I recently presented at the Association of Internet Researchers 2003 conference in Toronto. The keynote speakers were Lucy Suchman (Lancaster University), Pierre Levy (University of Ottawa), Steve Jones (Co-founder of AoIR, University of Illinois) and Jane Fountain (Center for Digital Government Research and Practice). Panels included the digital divide, blogging, ehealth, gaming, online learning, research methods and virtual communities.
In a discussion of online social research methods Susan Barnes (Fordham University) gave an overview of the current ethical issues, whilst Kate Robson (University of Wales) discussed the use of traditional face-to-face focus groups in the online environment. Susan Herring (Indiana University Bloomington), Nancy Baym (University of Kansas) and Shani Orgad (London School of Economics) were panel-members of the roundtable on qualitative online research, which discussed the critical issues facing this approach.
There was a strong eHealth contingent. At the roundtable researchers in the field, including Alex Jadad (University of Toronto) and Robert Hawkins (University of Wisconsin) provided a synopsis of their current work. Alex Jadad outlined the work being carried out at the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation, whilst Robert Hawkins gave an update on the Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System (CHESS). In one of the eHealth panels Derek Hansen (University of Michigan) and I discussed the use of online health communities by health service users. My paper was concerned with how participation can be used to negotiate the health encounter. Derek Hansen explored these communities from a different perspective, highlighting the importance of applicability in relation to health behaviour change.
One of the strengths of the conference was its ability to connect over 400 international delegates from diverse backgrounds, whilst maintaining a friendly and encouraging environment. The next AoIR conference will be held a bit closer to home at the University of Sussex, UK.