The selection of the right approach for a research is an element of the research that holds the utmost significance and is a factor that should be decided upon in the early stages of the research. There are numerous research methods available and there are numerous schools of thought that are present in contemporary academia with regard to the most suitable research methodology (Singh, 2008). It is for the same reason that various research methods have evolved over time and have taken on forms where they can be trusted to provide results more accurate than their predeceasing forms.
The research methodology serves to not only establish the sources through which the primary and secondary data shall be derived but also plays an equally cricial role in the determination of the manner in which the primary and the secondary data shall be collected, handled and eventually analysed. It is therefore natural to consider the relevance of the findings of a research on the basis of the credibility of the research methodology that has been established and implemented in a study. It is equally imperative to realize that the research methodology provides a concrete approach through which the research data is to be analysed. The establishment of the research methodology incorporates the development of an understanding of the limitations that a research can be expected to fall prety to. The development of this understanding allows the researcher to proceed through the research in a manner with regard to areas that may possibly bring these limitations into the research and may have implications upon it.
The adoption of a concrete research methodology allows the research to follow a systematic route in order to find the conclusions that it seeks. Research methods that can be brought into use in a research broadly include qualitative research, quantitative research and participatory research methods. Each research methodology has its own distinct attributes and its distinct limitations that have to be given regard to when the research methodology is being adopted (Bajaj, 2000). The different research methods that are available are generally used in a certain sequence and rationale in order to put together a concise and complete methodology that the research can follow.
Since the limitations posed by each research methodology are of such a fundamental significance, it is for the same reason that the paper shall cover them under a separate heading in the coming paragraphs.
The quantitative approach makes use of statistical tools and rests on the development and testing of hypothetical formulations. In the quantitative approach, the objectivity of the data is asserted through a development of sample based analysis (Chitnis, 1998). The sample selection is given a significant degree of importance in quantitative approach since the attributes that the sample possesses can serve to determine the authenticity of the results acquired from the sample (Wellington, 2000).
Generally, random sampling methods are used to keep the odds even between the population segments. Information gathering instruments such as survey questionnaires and interviews are commonly used in the quantitative approach (Breakwell, Smith, Fife-Schaw, & Hammond, 2006). The quantitative approach is generally employed in research where there are a specific number of variables that has to be evaluated to determine patterns, trends and behavioural characteristics in systems (Balnaves & Caputi, 2001).
Commonly encountered drawbacks of the quantitative approach include the fact that the quantities approach does not serve the research any good if the subject area of research cannot be subjected to data collection instruments that are designed to acquire statistical facts and figures about the subject (Detterman, 1985). Another major disadvantage of quantitative research is that the data collection is usually carried out in a setting that has to be arranged by the researcher and this may serve to cause inaccuracy to take root in the data being acquired during the research (Houghton, 2006).
This particular research incorporates a significant degree of behavioural analysis and incorporates perceptions that the research participants hold. The research makes use of the observations made by research participants to build upon the Grounded theory (Goddard & Melville, 2004). In order to do so, it is essential for the research to accumulate a significant amount of opinions from the research participants so that they can be subjected to the research perimeters of the grounded theory.
Since the research is one in which the coding theory shall be utilized, therefore the use of quantitative research is an aspect that cannot be expected to yield the most productive of results and inferences (Detterman, 1985). Even if quantitative research was forced into implementation, quantitative research requires that extensive use of grading scales and similar instruments. Since this particular research incorporates the study and evaluation of the research participants’ behaviours as well as their opinions, feelings, knowledge, sensory perceptions and background on the research subject, it will not only be immensely difficult but may also influence the accuracy of the research if the quantitative approach was adopted.
Qualitative research focuses on the utilization of unstructured information. The analysis performed is one that brings the unstructured information into scrutiny and delves into the underlying facts and cause-and-effect relationships in an attempt to determine the reasons because of which a phenomenon exists. In doing so, qualitative analysis also seeks out the sequence of evolution that the phenomenon underwent to reach the state it is currently being observed in (Ketchen & Bergh, 2004).
Qualitative Approach tends to going beyond the perimeters of statistical analysis and tools. The utilization of qualitative analysis directs the research to develop an understanding of the personal factors of the personnel involved in the subject of the research. It is for the same reason that the involvement of personal opinions and perceptions adds a certain element of biasness, prejudice, preference, like and dislike into the research (Patzer, 1996). Since elements such as these have to be identified and collected, common information gathering means used in a qualitative research include techniques such as focus groups, in-depth interviews, content analysis and other similar techniques, almost all of which allow room for the incorporation of inaccuracy on the grounds of personal opinions into the research.
The research incorporates qualitative research by making use of information sources such as information acquired through interviews, recordings, emails, feedback forms, photographs and videos. This allows the qualitative research to provide the study with a horizon that goes well beyond the domain of quantitative research (Panneerselvam, 2004). The use of the qualitative approach allows the research to go beyond the limits imposed by the use of statistical facts and figures which limits the research to the rigidity of mathematical formulae and deprives the research of the incorporation of opinions and behavioural trends.
The inductive approach is an approach that incorporates the development of a study through the analysis of a case that may not seem to be of any relevance when considered alone, but is of such a nature that it can be generalized to a much broader scenario in order to develop a comprehension of the same. The inductive research approach works by moving from a specific observation to a broader generalization from which a conclusive theory can be derived (Kumar, 2005). The first step is that of the observation of patterns in the case considered, followed by the formulation of a tentative hypotheses. The inductive approach comes to a close with a verification of the authenticity of that hypothesis.
The deductive approach is also known as the top-down approach because it is implemented by converging from a broader picture to a specific one. It starts with the theory as the framework for the subject of the research, which is then narrowed down into more specific hypotheses that can be tested (Kothari, 2005). This is followed by the acquiring and recording observations. Eventually, the hypothesis is tested to prove its credibility or to disapprove it.
Research strategy & Research Conduct
The adopted research methodology was one that brought into use a combination of primary sources and secondary sources. For this purpose, primary data was accumulated through the implementation of interviews that were designed in a manner such that they were streamlined to the purpose of the study (Adèr & Mellenbergh, 1999). The secondary data for the research was gathered through the literature review performed in the research study. The literature review incorporated an extensive elaboration on previous research studies that were of relevance to the subject of this research.
In order to give the primary data a form from which information could be derived and which could be used in relevance to the secondary data, qualitative analysis software was brought into use in order to provide the research with an increased degree of analytical accuracy.
However, the collection and analysis of information gathering techniques such as those mentioned above tends to leave significant room for errors because of the immense degree of amorphousness that exists in the information gathered (Berg & Latin, 2007). It is for the same reason that the process of analysis in qualitative research takes up a significant amount of time during the research(Scruggs & Mastropieri, 2006). In order to save time and to allow the research to reach results as accurate as possible, this research paper shall make use of qualitative analysis software.
Through the implementation of qualitative research, the research becomes capable of encompassing elements that are of a spontaneous nature and cannot be translated into numerical figures. Hence, the implementation of qualitative research serves to integrate a certain degree of flexibility into the research and allows the researcher to make observations of any participants involved in the research study (McDaniel & Gates, 1998). However, the implementation of the qualitative approach does incorporate certain drawbacks that can be observed in the form of labour intensity, expensiveness; researcher’s built in bias, difficulty of reliability and subjectivity.
The research methodology adopted is one that centres on the use of primary and secondary sources and incorporates the use of research instruments such as interviews and research analysis software. This particular approach was developed because of the fact that the subject of research was one that incorporated a high degree of qualitative factors. The data that had to be gathered was composed primarily of opinions and outlooks that the research participants held towards the implementation and opposition of BBS systems. It is for the same reason a qualitative approach was adopted and assistance from external research supports was taken in order to ensure that the credibility of the research could be brought to a level where the qualitative data gathered could be scrutinized for the underlying patterns and trends that it constituted.
Once the data has been collected, Qualitative Research Software is used to work on the data in order to keep the information within the data intact while allowing the researcher to convert the data into a form in which it can be interpreted for underlying themes and other attributes that are relevant to the research.
Qualitative Research Software allows researchers to save time and resources by providing the researcher with purpose built tools that assist the researcher in the process of sorting and information arrangement of data once it has been collected through the qualitative information gathering instrument(Munro, 2004). It allows for a high degree of accuracy to be incorporated in the research by giving a form and meaning to the qualitative information accumulated.
Even though qualitative research software has evolved through almost a decade now, it is essential to highlight that the qualitative software does not serve to bring the research to a close by presenting conclusions to the information that is inputted into it (Munro, 2004). The Qualitative Research Software does no more than provide the researcher with a work space of sorts where the qualitative information can be analyzed to find behavioural patterns and similar attributes that prevail across the information. The fact that it allows for data to be arranged and sort serves to provide the researcher with valuable time to consider other aspects of the research.
Data collection & Data Analysis
In order to facilitate data collection, research instruments such as interviews and survey questionnaires were used. Data for the research was also collected from the literature review performed as a part of the research since it allowed for a large degree of understanding to be developed regarding not only BBS systems but also their implications on the Chinese student community. The literature review served as the foundation of the data to be collected and was designed in a manner such that it served as the foundation of the gradients and standards formed during the research. It also served to provide the research with the foundation required in order to develop the questions in the interview. It is for the same reason that the literature review was carried out well before the interviews were carried out (Ruane, 2005).
Once data for the research had been collected, it was subjected to the Grounded Theory for the purpose of analysis. The Grounded Theory can also be referred to as the reverse engineered hypothesis theory. The grounded theory is in essence, a research methodology of sorts that allows the researcher to adopt what may appear to be an illogical approach in its initial stages but gains credibility as it proceeds.
The Grounded theory functions by the collection of data as the initial step of the research. Data that may be of any relevance to the research is accumulated and placed into one form where it can be analysed to determine the key themes that are present in the data accumulated. It is essential to note that at this stage, the data gathered cannot be trusted to provide the research with credible information and it is for the same reason that special care is taken to ensure that the data gathered is as unbiased and as authentic as possible. Peer reviewed articles are frequently considered as primary data sources for this purpose. Once the data has been accumulated and the key themes of the data have been highlighted. The themes are analyzed for consistencies and inconsistencies. Once the themes have been determined, they are then interpreted through sorting and categorization, which for this particular paper, was a rather extensive process since the data collected through interviews was based on twenty interviews and the data collected had to be examined closely to determine the underlying themes that would enable for the data to be arranged into categories. At this point, it is essential to avoid the option of converting the data into numeric statistics out of a desire to ease the analysis of the data.
Primary & Secondary Research
Primary Research: Interviews
An interview meant for qualitative research is one that seeks to elaborate upon the contents and meanings of the subject’s perception about the research topic (Gillham, 2000). It is therefore essential to note that an interview is not complete unless the interviewee’s answers are analysed for their underlying meanings However, in cases where the interview is a part of a wider qualitative research, the interview has to be one that covers the subject’s perceptions at the factual level as well as the meaning level.
Interviewees also serve to present a picture of the background that led to the evolution of the participant’s perception into the form it is being observed in during the interview. It allows the interviewer a chance to explore the interviewee’s comprehension and perception regarding the research subject (Houtkoop-Steenstra, 2000). It is essential to highlight at this point that the interview is a research instrument that is far more personal than the research questionnaire since it is based on live correspondence between the interviewer and the interviewee. This gives the interview the capability to follow the interviewee’s chain of thoughts and to probe into sensitive areas to ask questions that may prove to be extremely useful to this research.
The fact that makes the interview an unparalleled research instrument is that the interview allows the research to encompass the participant’s behaviours, opinions, feelings, knowledge, sensory perceptions and background on the research subject (Gubrium & Holstein, 2002). In order to do so, it is essential for the interview to follow a certain sequence if it is to be trusted to yield credible results. The interview process begins with the stage of developing core themes for the research in which the interviewer develops the case that is to be studied, after which the interview is designed around the perimeters of that case.
Once the interview has been implemented, it is crucial that the data collected is brought into a form where it can be analyzed (Kvale, 1996). This stage is generally known as transcribing. Once the data has been transcribed into a sorted and categorized form, it is then analyzed to extract meaning from the data, after which the interview findings are subjected to verification through external sources or any other sources used in the research before they are added to the study being performed.
However, one of the fundamental limitations of the interview is that the measuring gradient relies heavily on the interviewer and it is essential for the interviewer to be aptly trained in the process of carrying out interviews and the course of action that the interview should take as the interview proceeds (Merton, Lowenthal, Fiske, & Kendall, 1990).
A random sampling method was used to short list twenty students from those who had registered to participate in the interview. Students from all departments, classes and segments of the academic walk of life were welcomed to register. The students, at the time of registration, were kept fully aware of the purposes of the research and the subject matter that was under study in the research. Most of the students were ones who belonged to the Wemer society and held a keen interest in the virtual community (Stake, 1995). The interview was designed to contain key questions that were meant to delve into the relationship that has established between the virtual community and the Wemer community as a result of the development of the BBS interface.
The purpose of the literature review was two-fold. It was initially brought into use to establish a credible foundation for the research that could be relied upon to provide the research with the necessary understanding of the subject under study (Fisher & Buglear, 2007).
Once the literature review had been concluded, the interviews were performed after which the literature review was brought into use once more in order to acquire a working knowledge of the concepts that had previously been developed (Galvan, 2005). This methodology was designed so that the literature review served to form an understanding of the subject while the data gathered from the interviews carried out served to provide a specified approach. This approach allowed the research to develop an understanding of the current state of the scenario under examination (Burton & Steane, 2004).
The constituents of the literature review were mainly peer reviewed publications from books journals and other similar sources from which credible articles could be attained (Rosnow, 2008). Articles that were concerned with BBS systems and their implications on the student community were considered to be of particular significance in this regard.
Reliability and Validity
When one delves into information that is unstructured and more than often undefined in its initial stages, certain limitations that come with this research approach have to be realized and kept in light during the research. The research may provide an insight into areas of study that were previously unknown or had not been explored as yet but one cannot consider the inferences derived from the research without considering the fact that every research cannot help but fall prey to a number of obstacles that pertain to either the subject of the research, the research process, or the researcher.
However, it should be kept in mind that a substantial degree of effort has been made by the researcher in an attempt to ensure that the research does not fall prey to limitations and maintains a standard of authenticity, accuracy and correctness.
The interview technique has been brought into use in the qualitative analysis performed in this research and it is essential to highlight the fact that the interview technique incorporates quite a few limitations.
When an interview is being carried out, the participant is communicated with live and there is a good chance that a significant number of expressions are exchanged. This high degree of involvement of non-verbal communication is perhaps one of the most major limitations that this approach incorporates. This is because of the fact that when the interviewer is collecting the data from the interviewer, the interviewee may also choose to record the expressions observed on the face of the interviewee or the hand gestures that the interviewee makes in order to attain an idea of the intensity of the answer given.
The fact brings out this fact as a limitation is the fact that the researcher may misinterpret an expression given by the interview. Also, the usage of relative words such as short, small and heavy causes a significant margin of error to take root in the research. This is because of the fact the perception behind relative words such as these may be unique to the researcher and the research study participant.
The factor of sampling error should also be kept in mind in this regard since hardly any doubt exists in the fact that the larger the sample size, the more accurate the results derived from the research can be concluded to be. This relation exists because a large sample size causes a deeper and more insightful understanding of the population to be attained.
Another significant factor is that of the time available to carry out the activities of compilation, completion and submission. The research subject is one that merited extensive research and analysis and the more the focus of the study was researched into, the more intricacies it appeared to possess.
A limitation that should not be ignored is the factor of the researcher’s own subjectivity. The degree of knowledge and expertise in interpretational skills that the researcher possesses serves to have profound implications on the research. It is because of the limitations mentioned above that it is advised that the interpretations upon which the research concludes are considered in the context of the perimeters of the research and that these limitations are considered to be all the more significant if the research conclusions are used by the reader to make any decisions.
The research methodology does not simply incorporate the method used for the acquiring of information but also incorporates the methods used for the analysis of the information once it has been acquired. It also serves to provide a pathway that can be followed in the implementation of the different analysis tools that can be used in the research.
However, it is essential to note that the establishment of the research methodology cannot be considered to be complete without giving due consideration to the limitations that each research methodology incorporates and these limitations should be kept in mind not only when the research is being carried out but also once the research has been brought to a conclusion and the inferences are being evaluated for their legitimacy.
This research makes use of Primary and Secondary sources and makes use of the data gathered through the use of research assistance instruments such as the qualitative analysis software and the Grounded theory. The research relies heavily on the conduction of interviews and the data that is gathered as a result of the same. The research methodology adopted in this paper is one that is fundamentally qualitative in nature and focuses on the perceptions of the research participants.
Findings & Analysis
Interviews can be regarded as one of the most commonly used qualitative research approach. In order to avoid problems related to designing questions on whether the role of virtual identity of the Wemers is having an impact on the BBS situation, steps were taken to avoid questions that could lead to unreliable and biased results. The semi structured interview served to facilitate the process of acquiring the interviewee’s ideas and thoughts on the subject quite well.
Background details of selected Bulletin Board System
The Tsinghua University BBS was commonly known as the SMTH BBS, or the Shui Mu Tsing Hua Bulletin Board System. Even though its origins date back to late 1995 when it came forth as a phenomenal leap in academic discussion forums for students and it was revered by students across china, the SMTH BBS was subject to extremely high degrees of scrutiny over time and was eventually shut down altogether. In the following paragraphs, the interviews discussed are those of students who experienced the SMTH BBS first hand and who were active users of the virtual community. It was observed that a significantly high number of Chinese students harboured the desire to express their concerns and their opinions about the history and background of the SMTH BBS.
When an analysis of the SMTH BBS was performed, it was observed that students who had been exposed to the SMTH had been recognizably influenced by the numerous attributes that the SMTH BBS had to offer as a communication platform. Also, the SMTH BBS appeared to have triggered a significant respect for communication and discussion amongst Chinese students.
Technological Relevance of the SMTH with regard to its times
When studying the SMTH BBS, it is essential to realize that while the SMTH BBS may be one that appears to function in a manner which is rather primitive than that of modern day internet based communication devices, it was one of the first of its kind. Modern day devices which serve the purpose for which the SMTH BBS was built include software such as the kinds of Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger, AIM by AOL and Gtalk by Google. However, the SMTH BBS holds a significant degree of relevance when compared to these because of the fact that it was introduced at a time when the concept of communicating with somebody through the computer on a personal level was new, attractive and unique.
The very first beta version of Gtalk was released in 2005 by Google, the MSN Messenger Service, which is now prominently known as Windows Live Messenger, was introduced in 1999, Yahoo Messenger was introduced in 1998 under the name of Yahoo Pager and America Online Instant Messenger was released by America Online in 1997. In sharp contrast to these instant messengers, the foundations of the SMTH can be traced back to as early as 1995.
It is because of the chronology presented above that the SMTH came as an entirely unique gateway to the Chinese students. It offered a combination of casualness and communication to which the students of the mid 90’s were not accustomed. It would therefore be justified to state that the sheer degree of interest and the intensity of the same merits recognition on the grounds of the fact that they had never seen nor experienced any software that offered capabilities so interactive.
Relevance of the SMTH BBS to Chinese Students
The relevance of the SMTH BBS to the Chinese students can be judged by the fact that reports have shown that the Chinese community chooses to make extensive use of BBS systems to carry out their social networking activities. The Chinese form of virtual social interaction is quite different from that which exists in the west. They are more comfortable in the use of the traditional internet forum system, the BBS. It is one of the few societies in the world where social networking is integrated heavily in the BBS system. Proof of this fact can be found in the reasoning that there are over two hundred million Chinese users active on a BBS at any given time.
Chinese BBS systems are not only rapidly being accepted by the Chinese society but are also reporting new additions to their platforms daily. The number of new registration per day reaches well over a hundred thousand in the case of some Chinese BBS systems. Coalitions and acquisitions in the pursuit of expanding BBS capabilities are common in the world of Chinese BBS systems. The trend is alive to an extent so intense that western investors are considering investing options in Chinese BBS systems.
BBS registrations across china reach well over three billion and it is for the same reason that Chinese websites are setting up their own BBS systems to cater to the Chinese public. Chinese students look towards BBS systems such as the SMTH as ideal platforms for discussion, debate and peer based consultation. Participants usually make contributions to the BBS systems by taking part in polls, replying to old posts, posting new posts, publishing articles and similar activities. BBS systems such as the SMITH also allow Chinese students to put together events and congregations where they can meet. Examples of this fact can be found in the Kite Flying event that was hosted in 1996 and the fund raising campaign of 1997. The reason because of which Chinese students have an undeterred faith in BBS systems such as the SMTH is because they believe that it provides them with a channel through which they can acquire information that is firsthand, regularly updated and within the security of a community environment.
Another reason because of which the SMTH BBS held a high degree of relevance for students is that it was the very first BBS to be implemented on a Chinese college campus. The SMTH became popular instantly and the Chinese students began to take as much advantage as they could from the unique access to information that it provided them. Chinese students were making use of the SMTH BBS from their libraries and their dormitories. The BBS has existed in china in earlier years as well but had never reached a degree of acceptance that it reached with Chinese university students. As time has passed, the degree of acceptance that Chinese university students have had for the BBS has increased at exponential rates.
Background details of interviewees
The interviewees were students who were less than 25 years of age and who had made active use of the virtual community as an interface to communicate with the communities of the rest of the world.
All of the interviews were carried out personally by the researcher. The interviews began with a personal introduction of the researcher and a briefing on the purpose of the study followed by a breaking of the ice by establishing an atmosphere of professionalism and confidentiality between the interviewer and the interviewee. The researcher encouraged the interviewees to feel free while answering the questions and allowed the interviewees to add any relevant point of clarification whenever they felt the need to do so. Well designed questions were organized and presented in order to encourage the respondents to cooperate with the research.
The interview process included the following steps:
- The interview began by thanking the respondent for his/her time.
- It was made clear to the respondent that the interview was short and would take no more than a few minutes of the participant’s valuable time.
- The respondent was requested to provide honest views and was assured that the information collected during the information would be kept confidential and would be used for purely research purposes.
- Once the interview had been carried out, the interviewee was provided with the details that he/she would require should he/she choose to withdraw his/her answers from the research.
The twenty interviews carried out were designed to be as comprehensive as possible and were meant to cover various aspects of the BBS and the impact that was felt by the Wemer society and the overall Chinese student community.
Profiles of the Interviewees with respect to the study
First five interviewees who signed up for the interview were all from the same university and were doing their bachelor’s in Computer Science. All five of them shared an avid passion for computers and for the virtual world. According, to them the BBS was nothing less than a blessing since it allowed them to break free of the boundaries of distance.
The majority of the students were ones who either were or had been active members of the Wemer community. The students believed that they had a right to be a part of the international community and to contribute to it since it had given them so much in terms of friendship, knowledge and the ability to interact freely without any inhibitions. These students were like many other students who were similarly caught up in the dynamics of life and the pressure of their respective academic programmes. However, it was noticed that the students had an exceptionally keen interest in social issues. The students held the general opinion that communication should be used to perform more functions than to simply complain and it should be used to perform active correspondence in order to facilitate the learning process.
The other ten interviewees who signed up for the interview were those who were engaged in their masters in cultural studies. All the survey participants were quite ecstatic to talk about their virtual experience since they believed that being a Wemer and indulging in the BBS world had made them much more aware as citizens. They took a general stance in support of the opinion that they might be mere students but they had a role to play in society which they could fulfil only by ensuring that any and all issues which were found to be troublesome were shed light on.
Some of the participating students were major fans of foreign sports while others were equally enthralled by the cultural intricacies of the numerous communities of the world and felt that by using platforms such as BBS, they could establish communications that served the purpose of learning just as much as they served the purpose of fun. For instance, they believed that nobody else could be a better guide to a foreign culture except for the person who belonged to the very region to which the culture belonged.
It was common to find the interviewees express their regard for the interest in world events that they had developed as a result of their continuous interaction with their peers through the BBS interface. They suggested that the BBS interface allowed them a channel to express their opinions on world events rather than simply read about them in the newspaper every morning.
These students shared the opinion that they had become active members of the international community and that they had become oblivious to the elements of bias and prejudice as a result of their increased degree of awareness that they had developed as a result of their interactions through the BBS.
Upon implementation of the interview process, the sample size went well beyond that which was expected. Approximately 35 participants chose to come forth to sign up for the interview at their own free will. Another 40 prospective participants were contacted through email out of which a total of 15 responded and contributed to the research. It is essential to note that while the initial sample size count was expected to fall at 20 participants, the collective number of students who chose to participate came well up to 50 participants.
It was for the same reason that interviews were carried in one hour sessions which went on for more than an hour if the participants chose to continue contributing to the research. Five students were interviewed in each interview session and the interview sessions took a total of five days.
The interview participants for each session were selected randomly but were classified in accordance with the sample group in which they had been interviewed, gender and the length of the time period for which they had been exposed to a BBS system.
Table 4.1: Participant Gender Distribution
It was observed that out of the total sample size of fifty participants, twenty two percent were males while twenty eight percent were females. The gender distribution of the participants was one that was allowed to develop through the course of the research. No preset gender distribution was implemented and the distribution of twenty percent males and twenty eight percent females was one that developed not only randomly but also spontaneously.
Table 4.2: Interviewee Group Sample Size Distribution
|Sample Group||Percentage of Total Sample|
When the interviews were taken, the interview procedure continued for a period of days during which the interviewees were interviewed in the form of groups. A total of four groups were formed and each group was of a varying size which related to the availability of the participants. The number of participants in group A accounted for twenty eight percent of the total sample while the number of participants in group B accounted for thirty two percent of the total sample. Group C participants accounted for twenty six percent of the total sample and Group B participants accounted for fourteen percent of the total sample.
Table 4.3: BBS Exposure Period
|Exposure Period (Years)||Percentage|
|1 to 2||29%|
|3 to 4||45%|
|5 to 6||13%|
|7 or more||13%|
The duration of time that the participants had been exposed to BBS systems was crucial for this research. This is because of the fact that the longer span of time that a participant is exposed to the BBS systems; the more the participant can be expected to be aware of the numerous critical phases through which BBS systems had been through. Prominent critical phases include those such as evolution and criticism through which the SMTH BBS went through as mentioned above.
The results obtained can be categorized in to the internal and external implications of BBS. The need to establish these two particular categories was observed because of the fact that it was observed that the students were going through new experiences as a result of their own particular perceptions as well as because of the perceptions to which they were exposed through the external elements to which the BBS exposed them to.
The internal implications were the improvement in language capabilities, the development of confidence and the government’s attitude to the implementation of the BBS. The external implications were that it allowed them to perceive their academic careers to determine their standing and allowed students to acquire more informative than other information sources. Other prominent external implications included the fact that interaction with seniors from around the world allowed the Chinese students to develop an understanding of the viability of their academic careers in an international perspective. Also, Wemers were able to find a platform through which they could express their opinions and ideas regarding education standards in the china and abroad.
In order to acquire a better understand of the research findings, the internal and external implications were studied in accordance with respect to their exposure to the BBS.
The interview findings shall be defined by a process defined as coding which involves the identification of passages of text and then labelling them in order to identify similar thematic ideas amongst them. This allows the researchers to retrieve and collect the data in order to associate it with other thematic ideas that may have been encountered during the retrieval and collection of data and all the text. In order to make sense of the data, a process defined as Interpretation shall also be carried out in order to allow the researcher to organize the text. The data for this paper was not too large in terms of the sample size, yet it required an extensive examination in terms of understanding the interviews.
It is for the same reason that use of computer based methods was made which served to allow a computer assisted qualitative analysis of the data. This in turn served to provide accurate interpretations of the accumulated data. This process required making use of almost all the data accumulated during the research and avoiding the tendency to reduce information to mere numbers as is traditional in the case of Quantitative Analysis.
In the analysis phase, the data is evaluated in the form of a case and data collected from multiple sources is compared in order to establish cause-and-effect based relationships. Open Coding is a process where part of the analysis includes identifying, naming and categorizing the data in order to describe the existence of commonly found phenomenon.
This approach entails retrieving the data and then analyzing it according to the thematic ideas which the subject of the thesis was based on. The following interviews were analyzed by assigning certain themes/codes to the contents of the interviews. The findings shall then be presented in a thematic manner allowing the research to present a comprehensive yet complete understanding of the results.
Fundamental subjects of discussion encountered during the interview
Although the interview process and its analysis was time consuming, the approach provided the degree of clarification that the research required. As mentioned in the earlier paragraphs of the research, a number of questions were asked during the interview, however a few major questions were considered fundamental since they were established in order to base codes on them in the later stages of the research. These included questions that sought to determine how the students felt about the use of virtual reality as a communication device and the creation of undesirable influences which was being observed as a side-effect. The students were also observed to be highly energetic when they were asked about a potential solution for the BBS issue. Access to international information sources and the government’s attitude towards the BBS also came under strong discussion during the interviews. It is essential to highlight the fact that in order to gather as much information from this question as possible, the students were asked a number of minor follow up questions as well.
Central Themes of the interview
The first theme of the interview dealt with the use of virtual reality and the creation of the unwanted influences that resulted because of it. China has been dealing with issues based on the exchange of communication for quite some time now and the student community has shown a profound degree of interest in communication exchange systems that they could bring into use. However, the government’s stance towards communication exchange systems was not as optimistic. This particular theme was designed to consider not merely the element of virtual reality but also what it meant to be a Wemer. This allowed the researcher to get a grasp of how the students felt when they were benefitting by being members of the community that was avidly involved in BBS and how they felt when their channel or communications was cut short. When the interview findings were consolidated and analyzed from this perspective, what came across was a general feeling that the students were ecstatic about this form of communication forum. They relished the idea of a forum where they were able to communicate freely without any sort of fear and with complete confidence of their virtual privacy.
Also, they appreciated the Wemer community and felt that they had learned a lot. In the same regard, the interview participants also believed that the government was being unfair to a great extent by putting restrictions on such communication forums as the BBS.
They felt that they needed to reach out to connect with an international community which could provide them with the necessary information that would allow them to be well-equipped with different perceptions about different facts pertaining to the world around them. They felt a need is to reach out further and to ensure that they remained updated with all the different occurrences that were taking place around them. They were of the opinion that globalization is the way forward and in order to ensure that they remain abreast with the numerous occurrences that globalization encompassed, they felt that they had to keep in close contact with the international community.
While the majority agreed with the opinions elaborated upon above, some participants also felt that there should be a mutual exchange of information so that the Chinese students do not forget their heritage, their culture and their tradition in the accumulation of information.
The virtual communities are well-connected but the fact remains that the Wemers have their own personal communication forum as well which allows them to answer any language queries even exchange opinions regarding various discussions. This allowed them to maintain a strong and well knit community of their own.
The students felt that they needed to catch up with the rest of the world where the international community was most active and they strongly believed that the government’s attitude was not at all what they would have preferred. The students believed that BBS systems such as SMTH BBS deserved appreciation and respect rather than to be deemed unfit for use.
They were innocent students who are merely seeking to create alliances with people which they believed would help them when they went abroad. The bottom line lies in the fact that they were students who wanted to learn through BBS platforms because it provided them with a live and interactive mode of learning in which they found practicality. The believed that the information they acquired through BBS forums gave them confidence as members of the international community. They saw it as a way of becoming a part of the drive.
By being able to interact with juniors and seniors, they believed they could learn from people who were much more knowledgeable than them and could experience vivid discussions. These discussions reminded them of the fact that they were living in a very secluded existence and that they needed to become active members of a society and do their part.
The Wemer members became much more confident as individuals and their speaking skills improved greatly. The ability to think rationally and engage in well-thought out discussions improved to a great extent as well. They were no longer bound by the interests of a particulate faction but the experience acquired through interaction with a number of people made them more aware.
To them, being a Wemer means that they are no longer caught up in the errands and routines of everyday life but has become active participants in what happens around them.
Numerous responses were received as a result of the implementation of the interviews and the following paragraphs shall serve to elaborate upon the responses received while providing a summary of sorts of the same.
When the participants were asked how they had benefited by being members of the Wemer community, the responses received suggested that they were of the opinion that the biggest benefit of being a member of the Wemer community was the fact that they became much more aware of the world around them. They were of the opinion that being a part of the Wemer society helped them realize what else was out there. They became much more confident and realized that instead of waiting for information to come to them, they needed to become more active and needed to take notice of what was happening around them. This Weber community allowed them to exchange ideas on a scale they had never experienced before and the discussions served to be eye-opening revelations for them.
When the participants were asked how the virtual community had influenced the Chinese community, they were of the opinion that it had allowed them to establish ties with the international community on the basis of mutual benefit and trust. The interviewees considered that the establishment and interactions performed through the virtual community allowed them to not only acquire knowledge but also allowed them to dispense knowledge about Chinese culture to the western world.
The participants were also asked what reasons they considered most significant for the increased level of interest that Wemers had developed in the BBS and why they had chosen to join it. It was found that the Wemers held strong opinions about this question and they believed that the BBS was an ideal platform for the exchange of information. However, when they were asked to give their opinion on the political tension that had erupted as a result of the massive influx of the Wemer community into the BBS interface, the participants appeared to believe that the government held an incorrect perception about the BBS interface and that the reality was quite different.
The participants were of the opinion the government had misinterpreted the interest of the students in the BBS. The students considered the government’s actions to have been dictated by a degree of suspicion that was not required under the circumstances that existed. The students believed that by raising objections and taking actions against the BBS community, the government had carried out an extremely non-democratic action and had made a mistake by performing the generalization.
The interviewees were of the opinion that the virtual community was not one that wanted to do something as irrational as taking up arms against the government but were simply pursuing their desire to learn as much as they could about the world and wished to exercise their freedom to speech and exchange of ideas.
The students also believed that the government had severely underestimated the students and that the government’s decision had caused a significant degree of collateral damage as a result of the closing down the entire BBS system. However, the students did not deny the fact that there may have been cases and instances where certain users attempted to make adverse use of the platform and engaged in topics and activities that they should have avoided. The students were of the opinion that those of them who were at error should have acted more responsibly and should not have attempted to use an otherwise productive platform for adverse reasons. They were of the opinion that even though a certain handful of students may have engaged in adverse activities, it did not justify the closing down of the entire BBS system. The BBS system required an enhanced monitoring system instead of the absolute removal that it was given.
A large part of the interview participants was unanimous in their agreement to the opinion that the harsh actions on the part of the government had served to cause a significant degree of unrest and fear in the students since they felt that they had been treated with the suspicion that is dealt to a petty criminal and had been not only disrespected but had also become disheartened at the unfortunate turn of events.
The students believed that a large part of their community was hinged on to the BBS because of the fact that they were desperate to acquire a means of information through which they could learn about the world that they were expected to confront in their professional lives. The believed that the BBS was the perfect channel for them to access this information from and that depriving them of this means had left them deprived of a highly viable source of information. Certain interview participants believed that they had a right to experiment and exercise their freedom of speech. They stated that if they chose to do so through the internet, then it was an action that they chose and for which nobody else was responsible.
The students were quite aware of the fact that freedom of speech has severe implications if it was misused but they were supplementing their responses in this regard to their opinion that the implications of the adverse use of freedom of speech did not warrant the students to be stripped off it.
When the students were asked to express their opinions regarding the current standing of the Chinese students with regard to the global community, it was observed that the students held a generally optimistic opinion and felt that Chinese students were rapidly catching up with the rest of the world
They were observed to believe that they still have a long way to go and believed that development is an ongoing process and that they are still in the process of learning. They believed that there are certain things of which they need to be wary of as they continue to develop and that is to ensure that the communication which fuels the development and learning process is not of a nature which results in the generation of unwanted issues and conflicts. The Chinese students believed that Chinese students were still far behind their European counterparts and exposure to communication systems such as the BBS had served to open a new door to knowledge that they were previously oblivious of.
Chinese students believed that a large number of their populace belongs to backgrounds where exposure to the international community is relatively low and when students in such positions are exposed to communication systems such as the BBS it allows them to acquire an understanding of the world beyond their borders.
When the students were asked which aspect of the use of the BBS was found to be the most relative to the Wemer community they were of the opinion that since Chinese students make frequent use of the BBS they required the development of language forums. These language forums resulted in the improvement of their communication skills and allowed them to engage in intercultural contact. What they believed had happened was that the development of the BBS had allowed for a greater social cohesion to take place.
When the students are asked whether or not they would actually ever want to be members of the Wemer community, an undeniable majority expressed their desire to be active members of the Wemer community. The students believed that by being part of the Wemer community, they were able to benefit from the expansive knowledge that one can acquire only from firsthand experience or by conversing with someone who had had firsthand experience in the subject of conversation.
However, the students were aware of the fact that the high in-flux and out-flux of communication resulted in the generation of a highly volatile situation in terms of political tension.
When the students were asked about the repercussions of the extensive use of BBS, they were unanimous in their opinion that whatever the repercussions may have been, the most prominent was the political tension it served to create. The students believed that the BBS had allowed Chinese students a pathway through which they could gain knowledge of realities that their government would have preferred to keep concealed from them. By learning about economic, social and democratic systems around the world, the students believed that they were acquiring a degree of knowledge that would have allowed them to challenge the government’s decisions.
It was during the later parts of the interview that the subject of the closing down of the BBS became more serious. The interview participants believed that certain factions had begun to make use of the BBS to communicate their agenda to the general student body and that they were spreading anti-government sentiments. However, the interview participants were of the opinion that they did not deserve to become part of the collateral damage caused in the government’s efforts to tackle those factions.
In order to analyze the above discussion, the researcher accumulated the results and subjected them to the coding theory to derive the fundamental themes that constituted the data accumulated. Upon performing the analysis, the following themes were singled out from the interview findings:
- The BBS allowed students to acquire more informative than other information sources
- It allowed students to improve their language capabilities.
- The BBS allowed them to develop confidence
- Exposure to the BBS allowed students to learn of cultures and values beyond those of Chinese values and beliefs
- It allowed them to perceive their academic careers to determine their standing
- Interaction with seniors from around the world allowed the Chinese students to develop an understanding of the viability of their academic careers from an international perspective.
- Wemers were able to find a platform through which they could express their opinions and ideas regarding education standards in the china and abroad.
- The government’s attitude to the implementation of the BBS was what the students perceived to be nothing less than that of an extremist.
In an attempt to narrow the themes down further, it was observed that the issue at hand was one in which two primary parties were involved. The first party is a segment of the Chinese community which is in deep contact with the virtual community, which is otherwise also referred to as Wemers. The second party is the government. The third party is the global community that the Chinese students desire to establish communication with.
Application of Coding Theory
Once the core underlying concerns had been identified in the students, the next step was to categorize them in order to enable the research to arrive at a specific set of themes around which the final conclusion could be based. It was observed that the eight core concerns that had been identified could be categorized neatly into the internal and external implications by assigning tags to them. These tags allowed the core concerns to be categorized in to four categories. These four categories were established with regard a comprehensive analysis of the interview findings. It was observed that the interview findings could be categorized into four core categories. These were Desire to socialize, Career oriented, Income driven and the desire to Settle Down.
Distribution of Core ideas into Categories
Once the implications of the BBS had been divided into internal and external implications, the next step was to assign category tags to each implication that could be used to highlight the central themes that the research has encountered. Each implication was given a tag that would in turn serve to dictate the coming phases of the research and was meant to provide a comprehensive approach towards the internal and external implications. The category names will be referred to as tags since they will be treated in the same manner during the research and will be brought into extensive use for sorting of acquired data in order to derive information.
The category tags generated in this regard were those which served to individually categorize students who were career oriented, students who desired to settle down with the profession careers running smoothly, students who desired to socialize through the BBS, students who perceived the BBS to be an instrument that could assist them in the development of their career and students who were primarily concerned with getting jobs where they could take advantage of higher pay scales.
Table 4.4: Distribution of Core ideas into Categories
|Internal Implications||Category Tag(s) Assigned|
|Confidence||Desire to Settle Down, Socialize|
|Government’s Attitude||Desire to Settle Down, Income Driven|
|Gave Wemers a platform||Socialize|
|Understanding of Viability of Qualification||Career Oriented|
|Information||Desire to Settle Down, Career oriented|
|Learning of foreign cultures and values||Socialize|
|Development of perception of academics with international standards||Career oriented, Income Driven|
The internal implication of language learning was identified to be particular to students who were concerned about their careers and considered a vital instrument for success in the long run. The internal implication of the building of confidence was particular in cases where the students held a desire to settle down as well as amongst those who wished to socialize with others. The essence of the categorization of this implication is that it was assignable to two tags. The first, as mentioned earlier, is one that recognizes the building of confidence as an element that was necessary in order for one to reach a position where the person could settle down and abandon the rigorous hardships of mainstream career development. By this stage, the person has settled into a career in a secure job position. The second applicable category tag was that of socialization since students believed that the development of confidence allowed them to socialize all the more effectively.
The internal implication of the government’s attitudes and actions was one that was assignable to the tag which entailed the student’s desire to settle down into a career as mentioned above as well as applicable to students who were primarily driven by the desire to increase their incomes as much as possible. These students believed that the government’s attitude towards the BBS was one that could at one level of the other bring about an influence on their income levels.
The internal implication which pertained to the effects of the SMTH BBS on Wemers was one that the Members perceived to allow them to socialize on a broader level. Wemers believed that the BBS served as a highly significant platform for them in this regard.
The internal implication of the SMTH BBS on the understanding that the students had regarding the actual viability of their qualification was one that could be categorized in particular for students who were career oriented. These students believed that an increase in the understanding of the viability of their qualification allowed them to make decisions and choices on grounds of information that they would otherwise have been unable to acquire.
In the area of external implications, the first external implication assigned a category tag was the fact that the SMTH BBS served as a highly significant source of information. This implication was one that was identified to be of the utmost significance to students who held the desire to bring their careers to a proper standing where they could be sure that they had reached a sound position. This implication was also particular to students who were career oriented since they believed that the information that they acquired allowed them to steer their careers in the direction most suited with regard to the latest demands of the market which they acquired through the BBS.
The external implication which entailed the learning of foreign cultures and values was one that was categorized to the desire of students to socialize. Students who desired to use the BBS for socialization purposes were most profoundly influenced with the extensive exposure to foreign values and cultures that the BBS had to offer.
The external implication of the development of the student’s perceptions regarding their academics in accordance with international standards was one that was found to be particular to the students who were career oriented as well as to students who were income driven. Students belonging to both categories were deeply inspired by the capability of the SMTH BBS to serve as a source for the information that they needed to perform an analysis of their academics with respect to international standards.
The Category Grid
Table 4.5: The Category Grid
|BBS Exposure Duration||Internal Implications||External Implications|
|1 to 2||Gave Wemers a platform, Confidence||Learning of foreign cultures and values||Desire to Socialize|
|3 to 4||Language, Understanding of Viability of Qualification||Information, Development of perception of academics with international standards||Career Oriented|
|5 to 6||Government’s Attitude||Development of perception of academics with international standards||Income Driven|
|7 or more||Confidence, Government’s Attitude||Information||Desire to Settle Down, Career Oriented|
The above matrix shows the relationship between the core concepts and develops a perception of how the core underlying ideas that were established through the findings can be placed in four central categories. The category classifications have been further arranged in accordance to the observations that were made with respect to the duration for which the participants had been exposed to the BBS.
The development of this grid was essential to the research and allowed the research to establish a thorough insight into the mindset of the participants. The grid was also significant with regard to the fact that it allowed for the development of an understanding of the manner in which Wemers evolve and the criteria that they employ to prioritize the constituents of the world around them. The grid served to break down the participants into groups that could be studied in a manner such that each group of participants was given the significance that it merited with regard to the variables that influenced it the most. Another reason because of which this grid was developed was the fact that the research required a combination of the approaches employed in order to acquire an understanding of the categories that the application of the grounded theory provided the research with. This was supplemented by the fact that it has been designed in a manner such that it allows an observation of the Wemers to be made from different perspectives simultaneously.
It was observed that interview participants who had been exposed to the BBS for 1 to 2 years were motivated by their desire to socialize. Their primary concern through the BBS was to interact with people from across the world simply as a means of general entertainment. In this regard, the internal implications were that the BBS served to provide Wemers with an ideal platform through which they could interact with people. Another internal implication was that of confidence. It was observed that interview participants who had been exposed to the BBS for 1 to 2 years gave a significant degree of regard to the confidence that the continuous use of the BBS instilled in them. With regard to external implications the interview participants believed that in their desire to socialize, the BBS served to allow them to acquire a significant degree of understanding about foreign cultures and values from across the world. They were of the opinion that the BBS served as an ideal tool to facilitate them in their desire to socialize by allowing them to learn all the more about foreign cultures and values.
With regard to interview participants who had been exposed to the BBS for a period of three to four years, it was observed that the participants of this exposure period were primarily career oriented and their interest in the BBS was motivated by their desire to propel their careers in prosperous direction. Similarly students belonging to this exposure period who had not yet begun their professional careers were of the opinion that their preference for the BBS was primarily because of the assistance that the BBS could provide them in establishing a career. Internal implications in this regard were the acquiring of a concrete understanding of the languages that they required in order to succeed in doing so as well as the development of an understanding of the degree of viability that their qualification held. It is essential to highlight at this point that the students of this exposure period believed that one could not succeed in the establishment of a career if they did not come to terms with the fact that the language used in the business world is one that is far less casual than it is given credit for and it is only through first hand exposure that one can become proficient in the same.
The external implications of the BBS on students belonging to this exposure period were that it allowed them to acquire the information that was required in order to excel in their careers. Students belonging to the exposure period believed that information was a vital component in career growth and the BBS served to facilitate them by serving as a resource for the same. Another extremely significant external implication that was noticed in students of this BBS exposure period with regard to their primary motivation to excel in their careers was that the BBS served to provide them with a platform through which they could acquire an understanding of the viability of their academic qualification with respect to academic standards. They believed that by interacting with people from around the world, it allowed them to make comparisons with the standards of education that existed beyond their borders and allowed them to evaluate the degree of success of failure that their academic achievements could bring them when assessed according to international standards.
Interview participants who had been exposed to the BBS for a period of five to six years were primarily driven by their desires to bring about an increase in their income. They were primarily concerned with the how the BBS could influence their income and how they could use it in a manner such that they could stimulate causes that would have a positive effect on their income. Internally, students belonging to this exposure duration were concerned with the government’s behaviour over the BBS issue. They were concerned that the intensity with which the government had dealt with the BBS issue may result in the social exclusion of the students who had taken advantage of the BBS in search of methods to advance their career. External implications that students of this exposure period were most concerned with were limited to the development of their perception regarding their academic standings in contrast to international standards. This particular area was of special interest to Wemers who believed that the BBS allowed them to hone in on information that could assist them in developing their professional careers. However, it is essential to note that these students did not appear to be interested in finding any permanent professional standing, but were more interested in simply bringing about increases in their income. In other words, these students could be observed to be at the height of their aspiration where financial success was there singular centre of motivation.
Students who had been exposed to the BBS for a period that spanned over seven years or more were observed to hold a rather different approach towards the benefits of the BBS. They were of the opinion that while the BBS was most certainly a source of confidence development, they were concerned about the Government’s attitude towards it. They were of the opinion that regardless of the fact that the government’s actions were justified or not, they were considerably severe and would have long term consequences because of the same reason as well. Their primary concern was about bringing their careers to a position where they could classify it as stable.
In the area of external implications, it was observed that students belonging to this exposure period were appreciative of the information that the BBS served to bring to them. It is for the same reason that this particular exposure period was eligible to be subjected to two categories simultaneously. The first was the desire to settle down, and the second was to develop their careers.
Conclusions & Recommendations
The research is initiated by providing an overview of the context of the subject of the research, and proceeding to the very rationale for the study. Research questions were singled out and the aims and objectives of the research were established to support the process of answering the research questions. The next phase of the research was the literature review.
The literature review constituted an overview of the central subject of research with regard to the relevance of the literature review itself. This was followed by the essential categorization of the literature sources which comprised of a discussion on theoretical framework references, the answering of the research questions and a discussion on the implementation and feasibility of a survey questionnaire approach in the study.
The research then moved on to define search criteria. This was one of the most significant points in the research since it incorporated the establishment of numerous search criteria that could be brought into use in the course of the research. A theoretical framework was established and extensive time was channelled to the development of the same. Numerous former researches were analyzed and elaborated with regard to their relevance to the subject. Significant variables such as online interaction environments, roles of gender, freedom of speech, identity development and the very diversity to which the internet allowed access to were shed light upon. This part of the research was crucial in the development of an understanding of online discussion forums and elaborated upon the nature and development of trust, synergy levels, anonymity, cultural similarities and differences and similar related subjects.
It is essential to note that the literature review proceeded by presenting the findings of one author at a time and then proceeding to the next, allowing the research to establish an understanding of the variables under discussion as the process of elaboration proceeded. This part of the research also played a key role in providing concrete definitions to the variables of the research and served to provide the foundation for the development of the understanding of the difference between Chinese Wemers and western students.
The research proceeded by elaborating upon areas such as individual members’ experience in online discussion forum interactions and having done so, the research highlighted on the answering of the research questions. In this regard, the research shed light on areas critical to the study such as news and politics, language and culture, humour and games and progressive subjects. Once this foundation had been established, the research then moved on to the discussion of the research methodology of the study.
The research methodology was established in a manner such that the very relevance of a research methodology was acknowledged before the research was allowed to establish the perimeters of the adopted methodology. The research design was established after which the quantitative approach was analyzed for its relevance and was evaluated for the degree of productivity it could provide this particular research with regard to the subject of the research. Having done so, the research proceeded to identify the qualitative approach which was then evaluated for its relevance and was judged for the degree of productivity it could provide to this particular research with regard to the subject of the research. The Inductive and Deductive approach were also shed light upon when the qualitative approach was being analyzed.
Having analyzed, evaluated and judged the qualitative and quantitative approaches, the research proceeded to establish the research strategy and singled out the qualitative research as the most relevant of the approach options considered. The research conducting methodology was established and the adoption of the qualitative approach as the primary research methodology for the research was identified. Data handling and data collection procedures were also established so that no part of the implementation of the research would call for a revisit to the drawing board at any time once the research methodology had been subjected to implementation. Also, in order to provide the research with a concrete foundation for data, primary and secondary data sources were established and elaborated upon for their relevance to the research.
The next step was the analysis of the reliability and validity that the research held. In this part of the establishment of the research methodology, the adopted approach was analyzed for its limitations, boundaries and restrictions as well as its productivity levels, relevance to the research and the significance of acquiring a sound knowledge of the reliability and validity of a research before engaging in the actual research altogether. A small summary of the research methodology followed the reliability and validity analysis after which the research proceeded to the findings and observations of the study.
The Tsinghua University BBS was commonly known as the SMTH BBS, was chosen as the case upon which the research was to be hinged and the interviews carried out were based heavily on the case of the SMTH BBS. The SMTH BBS was analyzed for its historical relevance with regard to Chinese BBS systems and the participants of the research were told to express their opinions on the events that followed the launching, functioning and closure of the SMTH BBS. THE SMTH BBS was also analyzed for the technological relevance that it held with regard to the time when it was in use. As an extension of the research into SMTH BBS, the research also gave specific attention to the relevance of the SMTH BBS to Chinese students in particular. Before proceeding with the actual interviews, the research established substantial background details of the interviewees in order to acquire an understanding of the channels of data that had been selected for the research. This seemingly minor part of the research served to play an imperative role in the singling out of elements that could potentially lead to bias and/or prejudice during the research. It is imperative to highlight at this point that the research was designed such that the interviewees were given a critical degree of attention because of the fact that the data acquired through the interviewees would be translated into information that would directly contribute to the research findings.
Having acquired a substantial knowledge on the interviewees and the research perimeters with respect to the same, the research then proceeded to present the findings that had been uncovered upon the implementation of the interviews. The findings were presented on the basis of the gender distribution that was observed in the interviews, the size of the samples that had been observed to be present in each of the four groups into which the interviewees had been divided and the time periods to which the participants of the sample had been exposed to the BBS systems. The research then moved on to establish and implement the coding theory with respect to the findings and in order to do so, began by presenting a discussion on the fundamental subjects of discussion that were encountered during the interview process. With regard to this discussion, it is imperative to realize that this part of the research contributed to the application of the coding theory upon the research findings. The research singled out and elaborated upon areas such as the benefits that the interviewees perceived to exist in their categorization in the Wemer Community, the misinterpretation that was carried out on the part of the government and how the government underestimated the Chinese students and the Wemers in particular. In the same area, the research also singled out and shed light on the issue of the violation of freedom speech that was observed in the case, the relevance of the BBS as a channel through which the learning process could be propagated amongst Chinese students and the sources of the origination of the high levels of political tension that came forth as a result of the unprecedented events surrounding the BBS.
Having established these key areas of concern, the research then proceeded to apply the coding theory upon the research findings. In order to do so, the first step was to distribute the central ideas of the research into categories that could then be addressed as the central themes that would serve as the perimeters for the coding theory. Internal and external implications were singled out and assigned category tags. Once the central themes uncovered by the research had been assigned category tags, the category grid was formed which was an attempt to provide a complete, comprehensive and concise presentation of the findings uncovered by the research.
It was established in the literature review that the biggest highlight of BBS systems is the prospect of instant networking that the BBS has to offer. Studies supporting this perspective were also of the opinion that this attribute of the BBS systems made them a distinctively unique medium of information exchange (Hauben, 1997; Randall, 1997). The findings encountered in the research were observed to be in support of this perspective but were not limited to it. It was observed that while the enhanced levels of interest that the Chinese students had in BBS systems was partially for the prospect of instant networking that the BBS had to offer, the Chinese students were far more motivated to make use of BBS systems because of the advantages that their use of BBS systems provided them with in the long run.
Examples of this fact can be found in the findings that reflected upon the perception that was observed to prevail amongst students who had exposed to the BBS system for a period of three to four years. The category grid shows how students belonging to this exposure period were concerned with the assistance that the BBS could provide them with the establishment of their career. They were concerned about the internal implication of language skill development and the degree of understanding that they acquired regarding the actual viability of their qualification. They were equally concerned with the BBS as a source of information and a development of their academic career with regard to international standards. We can conclude therefore that to consider the BBS to be primarily relevant to Chinese Wemers because of the prospect of instant networking that the BBS had to offer would in essence be an understatement.
The literature review also served to highlight that online discussion forums served to liberate the chain of thoughts for people to communicate freely, openly and without any restrictions (Hine, 2000). The findings encountered in this research were in support of this statement and reflected that the stance regarding BBS systems which holds that this liberation serves to bring about a high degree of positive communication between various participants in an online discussion forum. This is thus, a salient feature of speedy, instant, user-friendly communications strategy that our dissertations aims to address. Proof of the validity of this perspective can be found in the finding which reflected that the BBS systems served as an instrument to facilitate socialization and allowed them to acquire a platform to do so. The Wemers were also of the opinion that the degree of socialization facilitated by the BBS systems was of a nature that allowed them to acquire a thorough understanding of foreign cultures and values as well.
Another prominent element that the research came across in the literature review was that of Scollon and Scollon (2001) which held that the biggest feature of group communication lies is the fact that online interaction forums allow participants to form opinions of each other at the very first juncture. The perspective further held that this allowed them to base their inferences on various forms of action involving social interactions. The research findings were found to be in favour of this perspective considering the fact that the research findings brought forth category tags such as the Waters’ desire to socialize, the Wemers’ motive for career orientation, the Wemers’ motive to enhance their income levels and the Wemers’ motive to settle down.
As a combined inference from the primary and secondary research, it was further observed that with regard to the interactions in which Wemers engage through online discussion forums such as the BBS, generalizations, observations and interactions with previously unknown members of the same online discussion forums played a key role. While each member became part of the online community in a manner such that they were initially motivated and driven by their personal experiences of the past, the BBS served to contribute to the evolution of the perspectives that constituted their mindsets.
It was also observed that while certain participants were more than willing to share their opinions with others so that they could acquire an updated understanding of the same, others were not as willing to do so and chose to maintain a certain degree of formality that pertained to their desire to develop their academic and/or professional careers. Wemers such as these were observed to maintain a neutral perspective when they engaged in online discussions through forums such as the BBS. However, this does not in any manner imply that they refrain from interaction or avoid engaging in discussions.
The research was carried out to examine different areas upon which BBS systems had an impact upon the Chinese student community. Particular areas of relevance in this regard were students who called themselves West Marchers or Wemers. The research paper sought to shed light on the degree of potential and energy that existed in the Chinese student community. While doing so, the research also attempted to incorporate a thorough understanding of the Chinese Wemer community.
The research was undertaken to find answers to questions such as those that pertained to the formation of virtual online identity in the case of Chinese students as observed through the BBS system. Other primary areas of concern included observation of the manner in which West Marchers identified themselves through their interactions in the virtual environment. In more specific terms, the research sought to highlight the essentiality of the role of the virtual identity that West Marchers developed through their exposure to the BBS systems.
The paper served to analyze trends in the perception that prevails amongst Chinese students with regard to the BBS. In doing so, the research served to unearth tendencies and behavioural characteristics that exist in the Chinese student community. It is essential to highlight that the research gave special regard to the part of the Chinese student community that is concerned with western trends for their respective purposes. The research was crucial
While limitation elements such as conformation and bias development may have played a part in the execution of the research, the research was performed in a manner such that elements such as these were not allowed to exceed the bare minimum. Attempts such as these made during the research can be found in the fact that the interviews carried out were carried out in groups where each group contained a certain number of participants and was given an ample amount of time as well as the chance required to express their opinions.
The research made use of the SMTH BBS system to pay special attention to real world variables that exist with regard to Chinese students and used this approach to shed light on the behavioural trends of this particular group of students known as Wemers.
The research brought for the fact that ability of online discussion forums to allow users to engage in instant networking is a pivotal motivation for the high degree of regard that they have for information exchange mediums. The research also highlighted that online discussions forums are considered unique because of this ability and are distinguished from other forms of information exchange on the same grounds. Chinese students considered online discussion forums such as the BBS systems as a means for acquiring liberation of thought development. They considered BBS systems to be a place where they could allow their trails of thought to evolve
The research examined literature that highlighted aspects pertaining to the nature of interactions that take place through the BBS platform and the implications that the interactions have on the lives of the Chinese students. The research made use of the coding theory to acquire an understanding of the central themes uncovered during the evaluation and sought to acquire and present a thorough understanding of the factors that dictate the mindset of Chinese students and Wemers in particular.
When considering the conclusions and recommendations derived from this research, it is imperative to understand that during the research, numerous researches were encountered and made use of but very few were observed to be of a nature such that they addressed the SMTH or the incidents pertaining to it and the implications that they had on the Chinese student community with regard to their perspective of the government.
It is evident that the incidents pertaining to the SMTH BBS had profound implications on the evolution of the perspectives of the Chinese students’ mindset with regard to the government. They
With regard to the role of new-found capitalism and material progress in the formation of virtual online identity for the Wemer community, it was observed that material progress did indeed play a highly significant role in the formation of virtual online identity for the Wemer community. This in turn was contributing to the development of Chinese Wemers on a much broader level than many of the studies encountered during this research were observed to be giving them credit for.
The research served to shed light on the reasons because of which Wemers identify with themselves, each other and as part of the whole community. It was observed that Wemers identify with themselves as being essential components of the nation and considered their relevance to the nation as one that could not be subjected to denial or negligence. Their aspirations were observed to be such that they desired to establish themselves rather than simply wane away the time they spent exposing themselves to BBS systems. It was also observed that the Wemers consider the international community a part of the evolution of their academic and professional careers. They wanted to be a part of the international community and appeared to be aware of the consequences of not being up to date and proficient in the variables that the international community gave regard to.
With regard to the specific role of virtual identity in reinforcing Wemer subculture in its true, defining sense, it was observed that the Wemers had developed strong affiliations and associations with their virtual identities and were not willing to relinquish them. It was also observed that the Wemers were actively engaged in the development of their virtual identities and desired to make use of them in as productive as possible a manner.
In light of the above conclusions, we can surmise that the research was successful in its attempt to understand the implications of online BBS communities in the shaping of identity for the Wemer subculture. It was observed that the BBS online community had more than profound implications on the development of the Wemers as a subculture. Significant responses include those that concluded to the establishment of the central themes brought into use in the application of the coding theory and presented in the category grid in the research. It is evident that Wemers are more than inspired by the degree of productivity that the BBS had to offer them and the incidents relating to the SMTH BBS in this regard were ones that contributed to the extended development of this realization.
The Wemers in particular were observed to be highly sensitive in the areas pertaining to the regulation of their usage of BBS systems and preferred that the monitoring parties chose to maintain a liberal approach towards the same and exercised their authority over the regulations in a manner such that the interests of the Wemers were respected.
An aspect that deserves to be highlighted here is that these recommendations have been formulated in light of the consideration that the acceptability for the BBS system amongst the Chinese student community shall continue to remain stable. When considering the recommendations formulated by this research, one should keep in mind that the perimeters of the research do not incorporate the degree of acceptability or the degree of popularity that the BBS system will acquire in the future. It is for the same reason that the recommendations are those of a present nature and do not entertain any unprecedented scenarios of the type where the BBS system may evolve in a manner such that its popularity decreases and eventually diminishes entirely in the course of its evolution. This is an area where extensive research it required since it is one that is only partially related to the BBS system and pertains to the degree of acceptability of modern day systems designed for computer based communication.
We can conclude from the observed trends in the perceptions of the Chinese students that there is a need for measures to be taken on numerous fronts in order to avoid the incidence of the incidents that were observed as well as to allow BBS systems to provide Chinese students with a higher degree of effectiveness and efficiency in their use. The following paragraphs shall attempt to provide a number of recommendations. The recommendations give regard to potential actions that can be taken to avoid an incident such as that of the SMTH BBS can be taken on a number of fronts and do not necessarily have to bind the entire Wemer community using it as was the case with the SMTH BBS.
Considering the immense degree of acceptability that exists for BBS systems in the Chinese students’ community, the government needs to formulate a code of conduct that can be distributed to BBS system developers and moderators. This code of conduct can then be implemented uniformly on all BBS systems in china and in BBS systems that entertain the Chinese student community. With regard to the same recommendation, it is imperative to realize that the code of conduct can be developed at a government level, or the development of a code of conduct can be assigned to the BBS developers and moderators.
Needless to consider, a code of conduct must have been in position at the time of the SMTH BBS, however, this research recommends that the code of conduct developed is one that is built making use of government concerns and apprehensions.
It is recommended that the code of conduct developed is one that is developed by primarily taking government concerns into account and then fashioning them such that they provided Wemers the degree of flexibility they desired in their online interactions through the BBS. This would allow for a continuing of the implementation and adoption of BBS systems amongst the Wemer community while ensuring that the usage of the BBS systems is regulated and within regulatory guidelines.
Modern day technology can be brought into use in the development of BBS systems that can monitor BBS conversations on the basis of the simplest of modern day technological tools such as keyword analysis and the like. Technological tools such as these can monitor conversations and delete postings that are of a nature such that they contain any obscene expressions or expressions that are in violation of the code of conduct.
BBS systems can be designed such that the users are required to provide complete details during their registration at the BBS platform, by doing so, the implications will be two fold. Firstly, this will make the users aware of the fact that they are they are traceable and that their actions can therefore be monitored. This will serve to bind the users to adherence to ethics. In the event that a user does initiate any unwanted activities or chooses to engage in any activities that are in violation of government concerns, the user’s account with the BBS system can be blocked. In cases where the violation is sever and requires action, the information acquired about the user at the time of the users’ registration can allow the moderators of the BBS system to block them out of the system.
The research served to uncover numerous trends with regard to the trends that prevailed in Chinese students with regard to the BBS. In doing so, the research touched numerous perspectives regarding the subject of discussion, many of which merit further research. Researches and studies that this research can contribute towards initiating include those on the behavioural trends in Chinese students with regard to their acceptance of western traditions. Also, the research recommends further research on the subject of the desire of the Chinese student to engage in active interaction.
A highly recommended area of research is the area that pertains to the reasons because of which Chinese students choose to make use of BBS systems in the present day when there are faster alternatives available. The research served to reveal that a significant degree of acceptability exists for the BBS system in the Chinese student community and a research into the reasons because of which a large number of Chinese students prefer the BBS systems over modern day computer based modes of communication can allow for the development of an invaluable insight into the differences between the mindsets of Chinese students as compared to students across the world.
Another area of research that this study brought to light was one that stems from the recommendation for the formulation of a policy that can be implemented as a code of conduct. Needless to say, the formulation of a code of a conduct and an implementation policy for the same shall require extensive research and examination and will require the observation of far more cases and scenarios then those that this research has made use of. However, this does not serve to decrease the relevance of this research recommendation in any manner.
A research in the area of policy formulation and the establishment of a Code of Conduct for implementation in BBS systems will also allow for an insight to be acquired with regard to the government’s stance on the degree of independence that they are willing to grant to the student community of China. An area of study that is related to this is the degree of relevance that Chinese students give to freedom of speech.
In light of the recommendations for further research, we can concur that the research was one which was quite expansive in its approach and served to bring to light numerous areas that merit further research and analysis. On a broader level, the research contributes to almost all the areas of research that have been proposed for further research.
The research was carried out making use of primary and secondary sources with the implementation of interviews as a pivotal research instrument. Key areas of the research were to acquire an understanding of the role of a specific subculture of Chinese youth community known as Wemers. The research also attempted to contribute to the development of the understanding of the formation of the Wemers’ collective identity on Bulletin Board Systems. The research was undertaken under the consideration that BBS forums have become extremely popular in China and sought to acquire an insight into manners/mechanisms of BBS users. The paper made use of literature, data collection instruments, data analysis tools and presented an extensive discussion on the Wemer subculture and identity formation on the Internet.
Key areas of research included those that pertained to the role of new-found capitalism and material progress in the formation of virtual online identity, the mannerism with which Wemers identify with themselves, each other and consider their presence as a part of the whole community as well as the exact role of virtual identity in reinforcing of the Wemer subculture in its true and defining sense.
Every possible attempt was made in the research to ensure credibility and to avoid the limitations singled out in the research methodology to cast any implications on the research process. The research was designed in a manner such that the research tools would adhere to and support the nature of the subject of the research.
It was established that the Wemers are an integral part of the Chinese student community and that they considered the implementation of government regulations against the SMTH BBS to be unfair and unnecessary. They considered themselves to be worth being given the chance to explore the opportunities that the prospect of online interaction had to offer them.
It was observed that the BBS holds extensive potential and allows Chinese Wemers to explore the western student community. It was simultaneously observed that the Wemers gave a significant degree or regard to the need to socialize with foreign students in particular. The Wemers considered the BBS to be instrumental in their pursuit of education options in the west.
The research came to a conclusion by providing a review of the study and by establishing a substantial set of inferences and recommendations. The conclusion also constituted a critical discussion on key findings that had been established through the literature review in light of the findings that the implementation of the research methodology had uncovered. This was done in an attempt to bring together findings acquired through primary and secondary sources. The conclusion also presented an identification of areas that the research had touched but warranted further research.
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List of Tables
Table 4.1: Participant Gender Distribution
Table 4.2: Interviewee Group Sample Size Distribution
Table 4.3: BBS Exposure Period
Table 4.4: Distribution of Core ideas into Categories
Table 4.5: The Category Grid