Internet Social Support Groups as Moral Agents: The Ethical Dynamics of HIV+ Status Disclosure by David A Essay
Internet Social Support Groups as Moral Agents: The Ethical Dynamics of HIV+ Status Disclosure by David A. Rier (2007)
In David Rier’s paper entitled ‘Internet Social Support Groups as Moral Agents: The Ethical Dynamics of HIV+ Status Disclosure’, he talked about the methods and processes in which participants of 16 HIV/AIDS support groups in the Internet provided information on support and moral assistance. There were two main questions that were tackled in the paper: first, the process of sharing and providing support and information, most especially those concerning moral dilemmas and conflicts; second, the process of generating alternative ethical discourse (i.e., Internet) and how it compares to existing types of discourses. In the end, Rier (2007) proposed that groups in Internet support groups do not generate a new way of ethical discourse but that it served mainly as a device for information interchanges.
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As reflected in the article, what Rier (2007) used in his case study research was the methodological technique of qualitative methods, more specifically the use of Grounded Theory. This is a theory in which a certain situation or interaction is analyzed for the purpose of coming up with a theory, as based on sampling, information exchange, statistical analysis, and categorical data analysis. He examined some archived posts from Internet support groups that centered on the HIV/AIDS. He mainly based his assumptions on these online data, with no objective of contacting the participants personally or making his presence known to them, in order to encourage the natural flow of discussion in the threads. What he focused on, however, were points such as the overall direction and tone.
Rier (2007) used this type of approach among other qualitative research methods mainly because this analytical schema would center on the particular situation in an abstract, uniformly equal and balanced method of extracting numerous ideas. The use of the biography method will just center on a particular person, and this will not bring out a persuasive theory, since the study was based mainly on one or few participants. Phenomenology will not bring about the most natural and honest answers, on the other hand, since the researcher would be the one to ask the participants, and in cases like these where the victims are put in an awkward situation, it is more likely that they will give answers that are not perfectly true. As for the use of case studies, however, applying it here would consider only a few cases and would not reflect the true and complete picture as a whole.
The benefits of using the Grounded Theory approach in this specific case can be described as follows: first, the approach centers on numerous cases and participants, which would come up with a better theory, since it is grounded on better number of participants; second, the approach encourages natural and honest answers, since the researcher acts mainly as an observer in the background, and participants are usually unidentified and, thus, more confident; third and final, the approach is more uniformly equal and balanced, which makes way for a more logical and rational conclusion. The only drawback in using this approach, however, is that there is no absolute confirmation or proof that what the participants say are true, indeed, as based on their personal accounts and experiences.
The author could use the ethnography approach in answering the research question. In using this approach, Rier (2007) would have more details on the background, which centers on the participants’ patterns of behavior, customs, language, and ways of life. He could have come up with a more reliable conclusion but would have to mirror only a number of participants. Yet, because among Rier’s objective is to find out how the Internet compares to other existing discourses, then the Grounded Theory would definitely be the best approach.
Qualitative research methods. (2000). Retrieved June 3, 2008, from the Lydia’s Tutorial database: http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/tutorial/Mensah/.
Rier, D.A. (2007). Internet social support groups as moral agents: the ethical dynamics of HIV+ status disclosure. Sociology of Health & Illness, 29, 7, 1-16.