Online Fieldwork in LGBT Online Discussion Forum: an Experience

When I searched a discussion forum in internet for my online fieldwork I came across to the LGBT Indonesia website. It is an online discussion forum for LGBT community in Indonesia. This is interesting for me, since until now the government of Indonesia did not recognize the LGBT group. However, cyber-world enables people to counter the hegemonic discourse as well as giving space to those ‘the voiceless.’ I conducted my observation from 3-9 April 2012. I think it was not fully participatory since mostly I just observed even though I joined as member and posted one thread in the general forum. I observed by looking at all of the posting in that website and the discussion menu having several themes, i.e. LGBT gallery, LGBT Indonesia talks, LGBT Consultation Corner, LGBT Life Insight, LGBT Life and Other Stuff.

In terms of ethical issue, I asked the administrator of the forum to allow me conduct online field work for my assignment and I got no objection from them. However, then I questioned my self, I already got permission from the administrator but should I ask to the member as well? Since this is not big research then I did not ask the member. However, if in the future I will do it, as mentioned in Bruckman’s article, referring to her experience it is important to keep the privacy for the sensitive information. I think the experience of the member of this community consider to sensitive information.

Even though this is discussion forum for LGBT community in Indonesia, it allows people with ‘straight orientation’ to join. When I registered there are 5 options of gender (male, female, female to male, male to female, and ask me). Another question is about sex orientation and sexual role, and for those questions there is option not to answer it. For me this is a good thing, since we should have option to express or not to express our sexuality. Interestingly, it is not locked online discussion forum because non member can read all of the posting but only the member can make threads and reply other member’s post. If we think about public and private, that online discussion forum make all of the post as public since everyone can access (read) the discussion in that site. If we think that everything in the internet is public, since the administrator of the group allow non member to read their discussion it means the discussion is public. However, still I think it is important to ask the person if I want to take their post in the research since their post also about their feeling, story, etc. I think the reason why the administrator makes the public is to give understanding for the public on LGBT’s issue.

Through the discussion forum, the member are open to say their sexuality which may be they did not do in the real life. This is may be one of the advantages of cyber-world; it creates space for peoples to express themselves which they can not do it in the real world. In the cyber-world we can use pseudo-name as well as using avatar to represent our self and it may makes people feel ‘safe’ to talk in the cyber-world. This reality remembered me with the article by Gujjala about the refusal of SAW net and the felt of unsafe of the members. Do they will felt the same thing if I said I am doing research in that discussion forum?

At least, if I want to continue to do online field work in that online discussion forum, it may be interesting to know how the cyber-world for example LGBT Indonesia discussion forum can be a mean to counter the heteronormativity.

About ria

an ordinary in the extra ordinary world, a day dreamer and a chocolate loveer
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One Response to Online Fieldwork in LGBT Online Discussion Forum: an Experience

  1. apalmgre says:

    Great work and I like that you decided to do an extra fieldwork. An interesting thing I noticed after you posting the blog entry is that it has received about 10-20 spam comments a day (I’ve marked them all spam). Guess it is the word LGBT, or what do you think?

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