There is lots of talk about how the Internet and new media are transforming political communication and the political process – however, little talk about another major issue related to this: what are the best research methods to go about studying these changes? Are ‘traditional’ methods from survey analysis of users to content analysis of websites the most appropriate tools to capture the complex reality out there? Politicians are increasingly using different Internet applications simultaneously in order to reach their audience, from YouTube, to Flickr, blogs and online forums. How do we collect data on these fragmented messages? How do we sample blogs? Are surveys the best way to learn about the way people use the Internet and how they look for information online? Wouldn’t experiments be better instead? How valid are online surveys?
Italian politician Antonio di Pietro sets the trend again – today he has announced his party Italia dei Valori has opened a space in Second Life. It’d be interesting to study the impact (if any?) of this move.