Our paper on Group Informatics can be found here:
Group Informatics provides ontology and an integrated methodological approach for analysis of online groups, where electronic trace data is one of several types of data. This enables the researcher to transform technical, log records of interaction into socio-technical interaction records across a range of socio-technical contexts. Simply examining electronic trace data without grounding the analysis in constructs from social science leads to issues of theoretical coherence, validity and reliability (Howison et al., 2012). Yet, even when they do, Howison et al (2012) points out that the social theories that underlie social network analysis frequently rely on assumptions of ties that cannot be inferred solely from records of interaction captured in electronic trace data. Thus, simply applying social network theories without understanding the nature of behavior and the nature of the platform (and how it varies from group to group) leads to errors in analysis and thus, interpretation. Too often, research of online phenomena conflates the technical artifacts with the social experience of participants or assumes that the technical artifacts are the unit of analysis with no insight into how a group is using these artifacts to participate.
Application of the Group Informatics methodological approach systematically builds an understanding of technologically mediated groups across a range of contexts. We use this approach to analyze and integrate multiple data types, including electronic trace data, interview, survey and ethnographic data using methods from ethnography and grounded theory. We further expand the richness of our understanding with adductive, content analysis methods described by Krippendorff (2004) to identify theoretically grounded constructs like political discourse, learning and coordination. The triangulated analyses are then used to drive focused, theoretically and empirically grounded analysis of electronic trace data.