The Northwestern University School of Communication’s Web Use Project hosted a group of 17 international scholars with a wide range of research interests who share a common methodology: the use of log data in combination with observational methods to study behavior in a variety of online contexts.
Researchers like Department of Communication associate professor Eszter Hargittai, who heads the Web Use Project, use such methods to study information-seeking online. Other scholars use these methods to study behavior in online communities, virtual worlds, and games.
The meeting brought together members of the Log Methods and Measures of Online Behavior (Log-MOB) Working Group, funded by a grant awarded to Hargittai by the Digital Media and Learning Hub at the University of California, Irvine through the support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. An initial meeting, the gathering inspired discussions among scholars about how best to prepare, gather, and analyze data, share information, and evaluate the work of others.
“The goal of the group made up of international scholars representing both academic institutions and industry is to encourage conversations about, sharing of, and collaboration regarding new methods required for such research,” Hargittai said. “The hope is that researchers can develop methodological approaches that can be replicated by others, that they document methodological details carefully for sharing, and that they start using standardized measures that can facilitate comparison of findings across studies. Building a community of scholars whose experiences with such methods can be shared will avoid the need to reinvent the wheel each time researchers launch a new study in this area.”