Email communication as a technology of oppression: Attenuating identity in online research
2015-03-05T16:25:18Z (GMT) by
This paper considers the impact of online communication, especially in the arena of email interviewing, on the reconstruction of participants’ voices and identities in environments that potentially provoke a sense of powerlessness and oppression. We argue that the form of the communication, devoid of face to face contact, non-verbal communication and the inflections of people’s physical voices, challenges participants, and therefore oppresses them, to find ways of engaging authentically with their interlocutors. In this struggle, despite the constraints of the system, participants try to project their normal lived selves. However fears about the system, e.g. how far it may be an insecure environment which will impugn their privacy, leads participants to be wary about being self-revelatory to online researchers until they have evidence of the values and identities of those researchers, in some cases gleaning those from fleeting direct personal or telephonic contact or from information sources that are accessible to them. We draw on evidence from two small scale studies of practitioners in Higher Education, to assert that participants in these qualitative research projects, in their struggle to make meaning of their experiences, learnt to assert power to influence the shape the project, a temporary community of which they had membership, and overcome their initial senses of peripherality, oppression and powerlessness.