Locating four pathways to internet scholarship
Rall, DN 2010, 'Locating four pathways to internet scholarship', Cultural Science, vol. 3, no. 2.
To study the internet, in its evolving morphologies, brings to mind the fable of the blind men and the elephant – where academics from different disciplines jostle side-by-side seeking to explore the phenomena, each limited by having ‘just a piece of the animal’ to hand. However, as with any multi-disciplinary field of study, the variety of perspectives and the diversity of methodological approaches becomes a strength rather than a weakness. This discussion moves from the terrain of internet studies and examines these practitioners – internet scholars. Here, four internet scholars are examined to highlight the differences amongst their disciplinary perspectives, their methodological approaches to the study of the internet, as well as their differing life circumstances and diverse academic career tracks. Through a biographical narrative profile of each academic it was possible to outline the process of internet scholarship: how does it happen? Are there differences between internet scholars and other types of scholars? and so forth. The four academic profiles presented here offer substantial clues for how the process of scholarly engagement works, particularly how academics can work out their own methodologies from their disciplinary convictions when approaching a new field of study. Naturally, the four pathways serve only as exemplars for future study. As internet scholars continue to emerge from a number of academic departments or research institutes, further analysis of such scholarship, both through academic career tracks and sheer intellectual grappling with the internet are vital to understanding the field of internet studies and research.