This empirical research examines the conceptions of interpersonal relationships in an electronic community. Focusing on one text-based bulletin board, the research explores the meanings heavy users (insiders) attribute to their interactions with fellow members. Adopting an interpretivist / social constructionist perspective and a virtual ethnographic process the researcher draws a George Kelly's Personal Construct Theory and Means-End Chain analysis to explore these meanings as expressed in attributes of interactions, consequences and personal values. Using construct elicitation, laddering and pyramiding techniques within the context of electronic depth interview and wider feedback from the community at large, seven themes emerge. These surround the importance of conflict within the community, debates, entertainment, friendship, interaction, sharing and support. The research makes several contributions to knowledge. To theory, it demonstrates the application of the means-end chain model to interpersonal relationships in electronic environments. It identifies contribution is further made in the categorization process of electronic communities on the basis of relational activity. To methdology, the work explores the process of conducting virtual ethnographies and presents a first hand reflexive account. The research also demonstrates the richness and abundance of data that can be collecting using electronic research methods.

Date of creation, presentation, or exhibit



13th International Colloquium in Relationship Marketing Note: imported from RIT’s Digital Media Library running on DSpace to RIT Scholar Works in February 2014.

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Department, Program, or Center

Accounting (SCB)


RIT – Main Campus