Churchill, Elizabeth F. and Sara Bly
2000 Culture Vultures: Considering Culture and Communication in Virtual Environments. In SIGGroup Bulletin, Volume 21, Number 1, April 2000. ACM Press, pp 6-11.
Cannibalized for EPIC by gj 050615:
We define culture in the broadest sense, to be a set of understandings that are shared with others. MUDders have a shared culture of work — a set of common understandings about what their work involves, and about what kinds of things their working lives tend to be about.
4.1 Methodologies for observing online life
So what are the appropriate methodologies for gaining a deeper understanding of the lifecycle and daily life of online cultures? What analyses can we carry out to get at the development and maintenance of Geertz’s shared “webs of significance” in on-line cultures? How can we begin to understand issues that arise in multi-cultural on-line worlds and what mechanisms there are for negotiation and discussion? How can we begin to understand where online cultures intersect with the cultures of the material world(s) in which individuals live their daily, material lives? What are methods for unpacking those social understandings both on-line and off-line? How do we gain an understanding of the intersecting cultural influences on an individual and on groups if we do not have access to the totality of their material and virtual worlds?
… In the context of virtual environments, what does it mean to design from the interaction out? How can we achieve meaningful descriptions that consider people’s intersecting identities and desires, on-line and off-line? If we are, as Geertz suggests to gain deeper understandings, we need “thick descriptions” in these virtual environments. How can this be achieved? How can we being to understand the dynamic and slow evolution of virtual cultures and climates? Considerable work on virtual communities has used interviews and surveys as a means of establishing who is talking to whom, for how long and about what. Much of this work has been carried out on intra-organizational networks looking at logs and messages , and in virtual worlds like lambdaMOO [e.g., 19].
…This raises a clear question about research on cultures and communities: are we to see online cultures as being made up of people who interact regularly with each other using multiple forms of communication technology (e.g., instant messengers, virtual worlds, email, etc.) with the focus on the people, or are we tacitly or explicitly concerned with having a technology focus whereupon we concentrate our efforts on the interactions that take place within one genre of technology?
In accord with Rossman and Wilson  we argue for a “shameless eclecticism” in approaches, involving online and offline ethnographic descriptions, semi-structured interviews, surveys and questionnaires and qualitative and quantitative analysis of logs. We are driven in terms of selecting our research methods by current questions on use of the virtual environment.