Reflections on the Use of Grounded Theory to Uncover Patterns of Exclusion in an Online Discussion Forum at an Institution of Higher Education

Louise Postma, Anita Seugnet Blignaut, Karen Swan, Erkki A. Sutinen


This article reports on an example of grounded theory methodology used in a case study to describe power inequalities among participants in an online forum at a higher education institution in South Africa. Critical poststructuralist theory informs the study as it investigates how hegemony influences the strategic interaction of participants. An interpretive analysis through coding procedures uncovered elements of intensified exclusion, inequality, and oppression. This took place within a virtual space which is theoretically idealized as an equalizer and promoter of freedom of speech. The process involved in the eliciting of voices and in the analysing and interpreting of subjective accounts is described to give an account of disillusioned experiences with a potentially liberating form of technology. The article contributes to qualitative methodology in applying the generic paradigmatic conditions within grounded theory and illustrates both the interrelatedness and the cyclic nature of the conditions within the specific paradigms of participants.

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