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Literature Review

Case Studies





Case Studies Index

Review of graphical environments on the WWW as a means of widening public participation in social science research

2. Aims and objectives

This aim of this Case Study is to investigate the role of the WWW in encouraging and facilitating wider public participation in social science research. With this in mind, we review the available literature and develops a small number of detailed case studies of existing web sites whose principal aim is public participation in social science research in order to identify (a) the current state of web-based social science research; (b) problem areas; and (c) the need for new visualisation tools and methods in this field.

Specific objectives pursued in achieving the above aims are as follows:

  • A review of published literature on computer graphics and public participation in social science research with particular reference to the WWW;
  • An extensive on-line search for social science web sites with a significant participatory element in meeting their stated research objectives;
  • A selection of a small number of representative web sites;A detailed examination of case study web sites; and
  • Interviews/discussion with web site managers/authors.

Existing published literature on the use of computer graphics for improving public participation in social science research is quite limited, especially that concerning the use of the WWW. On-line searches for potentially relevant web sites have been completed using standard search-engines (e.g. Alta Vista and Yahoo!). A total of five representative case studies have been selected on the basis of their:

  • substantive focus and social science content;
  • opportunity for public participation;
  • method of interaction; and
  • graphical and visualisation techniques employed.

These five case studies are presented in the report in order of increasing complexity and level of participation, starting with some simple on-line questionnaire surveys and working towards immersive first-person 3D virtual reality systems.

The potential and realised benefits of adopting on-line participatory environments in social science research are outlined using evidence gathered from these case studies and other sources as appropriate. Potential disbenefits are also reviewed to give a balanced picture of this rapidly advancing field of computer graphics and social science research.

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