Information and communication technologies (ICT) have experienced a technological convergence. Laptops, tablets and smartphones integrate previously distinct artefacts and communication protocols within information systems, personal computers and telephony. Yet the previous division is still reflected in different research traditions as regards the uses of ICTs.
Internet studies is a multidisciplinary field of science. However, diversity with regard to concepts, terminology, assumptions about the users etc., is a characteristic feature. Basic assumptions and perspectives are lacking or not explicitly stated, leading to claims that it is ‘under-theorised’. These conditions contribute to an amorphous picture of Internet studies as field of research.
Using a hermeneuticperspective based on the interpretation of written records and with understanding as the aim of knowledge, the author proposes a methodological framework to structure and describe Internet studies with focus on theories and guiding assumptions. The approach builds on Lakatos’ concept of research programmes, characterised by a core of basic assumptions that remain stable over time with supporting theories that may be modified or replaced depending on changes in research focus. An analytical tool, ‘a map’, to provide an overview by which Internet studies may be classified, is also proposed.
The applicability of the methodological framework and the map are tested against empirical studies on Internet use carried out by the author between 2002 and 2011.
The author discusses an analytically guided methodology that draws on (1) the kind of user action referred to in the research question and (2) the knowledge aim of study, as an alternative to research methodologies guided by epistemological perspectives.
While understanding that the findings are partially subjective, the author argues that the proposed methods per se are generalisable within multidisciplinary fields of research and that their application would greatly improve the academic standing of Internet studies.