I'm blogging at a very interesting site http://socialvoice.liveworld.com/index.jspa. Another blogger, much more experienced, is Judith's blog: Through the virtual looking glass - online focus groups She's been following online focus groups and assessing respondent's reaction to the process. One critical finding is that some participants feel that they have more space to be listened to. I'm a teacher/trainer/facilitator and creating spaces that give participants equal air-time is a constant challenge: allowing those who are under-participating to have the opportunity to express their opinions and toning down those who are dominating the conversation. The online focus group context seems to allow for more equitable participation, but only if you are able to get online, and are literate enough in the language of the dialogue, and have the keyboarding skills necessary to type in your opinions.
So, I'm very supportive of the equity in participation for those who have the access, the skills and the literacy necessary.
I'm still going to depend on face-to-face interviews and discussions because there are many, many poor families that don't meet those minimum criteria and those families most definitely need to be encouraged to talk and give their opinions. I'm working on encouraging their children who have much more extensive contact with and use of technology in school to participate in online focus groups because they also need to be heard as a student group.
I will also contiue to figure out how to bring technology to communities that don't have easy access withoutseeing technology as the Good Ship Lollipop.