Conducting Informed Research on Online Communities: Insights From Studying Cyber-Aggression Toward Women


In our case study, we chronicle our experiences recruiting participants from online video gaming communities to study cyber-aggression toward women. Our online survey was complicated by the fact that we were seeking to study a highly contentious and politically charged topic in a community with a history of academic research weaponized against them. Further complicating our research was the possibility that we might sample from aggressive subcommunities that, if antagonized, could engage in cyber-aggression toward us. We detail how our empathy and understanding first approach helped inform our research design, our ability to recruit from gaming communities, and safeguards from potential risks associated with sampling aggressive individuals. We also discuss how we reacted and how the empathy and understanding approach carried through to guide our decision-making after our study unexpectedly went viral to thousands and started circulating in those aggressive subcommunities.

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