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Like all social gathering places since the birth of man, the internet serves one fundamental purpose - to connect people and allow them to interact with each other. The raging success of email, online chatting, blogs and personal homepages are simply extensions of this truth. To use one of the definitions of environment from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, the internet has become a "complex of social and cultural conditions affecting the nature of an individual or community."
As researchers, we
have become accustomed to looking at the internet as just another medium
by which it is possible to send out requests for information, and await
its return - and we call this interactive. However, as an environment,
the internet provides the researcher with a practical, convenient, and
quality alternative to sending requests. And in the same manner you, the
researcher, go to the mall to interview and observe, it is possible to
do the same online. Ultimately, the internet is more than simply a medium.
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>> The Online Environment
>> Demonstratable Interest
>> Getting Around The Three-Question Limit
>> Eliciting A Dialogue Without Tangible Incentives