The Invisible Interviewer: Old and New Methodological Issues in Online Research

Mauro Niero


Over the last two decades, computer-mediated and online research methods have been gaining ground over traditional data collection tools for research. As a consequence, the role of the interviewer is affected. In this article, the visibility or invisibility of  the interviewer is used to express the degree of control that the interviewer has in the interviewing process. For example, the interviewer has full control in face-to-face interviews, but this control decreases as the interviewer's level of visibility decreases, such as in phone interviews, and is nullified when the interviewer is missing entirely, such as in self-administered surveys on the web. This raises the question of how the visibility of the interviewer is currently surrogated and how the solutions adopted in social research may be suitable for describing the corresponding impact of digital technologies on social life. In concluding, possible scenarios of new digitally mediated solutions of data collection are presented. These scenarios take also into consideration data treatment technologies and their capacity to control the enormous amount of material that digitally mediated social life has produced.


web interviewing; online research; web survey

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