An asynchronous remote community is basically a web-based focus group. The research reported here confirms the expectation that it is especially effective in research with stigmatized groups--in this case, people living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The Internet gives stigmatized people the ability to form relationships and to gain information. It also permits research with geographically distributed people.
The paper focuses on improving the asynchronous remote community approach rather than on the insights gained about living with HIV. The research consisted of having the participants complete eight weekly activities, such as describing the technology they used to manage HIV. The participants’ reports were analyzed by three researchers, looking at feedback, completion, and clarification of both the study and of each activity. Consistency between participants’ responses was also examined.
The analysis showed the participants were engaged: two were “super active,” making an average of 11 comments per week, and two dropped out. Participants appreciated exchanging ideas and experiences. The project did more than benefit the researchers; participants commented that they had benefited. Eight problems, such as “side effects of medication,” were cited often by different participants.
The paper goes on to give five lessons about the approach. One of these is that researchers, to build a trusting relationship, use their personal accounts rather than project accounts when interacting with participants. The paper concludes with a trial statement defining the core qualities of the approach. Nothing startling here, but a readable description of a useful approach.