Chapter 1: Collaborative Methodologies for New Media Research: Using Grounded Theory and Contextual Inquiry

Reviewed by Alex Roth

The first chapter of the collection, written by Joyce Neff, Liza Potts, and Carl Whithaus, explored the use of grounded theory and contextual inquiry in interdisciplinary, collaborative research. At a time in history when English studies had moved from consumption to production, the authors argued that the dual approach offered researchers effective tools by which to collect, analyze, and interpret data in an increasingly complicated rhetorical landscape that is quickly developing in the 21st century.

Throughout their chapter, Neff, Potts, and Whithaus provided an overview of both methodologies and made an argument for the combination of methods as they "account for multiple stakeholder views, shifting epistemological frameworks, and anti-foundational, anti-essentialist interpretations of data gathered in empirical research projects" (p. 19). They argued that the methodologies, which straddled theory and practice play a role in developing new understandings of literacy in digital environments. The chapter concluded with three examples of these methods being used by researchers and discussion of the promising features this dual-methodological approach offers, thus providing a foundation and a doorway for future researchers.

As an additional note, the first chapter, like many to follow, attempted to use the medium of publication, but at times fell short. In two sections of the text ("Grounded Theory," pp. 1–16; "Contextual Theory," pp. 17–19), the authors included two embedded videos. The videos provided additional information on the two methodologies, and both videos were linked to the appendix where there were transcripts. However, depending on how the text was read, the videos did not work. If a reader simply clicked on the chapter and read it within the browser without downloading the chapter, the videos did not work. However, when the chapter was downloaded and opened using Adobe Reader, the videos do work if the reader also installs the required version of Flash. As discussed in the overview to Part I, the cover of the book did state that readers must download Adobe Reader. Even so, the additional step may interrupt the reading process for some.

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