Open Online Research: Developing Software and Method for Collaborative Interpretation


  • Christian Bröer University of Amsterdam
  • Gerben Moerman University of Amsterdam
  • Johan Casper Wester University of Amsterdam
  • Liza Rubinstein Malamud University of Amsterdam
  • Lianne Schmidt University of Amsterdam
  • Annemiek Stoopendaal Erasmus University Rotterdam
  • Nynke Kruiderink University of Amsterdam
  • Christina Hansen Malmö University
  • Hege Sjølie Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences



open online research, collaborative interpretation, software development, ethnography


Inspired by the potentials of web-based collaboration, in 2014, a group of social scientists, students and information specialists started tinkering with software and methodology for open online collaborative research. The results of their research led to a gathering of academics at the #ethnography Conference Amsterdam 2014, where new material was collected, shared and collaboratively interpreted. Following the conference, they continued to develop software and methodology. In this contribution, we report on the aims, methodology, inspiring examples, caveats and results from testing several prototypes of open online research software. We conclude that open online collaborative interpretation is both feasible and desirable. Dialogue and reflexivity, we hold, are able to transcend separated perspectives and stimulate agreement on a set of distinct interpretations; they simultaneously respect the multiplicity of understandings of social phenomena whilst bringing order into this diversity.



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Author Biographies

Christian Bröer, University of Amsterdam

Christian BRÖER is associate professor in sociology at the University of Amsterdam and head of the program group Political Sociology. His central scientific concern is with the social origins of problems as diverse as bodily overactivity, sadness, overweight or aircraft noise. Particularly he aims to find out how the experience of a problem and political processes interact.

Gerben Moerman, University of Amsterdam

Gerben MOERMAN is senior lecturer in social research methodology at the University of Amsterdam. His expertise lies in the field of qualitative research and mixed methods. Specifically, he works on interaction in various forms of interviewing and teaches different forms of qualitative analysis such as grounded theory methodology, content analysis, discourse analysis and ethnomethodology. He is the current chair of ESA RN20 on Qualitative Methods.

Johan Casper Wester, University of Amsterdam

Johan Casper WESTER is a research master student in the social sciences program of the University of Amsterdam, Graduate School of Social Sciences. In his bachelor thesis, he wrote about the factors contributing to the success of online citizen science projects. Throughout his education, he has pursued a strong methodological interest in both quantitative and qualitative applications, as well as their interplay. He has been working as a student assistant for the office of ICT in education for over two years.

Liza Rubinstein Malamud, University of Amsterdam

Liza RUBINSTEIN MALAMUD is a student of the research master social sciences at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. For her master thesis, Liza is studying responsible investment and shareholder engagement in the Netherlands. Liza also works as a group facilitator and contributed to the design of the CrowdFindings course program.

Lianne Schmidt, University of Amsterdam

Lianne SCHMIDT is a student of the research master social sciences at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands and student member of the board of the university.

Annemiek Stoopendaal, Erasmus University Rotterdam

Annemiek STOOPENDAAL, PhD, assistant professor of organizational anthropology in Health Care at the Erasmus University Rotterdam, Department of Health Policy and Management. Her research interests include healthcare management and governance and she uses qualitative, ethnographic and formative research methods.

Nynke Kruiderink, University of Amsterdam

Nynke KRUIDERINK is team leader ICT in education at the College and Graduate School of Social Sciences at the University of Amsterdam.

Christina Hansen, Malmö University

Christina HANSEN, PhD candidate in the research program Migration, Urbanisation and Societal Change (MUSA) at the Department of Global Political Studies, Malmö University. Research interests: political activism, migration, and urban restructuring.

Hege Sjølie, Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences

Hege SjØLIE, PhD, associate professor at Department of Health Sciences, Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences, Norway.




How to Cite

Bröer, C., Moerman, G., Wester, J. C., Rubinstein Malamud, L., Schmidt, L., Stoopendaal, A., … Sjølie, H. (2016). Open Online Research: Developing Software and Method for Collaborative Interpretation. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 17(3).



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