to the readers. Examples: Info/Alert/Update services.
Feeds specialise in a great range of content: news, newsletters, updates on events
in some organizations, details of new material published on some remote infor¬
mation system.

-

T h e Third Logistical Element: Work Schedules
Researchers always need to consider the amount of time they want to allocate to the
business of information seeking, as opposed to other research tasks and writing.
Obviously, the amount of time earmarked for completion of the data-gathering
stage of research varies from case to case, and from scholar to scholar. For our pur¬
poses, however, it will be useful to distinguish three types of research schedules:
-

Urgent research - One to be completed swiftly in a relatively short span of time.
This span can range from a mere few minutes to a handful of frantic days.

-

Standard research - A schedule of work that needs to be completed calmly and
systematically by some well-defined deadline while there is ample time to carry
it out fully and satisfactorily: Normally, such projects last a few weeks, or longer.
Sometimes they can stretch for several months.

-

Long-term - A leisurely open-ended research project; one which has no clearly
defined completion date.
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It is only natural that a good researcher spends short periods of time on informa­
tion-seeking tasks that can be performed swiftly and longer periods on tasks that re­
quire ample time for their development and refinement. A very good researcher, how­
ever, has one more logistical skill under his belt. H e can tell in advance which of his re¬
search tasks will be which. Therefore, he or she can plan their commitments accurately.
The Fourth Logistical Element: Data-Gathering Techniques
Once decisions regarding preferred research strategies, viable resources, and ade¬
quate timetables are taken, but before any of the resources are actually located and
accessed, one needs to pause and think about the best approach to the task of data
collection itself. Thus Ravia (2008b) advises:
T h i n k A b o u t Y o u r Q u e r y ! Seekers d o n o t ' p l u n g e ' i n t o a search o u t of t h e blue. L i k e
artists, t h e y visualize the c o r r e c t result before t h e y b e g i n . T h e 'perfect' answer is d r i v i n g
t h e i r queries. T h e p e r f e c t answer creates t h e c o r r e c t q u e s t i o n ( s ) . W h a t k i n d of re¬
sults d o y o u w a n t ? [...] T w o skills a seeker needs: h o w t o f o r m u l a t e a q u e s t i o n c o r r e c t ¬
ly and k n o w i n g w h e r e t o l o o k . A n d t h i s means k n o w i n g w h i c h resources y o u s h o u l d
use for y o u r searches. A n d t h i s means y o u must first of all k n o w h o w t o search t h o s e
v e r y resources y o u s h o u l d use for y o u r searches. I n fact each ' p a r t ' of t h e w e b requires
a d i f f e r e n t approach. [...] Before e v e n b e g i n n i n g , t h i n k a b o u t y o u r q u e r y : prepare y o u r
q u e s t i o n ( s ) f o r t h e p e r f e c t result a n d d e c i d e w h i c h resources y o u w i l l use.

In addition, throughout all information-seeking operations, there is the constant
need to focus exclusively on the task of finding your target. Fjalar Ravia (2004b),
himself an information-seeker extraordinaire, observes: " 'Focus always on your spe­
cific needs. Otherwise, you can spend a lifetime d r i f t i n g through archipelagos of fas­
cinating, but ultimately fruitless links'. I don't need to underline how true this is for
Internet searching
There are at least ten distinct ways of conducting online research. Each data¬
gathering technique can be applied once only, or in a sequence, as a part of a longer
and more complex information quest. Also, one technique can be used at a time, or
in bulk, in parallel w i t h each other. The ten online data-gathering techniques are:
-

Ask - This involves using one's social skills to obtain in the shortest possible
time the exact information we seek from experts (either directly, or via mail or
email), and to do so w i t h o u t wearing out or antagonising our informants. Typi¬
cally, such exchanges are about addresses/pointers, or commentaries and other
metadata regarding online and offline resources relevant to our detailed research
question.

-

Q u e r y - This means quizzing electronic databases for pointers, contents, or
metadata for online and offline target resources. Q u e r y works best if the resear¬
cher is thoroughly acquainted w i t h the technical characteristics and informa¬
tional architecture of the interrogated database.
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Ihe Electronic Anthropologist

-

Search - The technique quizzes global or local search engines for details of content and the electronic address of the target information. Search is a very powerful technique, especially when conducted w i t h the aid of judiciously selected
search terms (Harris 2000, Ravia 2002b, 2008b). Its correct use also assumes
that the researcher is thoroughly focused (yet flexible and adaptive) while work¬
ing w i t h the wide range of variously designed search engines.

Throughout all these online investigations, valid or promising results need to be
recorded, put into a meaningfully named file, and safely stored. Details of the search
engines used also need to be clearly recorded. Furthermore, the dates of the searches
as well as details of the search techniques need to be written down. The reason is
that searches conducted at various points in time seldom generate identical results:
information located on one day will not necessarily be indexed by the search engine
at a later date.
-

Browse - Browsing means keeping in mind well defined questions while surfing
the N e t from one online resource to another resource and purposefully exploring its nooks and crannies. Browsing is an activity only superficially similar to
web surfing. Browsing is a focused investigation. It aims to achieve concrete
intellectual results. Surfing is a mere pastime.

-

Track - This technique resembles the actions of a detective conducting a criminal
investigation. Here a researcher uses all their investigative and navigational skills
to identify, in the wide range of online resources, any traces of the existence, nature,
contents, and whereabouts of potential target information. Track is a slow-paced,
forensic technique, and as such is very similar to Comb. Track makes heavy use of
all other information-finding methods, especially Query Search, Browse, and M o nitor. Also, it relies on meticulous record-keeping and on the tricks-of-the-trade.

-

Comb - The creator of the term 'combing', Ravia, explains: " [ i t is] searching
those that have searched [well before you have embarked on your investigations]
and are willing to share [...] you lurk around usenet, maillists and messageboards
trying to find some authorities in the matters you are seeking. T h e n you use the
cumulated knowledge of these savy-people [sic] to jumpstart on your search.
[...] the 'combing' approach is useful in order to find treasures hoarded by people
that are willing to share what they know and have found" (Ravia 2000a).

-

M o n i t o r - This technique aims to find in accidentally encountered resources
pointers and metadata bearing on the target information. It works best when the
researchers keep in mind a series of well-defined questions about the research
problem. O n l y then will they be ready to perceive the significance of the snip¬
pets spotted while perusing their mailbox or visiting the N e t on some other er¬
rand. Data gathering through monitoring is accelerated by joining a large num¬
ber of complementary (topic-wise) Gatherings and information Feeds. H o w ¬
ever, such an approach has its downside: it usually results in a heavy overload of
irrelevant or low-quality information.
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I Matthew Ciołek

-

Collect input - This is another technique which taps knowledge carried by people.
It involves the creation of online questionnaires (published as a web input form,
or distributed as email circulars) and making them available to potential online
informants (Coomber 1997, Mannion 2008, Sheehan & Grubbs H o y 1999, Ste­
wart 2003, and Zhang 2000). This technique collects data pro-actively It com¬
bines questionnaire design skills w i t h elements of computer programming.

-

Trigger input - This online research technique requires very good social skills.
Trigger is similar to the Ask, Collect input and Invite input (see below) tech¬
niques. A l l of them pursue knowledge that is predominantly stored in biological
format, i.e. as human memory However, unlike the other three techniques, it is
a ploy; it acquires the target information indirectly. It does so by publishing on¬
line material which intentionally stirs readers and provokes them to express online
their passionate comments, arguments, objections, and alternative viewpoints.

-

Invite input - This method simply encourages readers to supply you w i t h infor­
mation you need. Invite input comprises five consecutive stages. Firstly, the
researcher publishes online some preliminary but nevertheless serious and inter¬
esting body of information: data sets, raw materials, or draft conceptual frame¬
works. Secondly, next to the online offering he/she publishes a polite, and not
too overbearing invitation for comments, addenda, and corrections. Thirdly, the
researcher patiently waits for the possible arrival of useful input. This waiting pe­
riod can stretch for weeks, months, or even years. Fourthly, all readers' input - when
received - is p r o m p t l y acted upon. This means that suggested corrections,
emendations and additions are immediately implemented. It also means that the
party w h o provided the submission is equally p r o m p t l y thanked for their kind
advice and assistance. Finally, and critically, in the documentation to the online
materials themselves all readers' contributions are fully and publicly acknow¬
ledged online and - again - thanked for. The last stage is the crux of the success­
ful deployment of the Invite technique. W i t h o u t it, the chances that other readers
would be inclined to contribute to the researcher's online work, and to translate
this inclination into practical activity, are very slim.

4. Six constraints of information seeking
None of the above four logistical aspects of online research - the strategies, online
resources, w o r k schedules, and data-gathering techniques - ever occurs alone. O n
the contrary they always w o r k in concert, as a dynamic system. Together they form
six unique combinations, in some of which these variables seem to "work together
especially well", that is, when they appear to be supportive of each other, and appear
(in the experience of this author) to be productive. The findings are of such com¬
parisons are as follows:
Constraint 1: the compatibility of the eight types of research strategies w i t h the
use of nine types of online resources. Our analysis finds that in this context the four
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The Electronic Anthropologist

most useful online resources are: Search Engines, "Frozen" web sites, and Repositories
and Gatherings.
Constraint 2: the compatibility of the three types of work schedules w i t h the
use of nine types of online resources. In this context the three most useful online
resources are: Databases, Search Engines, and Gatherings.
Constraint 3: the compatibility of the three types of work schedules w i t h the
use of ten types of data-gathering techniques. In this context the three most useful
data-gathering techniques are: Ask, Query, and Search.
Constraint 4: the compatibility of the eight types of research strategies w i t h the
use of ten types of data-gathering techniques. In this context the four most useful
data-gathering techniques are: Search, Browse, Track, and Invite Input.
Constraint 5: the compatibility of the eight types of research strategies w i t h
three types of work schedules. In this context the three most useful research strate¬
gies are: Confirm, Link, and Answer.
Constraint 6: the compatibility of the ten types of data-gathering techniques
w i t h the use of nine types of online resources. O u r analysis finds that in this context
the four most useful data-gathering techniques are: Search, Browse, Track and
Combs. In the same context the three most useful online information resources are:
Collaborations, Gatherings, and "Frozen" web sites.

Conclusions
This study leads to three conclusions:
1. N o t surprisingly, long-term research projects are especially advantageous to
a serious student of the world. They enable researchers to make better use of the
passive and pro-active data, and knowledge-gathering techniques. A l l the above
mentioned people-centric techniques need ample time to start blossoming, and
they are definitely w o r t h careful cultivation, and fine-tuning. Ultimately, it is more
efficient to be either sporadically or regularly supplied w i t h the factual or theoretical information we need, than to t r y to locate it all by ourselves in a cyber-mangrove
forest. However, any advantages we may gain in our work are necessarily always rela¬
tive, and always contextual. Whenever we choose any particular way of doing our
research, we are b o u n d to compromise in our selection of suitable research strate¬
gies, or time frames, or sources of information, or data-gathering techniques. To
gain an advantage in one area necessarily means losing some advantage in another.
2. Serious online research is a technically and intellectually demanding activity.
It involves patient and systematic thinking, long attention spans, heightened atten¬
tion to detail, and the ability to make quick inspired guesses w i t h regard to logical
connections between seemingly unrelated bundles of electronic, paper and human
pointers and contents. Such a research requires (a) staying perfectly focused on pri¬
mary objectives; (b) keeping systematic and detailed records of operations, so that
one does not go in circles or miss a vital step; (c) consulting and mining as many
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information resources as possible. This is because they all store slightly different
- in terms of the details and volume of their contents - groups of target informa­
tion, and they do so by using different data architectures and formats. This all means
that the actual task of information gathering goes far beyond the rushed, non-reflec­
tive use of any of the well-marketed search engines, or copying off the screen mate­
rials published by the Wikipedias and their cohorts.
3. Voluminous amounts of hitherto untapped and insufficiently tapped high-grade
research information is known to exist in the form of memories and notes kept by other
people. Gatherings and Collaborative work environments are especially seminal types
of online resources. However, to mine them effectively we still need to determine - by
observational as well as experimental means - under what exact social circumstances
such forms of scholarly interactions are most productive and most informative. It would
be good if more attention of anthropologists and social psychologists were to be
paid to the social and cultural organisation of the Internet and its academic users.
In other words, while at the surface level the Internet appears to be defined
mostly by our interactions w i t h the disembodied, cold-headed technology, ulti¬
mately the full research value of the N e t is best realised through multifaceted intel¬
lectual relationships that we can form w i t h other human beings that are contactable
online. Seen from this point of view, the modern Internet becomes a virtual bridge
which links the three habitats of information. Firstly, the Internet almost instantane¬
ously connects the researcher w i t h the online containers of digital information he or
she seeks. Secondly it spans the gap between a res..archer and the pointers to the
masses of analogue data preserved in libraries, archives, historical monuments, and
museums. Thirdly, the N e t is a superb tool for the closure of the gap between a re¬
searcher and the wealth of skills and wisdom of his or her colleagues, no matter w h o
they are, and where they work.

Acknowledgments
I am grateful to Greg Young for his vigorous skepticism regarding my initial theoretical
ideas, and to Olaf and Monika Ciolek for their thoughtful and thus ruthless advice
on the subsequent iterations of this paper.

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Kolekcja

Cytat

Ciołek, T.Matthew, “The Electronic Anthropologist : on sources of information, strategies, techniques and timing of online research/ Antropolog wobec współczesności,” Cyfrowa Etnografia, Dostęp 4 grudnia 2022, https://cyfrowaetnografia.pl/items/show/6016.

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