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Crimes, Escorts, Internet, Job Satisfaction, Prostitution, Sex Work

Using the Internet for Survey Research

Ross Coomber
Sociological Research Online 2 (2) 2

Keywords: Drugs; Internet; Internet Research; Internet Sampling; Newsgroups Research; Survey Research; World Wide Web
Abstract: The Internet and electronic mail increasingly offer the research community opportunities that it did not previously have. Access to information has increased as has access to and discussion with those working in similar areas. One other aspect of 'cyberspace' which presents enormous possibilities to the research community, currently in its infancy, is the use of the Internet to reach individuals as research subjects. In particular, there may be significant research benefits to be gleaned where the group being researched is normally difficult to reach and/or the issues being researched are of a particularly sensitive nature. This paper outlines some recent survey research using the Internet as the interface between researcher and researched. The target group, illicit 'drug dealers', are difficult to access under normal conditions and contacting a spread of such individuals across international borders was previously prohibitive. A discussion of sampling issues is undertaken which concludes that the Internet can be a valuable source of indicative as opposed to easily generalizable data. A practical guide to undertaking research via the Internet is also included.

Useful Resources on the World Wide Web for Social Scientists

Beverley Lucy Holbrook
Sociological Research Online 3 (2) holbrook

Keywords: Internet Resources; World Wide Web
Abstract: Research Resource: Internet Research and Information for Social Scientists (IRISS) conference in March 1998 at Bristol University brought together for the first time producers of web pages of use to social scientists in the UK. This conference was of importance because it pulled together a range of different web resources that can be of use to researchers in the social sciences. This research note documents the kinds of services that are now available to social scientists and outlines their particular usefulness and their limitations. The web services discussed are by no means exhaustive, there are many other services available to social scientists. However, this research note attempts to provide a review of services most useful to social science researchers. The IRISS web site includes the text of most of the papers presented during the course of the conference.

On-Line with the Friends of Bill W: Social Support and the Net.

Nicholas Pleace, Roger Burrows, Brian Loader, Steven Muncer and Sarah Nettleton
Sociological Research Online 5 (2) pleace

Keywords: Internet; Problem Drinking; Social Policy; Social Support
Abstract: The Internet is now being used as a mechanism for the delivery of social support on a global scale, chiefly through the formation of self-help groups. Most of the research that has been undertaken on these groups has focussed on Usenet and the use of newsgroups for social support. This paper examines the use of an Internet Relay Chat (IRC) 'room', by a self-help group composed of problem drinkers. The group had an international membership and advocated the use of social support, rather than intervention by professional services, to help its membership overcome problem drinking. The paper considers the roles that these new forms of Internet mediated self-help and social support might play in changing the relationships of those who participate in them towards traditional health and social care services. The paper also critically examines the extent to which such fora might function as virtual 'communities' of care.

Cyber-Mothers: Online Synchronous Interviewing using Conferencing Software

Henrietta O'Connor and Clare Madge
Sociological Research Online 5 (4) oconnor

Keywords: Conferencing Software; Cyber-mothers; Internet Methodologies; Online Parenting Community.; Virtual Synchronous Interviews
Abstract: The potential of the Internet as a valuable methodological tool for social science research is increasingly being recognised. This paper contributes to the debate surrounding virtual synchronous interviews and the value of online research. Specifically it introduces the use of a software conferencing technique - Hotline Connect - and discusses the implications of using the technique for Internet-based research. In particular issues of interview design, developing rapport, the role of insiders and outsiders in the research process, language use and the virtual interface are considered. The paper draws on the experience of a recent research project entitled 'Cyberparents' and concludes that the use of conferencing software holds great potential for synchronous online interviewing. However, this must be combined with sensitive, ethical handling of both the research process and the data to overcome both the weaknesses of this particular method and those inherent in any interviewing situation.

The Internet Matters: Exploring the Use of the Internet as a Research Tool

Nicola Illingworth
Sociological Research Online 6 (2) illingworth

Keywords: Computer Mediated Communication CMC); E-mail Interviewing; Ethics; Feminist Methodology; Internet Methodology; Methodological Dangers
Abstract: The arrival of the virtual realm and computer mediated communication (CMC) continues to attract considerable interest from a wide range of disciplines. Hine (2000) has suggested that previously negative understandings of CMC have been transcended. The virtual realm is now welcomed as a site for richer and more sustained interaction than previously envisaged. For the research community, the rapid development of the World Wide Web has opened new horizons and provided access to a new frontier and tool for data collection. The researcher can now engage in research on a world-wide, low cost, almost instantaneous scale - and in ways which potentially overcome some of the barriers imposed by more conventional research approaches. However, this somewhat idealistic view obscures both methodological and ethical difficulties that have become apparent throughout this research. If these difficulties are left unchecked, they may serve to undermine the use of the Internet as a tool for social research. The primary aim of this paper is to expose these difficulties and thus broaden the scope of discourse surrounding the Internet. A secondary aim is to explore the implications of the use of the Internet for the feminist methodological and research project. My aim here is to problematise the transference of existing methodological frameworks to an online setting. In this respect, I have presented this paper in the form of a research trajectory, outlining the course of my research from its conception to latter stages. The intention here is to suggest an avoidance of the use of the Internet as an 'easy option' and encourage a more developed focus on the justification, applicability and benefits of Internet research to the particular project. What has become apparent is that the effectiveness of CMC is much dependent on who is being researched, what is being researched and why.

The Geographical Mobility, Preferences and Pleasures of Prolific Punters: a Demonstration Study of the Activities of Prostitutes' Clients

Keith Soothill and Teela Sanders
Sociological Research Online 10 (1) soothill

Keywords: Internet Methodology, Computer Mediated Communication, Prostitution, Clients, Punters, Sex Work
Abstract: Clients of prostitutes have been traditionally neglected in the study of prostitution. This demonstration study suggests that the Internet, particularly one prominent website for patrons of commercial sex in Britain, can assist in learning more about the activities of prostitutes' clients, their patterns of behaviour and the organisation of commercial sex in contemporary society. The specific focus here is on the geographical locations of the paid sexual encounters of the ten most prolific authors who contribute to a popular website. It reveals 105 different locations identified in the reports with some punters travelling extensively for their pleasures. The study then focuses on a comparison of the activities of two of these punters showing how they both largely inhabit different worlds of the sex industry but also share some experiences. This paper contributes additional knowledge about prostitution at several levels: first, a microanalysis of a small sample of clients' purchasing patterns highlights the habits of some prolific patrons; second, alongside these patterns, the website offers a window onto the hidden world of prostitution in late modernity which in turn reveals some organisational features of prostitution; and third, the use of the Internet as a qualitative data source is explored.

Research Ethics and the Governance of Research Projects: the Potential of Internet Home Pages

Martyn Denscombe
Sociological Research Online 10 (3) denscombe

Keywords: Home Pages, Research Governance, Research Ethics, Internet Research
Abstract: This paper explores the potential of research project Home Pages in relation to the growing need for good governance of research projects. In particular, the paper considers the benefits such web pages might have in terms of research ethics and argues that research project Home Pages can provide a very straightforward, practical means of addressing a number of ethical issues related to both on-line and off-line research. Limitations to the use of research project Home Pages are also discussed and conclusions are drawn about the value of establishing appropriately designed research project Home Pages as an integral component of social research protocols.

Self-Organising Map Approach to Individual Profiles: Age, Sex and Culture in Internet Dating

Teemu Suna, Michael Hardey, Jouni Huhtinen, Yrjö Hiltunen, Kimmo Kaski, Jukka Heikkonen and Mika Ala-Korpela
Sociological Research Online 11 (1) suna

Keywords: Self-Organising Map; Neural Network; Complex Data; Internet Dating; Age; Sex; Culture; Relationship; Visualisation
Abstract: A marked feature of recent developments in the networked society has been the growth in the number of people making use of Internet dating services. These services involve the accumulation of large amounts of personal information which individuals utilise to find others and potentially arrange offline meetings. The consequent data represent a challenge to conventional analysis, for example, the service that provided the data used in this paper had approximately 5,000 users all of whom completed an extensive questionnaire resulting in some 300 parameters. This creates an opportunity to apply innovative analytical techniques that may provide new sociological insights into complex data. In this paper we utilise the self-organising map (SOM), an unsupervised neural network methodology, to explore Internet dating data. The resulting visual maps are used to demonstrate the ability of SOMs to reveal interrelated parameters. The SOM process led to the emergence of correlations that were obscured in the original data and pointed to the role of what we call 'cultural age' in the profiles and partnership preferences of the individuals. Our results suggest that the SOM approach offers a well established methodology that can be easily applied to complex sociological data sets. The SOM outcomes are discussed in relation to other research about identifying others and forming relationships in a network society.

The Pop-Pickers Have Picked Decentralised Media: the Fall of Top of the Pops and the Rise of the Second Media Age

David Beer
Sociological Research Online 11 (3) beer

Keywords: Music, Digital, Digitalisation, Internet, Capitalism, Social Networking, Rhetoric, Second Media Age, Authenticity, Culture
Abstract: The BBC has recently announced that Top of the Pops, the long-running weekly popular music programme, will broadcast its final episode in the summer of 2006. This brief 'rapid response' article considers how the conclusion of Top of the Pops' 42 year history may be understood as representative or indicative of broader transformation in musical appropriation. As such it considers the fall of Top of the Pops in relation to the rise of what Mark Poster has described as a 'second media age' (Poster, 1996). This second media age is defined by the emergence of decentralised and multidimensional media structures that usurp the broadcast models of the first media age. This article argues that the decommissioning of Top of the Pops, and the ongoing expansion of 'social networking' sites such as MySpace and Bebo, illustrates the movement from a first to a second media age. In light of these transformations I suggest here that there is a pressing need to develop new research initiatives and strategies that critically examine these new digitalised forms of musical appropriation.

Textual Interaction as Sexual Interaction: Sexuality And/in the Online Interview

Danny Beusch
Sociological Research Online 12 (5) 14

Keywords: Online Research; Interviewing; Internet; Cyberspace; Sexuality; Sadomasochism; Power
Abstract: In this article, I draw from my research into the users of Nazi fetish Internet site to examine the potential sexualisation of the online interview encounter by informants and the implications for ethical research practice. Firstly, I consider how the process of talking about, and confessing, sex can be erotically charged. Moreover, since many of my participants were heavily invested in sadomasochistic sex, with the majority self-identifying as sexually submissive, I had to recognise that the online interview encounter, facilitated by the invisibility of the researcher and the researched, extended subject positions to these men that paralleled their erotic interests. Finally, further dilemmas arose because of the 'unknowness' and physical invisibility conferred by cyberspace since this potentially influenced the (mis)framing of the interview by some participants.

Social Capital and Community Building Through the Internet: a Swedish Case Study in a Disadvantaged Suburban Area

Sara Ferlander and Duncan Timms
Sociological Research Online 12 (5) 8

Keywords: Disadvantaged Area, IT-Café, Local Community, Local Identity, Local Net, Social Capital, Social Networks, Sweden, the Internet, Trust
Abstract: The rapid diffusion of the Internet has considerable potential for enhancing the way people connect with each other, the root of social capital. However, the more the Internet is used for building social capital the greater will the impact be on those whose access and/or usage is curtailed. It is therefore important to investigate the impacts of Internet on groups at risk of digital and social exclusion. The aim of this article is to examine how the use of the Internet influences social capital and community building in a disadvantaged area. Quantitative and qualitative data from a case study in a suburban area of Stockholm are used to evaluate the social impacts of two community-based Internet projects: a Local Net and an IT-Café. Each of the projects was aimed at enhancing digital inclusion and social capital in a disadvantaged local community. The paper examines the extent to which use of the Internet is associated with an enhancement of social participation, social trust and local identity in the area. The Local Net appears to have had limited success in meeting its goals; the IT-Café was more successful. Visitors to the IT-Café had more local friends, expressed less social distrust, perceived less tension between different groups in the area and felt a much stronger sense of local identity than non-visitors. Visitors praised the IT-Café as providing a meeting-place both online and offline. The Internet was used for networking, exchange of support and information seeking. Although it is difficult to establish causal priorities, the evidence suggests that an IT-Café, supporting both virtual and physical meetings, may be especially well suited to build social capital and a sense of local community in a disadvantaged area. The importance of social, rather than solely technological, factors in determining the impact of the Internet on social capital in disadvantaged local communities is stressed.

Shifting Positionalities: Empirical Reflections on a Queer/Trans of Colour Methodology

Jin Haritaworn
Sociological Research Online 13 (1) 13

Keywords: Mixed Race, Thai, Sex Work, Queer Sensibility, Racialised Gender Identities and Sexualities, Non-White Heterosexuality
Abstract: How can we study 'Queer', or indeed, should we? Drawing on fieldwork with people raised in interracial families in Britain and Germany, and reflecting on my own coming out as transgendered/genderqueer during the research, I reflect on the role of difference, similarity, and change in the production of queer knowledges. My entry point is a queer diasporic one. Queers of colour, I argue, have a particular stake in queering racialised heterosexualities; yet differences within diasporic spaces clearly matter. While 'Queer' can open up an alternative methodology of redefining and reframing social differences, the directionality of our queering - 'up' rather than 'down' - is clearly relevant. I suggest the anti-racist feminist principle of positionality as fruitful for such a queer methodology of change. This is explored with regard to a selection of empirical and cultural texts, including the debate around Paris is Burning, Jenny Livingston's film about the Harlem house/ball scene; the appeal that a non-white heterosexual artist such as South-Asian pop singer MIA can have for queers of colour; the camp role model which Thai sex work femininity can represent for queer and trans people from the second generation of Thai migration; and the solidarity of a Southeast Asian butch with feminine women in her diasporic collectivity.

The Dynamics of Motherhood Performance: Hong Kong's Middle Class Working Mothers On- and Off-Line

Annie Hau-nung Chan
Sociological Research Online 13 (4) 4

Keywords: Motherhood, Internet, Chatroom, Performativity, Virtual Ethnography
Abstract: This paper examines the on- and off-line identity performance of a group of Hong Kong middle class working mothers who are users of an internet based community. The development of my involvement in this community from lurker to participant to virtual ethnographer provides a unique opportunity to compare the on and off-line interactions of an internet based community. By examining the relationship between the dominant discourse of motherhood and these women's motherhood performances on- and off-line, three modes of performativity are identified and discussed. I argue that although there is considerable pressure within this community to uphold the dominant motherhood discourse, users' reflexivity and subversion regarding this performance are evident in both on-line and off-line contexts. In particular, users' performativity in what I call the 'Si Nais behaving badly' mode can be read as a reaction towards, though not necessarily subversive of, society's prevailing conception of motherhood. My findings throw light on how the structure of internet chat frames these women's presentation of self, and how internet chat exposes aspects of their self-hood which portray a much more varied identity than the literature on motherhood currently suggests.

The Stylization of Internet Life?: Predictors of Internet Leisure Patterns Using Digital Inequality and Status Group Perspectives

Roderick Graham
Sociological Research Online 13 (5) 5

Keywords: Status Group, Digital Inequality, Digital Divide, Internet, Cultural Consumption, Culture, Leisure
Abstract: This research addresses the question 'What are the predictors of internet leisure patterns?' With the barriers to internet access receding, the question can be asked whether or not social groups are beginning to distinguish themselves through different types of internet activities. This research will focus on the domain of internet leisure and entertainment within the United States population. Internet leisure is here measured by playing games, doing hobbies, reading, watching videos, and listening to music. Predictors are drawn from a digital inequality and a Weberian status group perspective. Binary logistic regression models are run on a nationally representative survey from the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project (N = 2013). This research suggests that: (1) both digital inequality and status group perspectives tend to work together to explain all internet activities, but a status group perspective provides more explanation for leisure patterns, (2) internet leisure is best conceptualized as a form of popular culture with minorities and people of low socioeconomic status consuming leisure at higher rates.

From Comunities of Practice to Epistemic Communities: Health Mobilizations on the Internet

Madeleine Akrich
Sociological Research Online 15 (2) 10

Keywords: Childbirth, Obstetrichs, Health, Internet, Discussion Groups, Activism, Epistemic Communities, Communities of Practice, Experiencial Knowledge, Scientific Knowledge
Abstract: This paper describes the emergence of new activist groups in the health sector, spinning off from internet discussion groups. In the first part, it shows how self-help discussion groups can be considered as communities of practice in which, partly thanks to the Internet media, collective learning activities result in the constitution of experiencial knowledge, the appropriation of exogenous sources of knowledge, including medical knoweldge and the articulation of these different sources of knowledge in some lay expertise. In the second part, it describes how activist groups might emerge from these discussion groups and develop specific modes of action drawing upon the forms of expertise constituted through the Internet groups. Activists groups together with self-help groups might form epistemic communities (Haas 1992), i.e. groups of experts engaged in a policy enterprise in which knowledge plays a major role : in the confrontation of health activists with professionals, the capacity to translate political claims into the langage of science appears as a condition to be (even) heard and be taken into consideration.

Ana's Friends. Friendship in Online Pro-Ana Communities

Natàlia Cantó-Milà and Swen Seebach
Sociological Research Online 16 (1) 1

Keywords: Friendship, Secret, Emotions, Internet, Anorexia, Pro-Anorexia
Abstract: The objective of this article is to analyse the social relationships within online communities of anorectics, their bonds, their emotions and friendships, and their subsequent relation to anorexia nervosa. The research has focused on their blogs and their forums, which create a space in which they share their experiences, and sometimes encourage each other not to give up on their eating disorder – which they view as an illness, but an illness that has become their lifestyle, and their attitude towards life. Within the article an analysis of the special bonds of friendship that tie the members of the online community together will be presented. Special attention will be paid to the similarities between secret societies and friendship bonds within pro-ana communities.

Power and Resistance: A Case Study of Satire on the Internet

Lijun Tang and Syamantak Bhattacharya
Sociological Research Online 16 (2) 11

Keywords: CCTV, China, Empowerment, Internet Control, Internet Incident, Online Activism, Subversion, Symbolic Power
Abstract: Past studies on print and TV satire have revealed that satire can be seen as a site of resistance to power. In light of this, interesting questions can be raised regarding Internet satire: what does the Internet contribute to the resistance and what kind of power relation is played out on this site? Using an example from China, this paper reveals that like its print and TV counterparts, Internet satire reflects a widespread feeling of powerlessness, rather than offering the general public any political power. However, the Internet helps to push the symbolic power of satire to a higher level. This is because it makes satire a tool for the grassroots which facilitates the creation and spread of satirical ideas, and also helps to release and stimulate the enormous reserve of public wit and wisdom. As a result, satire on the Internet has the potential to generate a chain of related satirical work, which can create a satire movement and subject power to sustained shame and ridicule.

Ethnographic Intimacy: Thinking Through the Ethics of Social Research in Sex Worlds

Maria Pérez-y-Pérez and Tony Stanley
Sociological Research Online 16 (2) 13

Keywords: Ethnography; Informed Consent; Ethics Committees; Reflexivity; Sex Work; Risk and HIV
Abstract: Ethnographic researchers entering sensitive fields of research become entangled in ethical dilemmas when they encounter 'sticky' questions, situations and issues. In undertaking research within two distinct sex worlds: female sex work and male sexual negotiation/risk and HIV, we struggled to manage the contingent links between our relationships with the people who inhabit these worlds, the ethical requirements of our institutional ethics committees, and our hybrid selves. In the context of 'doing' intimate ethnography, we were required to craft ourselves into the field and establish a number of intimate and prolonged relationships. While the participants in our studies were active in giving their consent, this did not obviate the risk that they would become objectified within the field relationship and the texts the research generated. These issues are central to our discussion as we consider the lack of fit between ethical guidelines and the practical reality of fieldwork.

Post 'Celtic Tiger' Ireland, Silver Vigilantes and Public Sociology: Protesting Against Global Neoliberalisation

Lee F. Monaghan
Sociological Research Online 16 (3) 5

Keywords: Public Sociology; Neoliberalisation; Money; Protest; the Internet
Abstract: It is not just publicly funded universities that are facing a cold and hard future in the aftershock of the 2008 global banking crisis. Nations, such as Ireland, are similarly affected as states seek to appease 'the markets' and cover private banks' losses at the public's expense. As this wave of neoliberalisation, or market fundamentalism, proceeds we may ask: what is the role of sociology? Drawing from an exploratory study of financial activism, notably silver vigilantism and the Crash JP Morgan Campaign, this paper endorses global public sociology among threatened publics. As per Michael Burawoy's calls for public sociology, this entails promoting reflexive knowledge and democratic dialogue in the defence of civil society. After outlining the core tenets, strengths and weaknesses of silver vigilantism, the role of public sociology and the need for further research are underscored as the economic crisis continues in post 'Celtic Tiger' Ireland and beyond.

Socio-Cultural Risk? Reporting on a Qualitative Study with Female Street-Based Sex Workers

Mary Leaker and Priscilla Dunk-West
Sociological Research Online 16 (4) 9

Keywords: Sex Work, Prostitution, Risk, Gender, Gendered Violence, Socio-Cultural Risk Theory, Disembedding Risk
Abstract: Risk narratives are of increasing importance in contemporary social life in that they help in understanding and anticipating the shifts that characterise our late modern landscape. Our qualitative research explores risk as it relates to violence toward street-based sex workers in a suburban Australian setting. Female street-based sex workers represent a highly stigmatised and marginalised group. International studies report that they experience high levels of sexual violence perpetrated by male clients and our empirical work with street-based sex workers in Adelaide, South Australia concurs with this finding. Despite many creative and specialized skills workers reported drawing upon to minimise the risk of violence to themselves, we argue that a socio-cultural lens is vital to viewing risk in this context. We argue that in order to effect change, risk must be disembedded from increasingly individualized discourses, since it is through the personalisation of risk that violence becomes legitimised as an occupational hazard in street-based sex work.

Debating Empirical Questions on the Internet: Rival Claims About Crowd Sizes of the Glenn Beck/Stewart-Colbert Rallies

Whitney D. Gunter and Joel Best
Sociological Research Online 17 (2) 6

Keywords: Crowd Size, Glenn Beck, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Social Problems, the Internet
Abstract: Analysts argue that the Internet can democratize the construction of social problems and reduce claimsmakers' dependence on coverage in traditional media. This paper examines Internet claims about the relative sizes of 2010 rallies on the Washington, D.C. National Mall hosted by Glenn Beck and Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert. Because crowd size is understood to be an index for the popularity of social causes, and because the two rallies were taken to stand for opposing positions in the culture war, numerous advocates offered competing analyses of the crowds' relative sizes. Analysis of these claims suggests that the Internet offers a forum where a host of arguments and evidence can be presented in a short period of time. Yet, although crowd size is an empirical issue, there was little effort to reconcile competing arguments and arrive at general agreement, and, without media coverage, these claims failed to attract much public attention.

Defining 'Pimp': Working Towards a Definition in Social Research

Holly Davis
Sociological Research Online 18 (1) 11

Keywords: Definitional Processes, Social Research Definitions, Pimp/s, Prostitution Research
Abstract: Recently expanding research on prostitution has lead to slightly more focus on an enigmatic yet major player within the underground sex economy: pimps. Whilst starting to shed light on the roles, and behavior of pimps, researchers have overlooked a fundamental element within social research that calls for the explicit definition of subjects. The ambiguous use of the word pimp across research projects impedes comparability, consistency and clarity within the growing body of literature on this topic. In an attempt to draw attention to the oversight of defining 'pimp', this paper proposes criteria and processes for a more robust definition and offers a more comprehensive definition of 'pimp'. The definitional processes suggested are reviewed within this paper through exploration of the history, cultural context, mainstream usage, academic applications and feedback from pimps. This paper integrates data from in-depth interviews with pimps to offer their invaluable insight on the meaning of the word. The core objectives of this paper are to draw attention to the problematic definitional trends in this body of research, and propose new foundations for defining 'pimp' within social research.

Having Your Say: The Social Organisation of Online News Commentary

Allison Cavanagh and Alex Dennis
Sociological Research Online 18 (2) 4

Keywords: Opinion, Media, Technology, Internet, News Commentary, Debate, Interaction, Online Forums
Abstract: This paper describes an analysis of poster and recommender activities in an online news forum. Quantitative analyses of patterns of posting and recommending suggest that claims about ‘horizontality’ and ‘online community’ are oversimplifications, as there is strong evidence to suggest that the actual workings of networked discussion communities incorporate a wide range of competing and mutually-contradictory orientations, activities and strategies. A qualitative analysis of particular posters’ rhetorical strategies provides evidence for the argument that an orientation to conventions (in particular using a dialogical mode of address) is more important than actual opinion or semantic content in gaining popularity. The implications of these findings, and some suggestions for how this work might be developed, are discussed.

Coming of (Old) Age in the Digital Age: ICT Usage and Non-Usage Among Older Adults

Barbara Barbosa Neves, Fausto Amaro and Jaime Fonseca
Sociological Research Online 18 (2) 6

Keywords: Older Adults, ICT, Mobile Phones, Computers, Internet, Technology Adoption, Lisbon, Portugal
Abstract: Most developed countries are in the midst of two significant societal trends: the first is an aging population; the second is the uptake of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) by large segments of society. But research shows a strong association between age and the so-called digital divide: older adults are less likely to use ICT when compared to other age groups. If we consider the social affordances of the Internet and the online migration of several public and private services, the lack of access or of digital literacy might be increasing age-related inequality. Consequently, we studied adoption, usage, and non-usage of ICT (mobile phones, computers, and the Internet) by Portuguese older adults. For that, we surveyed a random stratified sample of 500 individuals over 64 years of age living in Lisbon. Of this sample, 77% owned a mobile phone, 13% used computers, and 10% used the Internet. The main reasons for non-usage were functional and attitudinal, rather than physical or associated with age. But usage of mobile phones and computers was predicted by age and education, whereas the usage of the Internet was only predicted by education. We followed up the survey with 10 qualitative interviews, using a mixed methods strategy. The qualitative data showed a general positive perception of ICT as well as the importance of family and intergenerational relationships for technology adoption and use.

Driven to Distraction: Turkish Diaspora Football Supporters, New Media and the Politics of Place-Making

John McManus
Sociological Research Online 20 (2) 12

Keywords: New Media, Football, Diaspora, Internet, Place, Virtual
Abstract: This article explores how new media forms linked to the internet are feeding into the generation of community. It looks specifically at the place-making practices of a transnational group of football fans, European supporters of the Turkish club team Beşiktaş. I trace the mediations of two common football fan practices: the singing of chants and the display of banners. Adopting a multi-sited ethnographic approach, I track their circulation. While remaining part of the stadium experience, the chant and the banner have a prolonged life as digital objects. Fans combine them with new media practices, using them to expanding the array of places and means by which they can be Beşiktaş fans. The politics of building a transnational fan community is increasingly predicated on mediating between ‘virtual’ and ‘actual’ spaces. Success is measured through an individual’s ability to intervene successfully on both the terrace and the Facebook page. This in turn requires a new form of interaction amongst fans, one based around a sense of distracted tactility. I conclude by suggesting the need to refigure the benchmarks by which we judge the affective relationships of fans. The sociology of sport can be refreshed through paying closer attention to the production of space, the materiality of internet media, and the sensate dimensions of the fan experience.

Digital Media Use: Differences and Inequalities in Relation to Class and Age

Simeon Yates, John Kirby and Eleanor Lockley
Sociological Research Online 20 (4) 12

Keywords: Internet, ICT, Digital Divide, Inequality, Age, Class
Abstract: This paper takes a national perspective on issues of digital media use. The paper draws upon the OfCom Media Literacy 2013 survey to explore how digital media use varies in regard to two major social variables – class and age. Both class and age feature predominantly in UK policy on digital access and use. Class and age are invoked as either things that create barriers to access or as issues to be addressed and managed through using digital media. Despite the large body of work on the ‘digital divide’ there is a more limited literature that explicitly addresses class. The paper seeks to act as an empirical reference point for the development of further debate around the links between class and digital media use. The paper presents a factor analysis of the OfCom data that identifies five main areas of digital media use. These five factors are then subjected to a multiple analysis of variance to explore the effects across, between and within age and class categories. A cluster analysis based on the factors identifies seven main ‘User Types’ that are again compared across class and age. The paper finds that class and age act relatively independently as predicators of digital media use and neither compound or mitigate each other’s effects. Importantly the paper notes that the greatest levels and breadth of Internet use can be found in NRS social class groups AB and to an extent C1. In contrast the greatest levels of non-use and limited use can be found in NRS social class groups DE. In conclusion the paper notes that age still acts as the major explanatory variable for overall use and some specific types of use, but that class also independently acts to explain patterns of digital media use. As a result any simplistic policy expectations that digital access and use issues will become less relevant as age demographics change have to be questioned.

Skype as a Tool for Qualitative Research Interviews

Valeria Lo Iacono, Paul Symonds and David H.K. Brown
Sociological Research Online 21 (2) 12

Keywords: Qualitative Interviews, Skype and VoIP, Internet Research Methods, Intangible Heritage Research, Wayfinding Research, Dance Research
Abstract: Internet based methods of communication are becoming increasingly important and influencing researchers’ options. VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technologies (such as Skype and FaceTime) provide us with the ability to interview research participants using voice and video across the internet via a synchronous (real-time) connection. This paper highlights the advantages of using Skype to conduct qualitative interviews and weighs these advantages against any limitations and issues that using this tool may raise. This paper argues that Skype opens up new possibilities by allowing us to contact participants worldwide in a time efficient and financially affordable manner, thus increasing the variety of our samples. At the same time, the use of Skype affects the areas of rapport, non-verbal cues and ethics by creating limitations but also new opportunities. The observations in this paper stem from two different researches, carried out by the authors, on dance (as a form of trans/cultural heritage) and wayfinding (the experience of getting from A to B in various settings). These studies lent themselves to using Skype for qualitative interviews, because of the need to reach an international, varied and purposeful sample. The researchers’ experiences, combined with feedback from participants in Skype interviews, are used in this paper. The conclusion is that, although VoIP mediated interviews cannot completely replace face to face interaction, they work well as a viable alternative or complimentary data collection tool for qualitative researchers. This paper argues that VoIP based interviews offer new opportunities for researchers and should be embraced with confidence.

Ambivalent Professionalisation and Autonomy in Workers’ Collective Projects: The Cases of Sex Worker Peer Educators in Germany and Sexual Assistants in Switzerland

Giulia Garofalo Geymonat and P.G. Macioti
Sociological Research Online 21 (4) 10

Keywords: Sex Work, Sexual Assistance, Sex Workers Organisations, Germany, Switzerland, Quality of Work
Abstract: Drawing on participant methodologies this article examines two cases of workers’ self-organised projects oriented to improving the quality of sex work and to ‘professionalisation’. The first case is a group of sexual assistants for people with disabilities, who have organised meetings and training for sexual assistants in a medium-sized city in Switzerland. The second is a group of peer sex worker educators offering workshops to people who sell sex in various industry sectors in a large German city. We argue that these activist interventions may represent a resource for identifying crucial aspects of work-quality and professionalisation in sex work and for making sense of some apparent contradictions of sex workers’ organising. Indeed, through ongoing conversations and recommendations about working practices and ethics, our participants develop situated views of what is better sex work and they originally engage with key conceptual areas, such as consent, autonomy, standardisation, income and professional identity. They do so by comparing a variety of experiences in sex industries, as well as discussing similarities with other jobs such as body work, care work, and psychotherapy.

Transnational Social Mobility Strategies and Quality of Work Among Latin-American Women Sex Workers in Spain

Laura Oso
Sociological Research Online 21 (4) 11

Keywords: Sex Work, Prostitution, Gender, Migration, Quality of Work, Latin-American Women, Transnational
Abstract: The aim of this article is to analyse the quality of work of two of the main types of female sex work in Spain (clubs and in-call flats). In order to do so I will focus on the following working dimensions: wages, power relations, skills, alienation, health, violence, work life and stigma. Firstly, the article seeks to highlight the structural factors that condition the quality of work of Latin American female sex workers in Spain. These factors are closely connected to policies regarding migration and sex work, which foment irregular work arrangements (undocumented migrants and informal workers). Secondly, I analyse entry formats (indebted or autonomous migration) and how they impact on working conditions. Thirdly, the article considers the migrant women’s work choices and the resulting living and working conditions they may encounter. I intend to show that Latin American women sex workers in Spain might opt for a certain type of work within the context of strategic decisions, as linked to their migratory and social mobility projects. These decisions have a family and a transnational scope (country of origin, country of destination). The analysis presented is based on qualitative fieldwork (semi-structured interviews) carried out in Galicia (north-west Spain).

€Too Much Suffering’: Understanding the Interplay Between Migration, Bounded Exploitation and Trafficking Through Nigerian Sex Workers’ Experiences

Nicola Mai
Sociological Research Online 21 (4) 13

Keywords: Migration, Sex Work, Working Conditions, Exploitation, Trafficking, Nigeria
Abstract: Migrant sex workers’ experiences of exploitation depend on a dynamic re-evaluation of the working conditions and relationships that frame their entry into the global sex industry according to the subsequent unfolding of their working and wider lives. Contrary to the essentialist obliteration of consent introduced by abolitionist scholarship and policymaking, migrants can decide to endure bounded exploitative deals with people enabling their travel and work abroad in order to meet the economic and administrative (becoming documented) objectives they set for themselves. When this deal is broken as a result of the betrayal of original negotiations, migrants can decide to reframe their migration and work experience as trafficking and denounce their original enablers as traffickers, which gives them a chance to obtain the right to reside and work in the country of destination through asylum.

Work Conditions and Job Mobility in the Australian Indoor Sex Industry

Fairleigh Evelyn Gilmour
Sociological Research Online 21 (4) 14

Keywords: Sex Work, Working Conditions, Sex Work Legislation, Australia, Mobility, Decriminalisation
Abstract: This article explores sex workers’ experiences of work conditions and job mobility in the indoor sectors of the Australian sex industry: brothel work, escort work and small cooperative work. Drawing from 14 in-depth life-narrative interviews with sex workers and former sex workers, it explores the key challenges faced by participants in navigating regulation and carving out a safe and lucrative working space. It offers a critical account of job flexibility and mobility in the sex industry and argues that the availability of increased options in a decriminalized setting means a greater range of potential spaces for workers to negotiate a suitable work environment.

On Our Own Terms: The Working Conditions of Internet-Based Sex Workers in the UK

Teela Sanders, Laura Connelly and Laura Jarvis King
Sociological Research Online 21 (4) 15

Keywords: Crimes, Escorts, Internet, Job Satisfaction, Prostitution, Sex Work
Abstract: The sex industry is increasingly operated through online technologies, whether this is selling services online through webcam or advertising, marketing or organising sex work through the Internet and digital technologies. Using data from a survey of 240 internet-based sex workers (members of the National Ugly Mug reporting scheme in the UK), we discuss the working conditions of this type of work. We look at the basic working patterns, trajectories and everyday experiences of doing sex work via an online medium and the impact this has on the lives of sex workers. For instance, we look at levels of control individuals have over their working conditions, prices, clientele and services sold, and discuss how this is mediated online and placed in relation to job satisfaction. The second key finding is the experience of different forms of crimes individuals are exposed to such as harassment and blackmail via the new technologies. We explore the relationship internet-based sex workers have with the police and discuss how current laws in the UK have detrimental effects in terms of safety and access to justice. These findings are placed in the context of the changing landscape of sex markets as the digital turn determines the nature of the majority of commercial sex encounters. These findings contribute significantly to the populist coercion/choice political debates by demonstrating levels and types of agency and autonomy experienced by some sex workers despite working in a criminalized, precarious and sometimes dangerous context.

Quality of Work in Prostitution and Sex Work. Introduction to the Special Section

Stef Adriaenssens, Giulia Garofalo Geymonat and Laura Oso
Sociological Research Online 21 (4) 9

Keywords: Prostitution, Sex Work, Quality of Work
Abstract: [No abstract]

The Body, Technology and Translation: Mapping the Complexity of Online Embodiment

Seweryn Rudnicki
Sociological Research Online 22 (2) 15

Keywords: Body, Embodiment, Internet, Technology, Translation, Complexity
Abstract: This theoretical article considers the potential for a revival of sociological interest in online embodiment by developing a conceptual alternative to the predominant framework of self presentation, and showing how social theory may benefit from exploration of this field. It starts by critically reviewing the discussion on online embodiment, pointing out its theoretical shortcomings, and arguing that they result from the difficulty that social theory has with accounting for the increased ontological complexity of embodiment induced by the pervasiveness of digital technologies. Treating a theory of practice as an inspiring perspective, it then adapts the notion of translation as a general term capable of grasping the complex relationships between physical bodies, digital technologies, reflexive selves and the social aspects of online embodiment. An important advantage of this concept is that it makes it possible to see the role of technology as constitutive without losing the sociological perspective, and encompasses a wide range of contemporary body-technology interactions. Furthermore, it also has the potential to foster a sociological understanding of the relationships between bodily, technological, mindful and social elements, and to do so without slipping into reductionism.