My research for this project was conducted on the IMDB Once Upon A Time discussion board. imdb.com has pages for various celebrities, movies, and TV shows. If you type the name of what you're looking for into the search engine, the site will direct you to that page. Pages for TV shows have cast and episodes lists, frequently asked questions, soundtrack info and etc.; and at the bottom of the page you can find the discussion board. When you click on the link you will be redirected to the discussion board page, where you can view all the posts that IMDB members have made, and the comments that said posts have received. I chose the Once Upon A Time discussion board for my project for a few reasons. First off I have been a fan of the show since it started 2 years ago, and I've previously spent time there as an IMDB member myself. Also, Once Upon A Time, currently in tis third season, remains a very popular show, and the discussion board, without fail, is always thriving with activity. I have visited discussion boards for other TV shows that I enjoy; none match the level of fan action. I knew that if I selected this board not only would I be engaging in something that already interests me, I would always have a wealth of material to work with.
The Once Upon A Time discussion board, at its highest points of activity, receives at least at a dozen posts an hour, 24 hours a day, from a multitude of board members, making it nearly impossible to find select board members to follow and study; while I have seen recurring members, they are simply too inconsistent in their postings to follow properly. So instead, I took a more general approach to who I would study, looking to the discussion board members as a whole and then splitting them up into groups based on their behaviors. I ended up with four groups, whom I took the liberty of naming: the trolls (people who spend their time on the board attacking other people's opinions and/or trying to pick online fights); the lusty fans (those members whose posts/comments consist almost entirely of virtual drooling over the hotness of an actor or chemistry between two characters); the informants (members who regularly post spoilers about upcoming episodes or behind-the-scenes information); and the average folk (people who visit the board simply to ask a question about the show, or make a comment regarding a recent episode). The lusty fans have near-consistently had the most dominant presence on the show; not only are they the most vocal (all caps lock, exclamation points, emoticons), their group makes the most posts; generally speaking those posts receive the most comments. I have made a point to observe all four groups, though frankly the lusty fans have been the most interesting to me. Evidently their excitement over male hotness is contagious.
My role in the site has changed somewhat over the course of my study. I started out strictly as an observer, not making any posts or comments on the board myself, but merely observing how the other members interacted with each other, and what sorts of things would get the biggest emotional responses from them. I wanted to get a feel for the board members, while remaining impartial. Over time though, I let that approach fall by the wayside. Not because I had any issue with it, but because after silently observing and getting a better idea of what board members were like, I wanted to see if my view of said members would change if I was a member too. As I mentioned previously, I already had my own IMDB account and had spent time on the Once Upon A Time board, but I would have fallen squarely into the average folk group, only making posts with questions or comments, and not giving the other members or their behaviors a second thought. My first act as a returning member was to try an provoke an emotional response from the lusty fans. (A detailed summary of this can be found on my Data Analysis 2 blog post) After experimenting with that, I focused on the big issues of the discussion board (eg debates over who would die on the show, an uproar over one character possibly being homosexual, etc.) On the discussion board, you can see which posts have the most comments; I made sure to check those out and observe people's emotional responses. As for my own actions, I would sometimes make my own post regarding a hot topic, or comment on a controversial post that someone else would make. More often than not I would get responses to my posts/comments (some people would happily agree with me, some snarled at me), though occasionally I would be entirely ignored.
The data I collected would come from the posts and comments that people made. I visited the discussion board nearly every day, and as said data kept coming in, I was able to make notes on it, perhaps print out what I thought was important, and study it. I made a point of collecting data on all four of my groups. The posts that I was drawn to were the ones that had received the most comments, as those posts were likely to have provoked the biggest emotional response, and usually there was a wealth of data to observe and analyze.
So far in this research project I have done two major data analyses. For the first one, I studied how the members of the discussion board interact as a community. One member created a drinking game based on the behaviors of the other members (for example, "take a shot whenever someone complains about Michael Raymond James"). People in the comment section piled onto this with enthusiasm. My focus was on how the members could unite together as a community, even when the subject matter was something that irritated all of them (members constantly complaining about the show). The second data analysis I did is summarized above; I tried to provoke an emotional response by getting board members, specifically people who fall into the lusty fans category, to turn on each other. However, everyone who responded was united in their opinions, a different reaction than I'd been expecting. It made for an interesting study however, and let me focus on the lusty fans, observing a new level of their behavior. That group is almost always the most excitable and outspoken; in this case, everyone was calmly and diplomatically in agreement about which character was better.
I didn't have any one major research tradition in mind when I was conducting my study, no prime example that I wanted to follow. I played this research project as a trial by fire, acting as I saw fit. I came at this project from an ethnographer's standpoint, studying the discussion board the way one would a community, observing what makes them flow properly, what causes problems, what issues are considered a big deal- these things helped me to get a better grasp of the emotions that run rampant in this community.
If you have any advice or need any clarifications, feel free to post in the comment section