From Community to Text and Back On Semiotics and Ant as Text-Based Methods for Fleeting Objects of Study

Annalisa Pelizza


Abstract This article illustrates a case study where the adoption of epistemologi-

cal assumptions and data analysis techniques borrowed from both semiotics and

ANT have enabled the researcher to transcend the limits that characterise tradi-

tional studies on online communities underpinned by a “sociology of the social”

approach. Today, the very concept of “online community” seems to be at stake, to

the point that it is no longer clear whether there exist online ties that are specific

enough to be called “communitarian”. In order to analyse such an opaque and un-

stable object of study, innovative methods specifically developed to study fuzzy ob-

jects have to be devised and some epistemological questions have to be addressed.

Approaches like semiotics and ANT turn out to be useful exactly because they use

texts as “handles” to grasp heterogeneous, transient, objects of study. This article

discusses in details a “funnel-like” method of analysis in a research field that has

too often forgone the critique of epistemological assumptions inherited from oth-

er disciplines.


Keywords online communities; information systems; method; semiotics; ANT

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