Ideographic methods and the exploration of relational exchange in electronic communities

Neil Hair
Moira Clark

British Academy of Management Annual Conference Harrogate. September 15 - 17, 2003. Note: imported from RIT’s Digital Media Library running on DSpace to RIT Scholar Works in February 2014.


The purpose of this paper is to examine the benefits of ideographic methods in the exploration of relational exchange in electronic communities. It begins by locating the research issue of relational process within the wider literature of exchange and relationship marketing. A review of the exchange literature reveals a weakness of detailed understanding of how successful relationships are built and maintained as they relate to 'processes'. A review of key literature reveals an overwhelming prevalence of nomothetic means of generating knowledge electronic community research. The unique characteristics of the electronic community, specifically the medium of communication, are considered in light of the research issue demonstrating is appropriate fit with ideographics. The research strategy of virtual ethnography coupled with methods of participant observation, depth electronic interview, concept elicitation techniques and Delphi are proposed in comparison with nomothetic alternatives. The paper concludes bu examining the issues that have proved fractious within the community of relational exchange researchers and considers the difficulties of applying knowledge created by ideographic means into practice.