submitted by James Victor Prineas on 23.02.2009
by Angelika Pentsi.
Translation from the German by Joanna Mitchell
As its central focus, this paper examines the internet's role in the context of the cultural identity of immigrants. The following case study aims at finding empirical clues to help answer this question. The usage of the kythera-family.net web page by Kytherian emmigrants, particulary by the second and third generations, proves quintessential to the study. Does interaction with the site have any significance for their cultural identity? And if so, how can this significance be documented, described and explained in a communication-scientific manner? These are the some of the questions that will be dealt with in the pages to follow. A basic prerequisite, however, is a comprehensive knowledge of the socio-historical context, within which both the birth of the website and its usage are firmly rooted: a basic understanding of the 'modern Greek Diaspora.' 90
2.1. : Historical background: modern Greek Diaspora
THE SONG OF THE XENITEIA.
IN THE XENITEIA THE STRANGER ROAMS LIKE A BIRD.
LIKE THE ROSES HE BLOSSOMS,
BUT HE DOES NOT SMELL AS THEY DO.
BE DAMNED, XENITEIA – YOU AND YOUR PREJUDICE!
I DESIRED NEITHER YOUR RICHES NOR YOUR TOILS.
IN DEATH THERE IS COMFORT
FOR EVERY WOUND THERE IS RELIEF.
ONLY FOR LIFE IN SEPARATION, THERE IS NONE.
(IOULIA THEOKHARI, 1924, SAN FRANCISCO/USA
ZITIERT NACH: CLOGG 1999: 1.)
Like no other expression - with exception, perhaps, of Love – xeniteia has succeeded to spur the imagination of Greek artists - musicians, poets and writers alike. In the songs and melodies of rembétiko, for example (a style of music that emerged in Athens, Piraeus and Thessaloniki at the start of the 20th century), xeniteia is a perpetually reoccurring theme; the term relays the pangs of longing for a cherished, lost homeland as it must have been felt by the refugees from Asia Minor as they flocked towards Greek harbor cities. 91 This, however, is merely one of the many facets of a term that cannot be translated into English, but that one can at best attempt to describe:
In the following paragraph, the term 'modern Greek diaspora' refers to the definition of the authors cited rather than the definition given above. The authors speak of all people of Greek descent scattered across the globe following the migrational movement that expanded beyond the geographical borders of historical Hellenic ground (cf. Hassiotis
1989: 12 and Clogg 1999: 8).
In Greek, the talk of xeniteia conveys the comprehensive experience, often characterized as both bitter and painful, of the self's existence during exile. The fact that Greeks have their own word for this 'heightened awareness of one's own existence within physical and cultural displacement' shows how deeply diaspora-experiences are rooted within the Greek mentality: „Like the Jews or Armenians, the Greeks are pre-eminently a diaspora people“ (Clogg 1999: 1); travels are a phenomenon closely linked to Greek history. The same applies to the Jewish and Armenian people, though within radically different historical contexts.
The following passages will sketch an outline of the most important historical developments that led to the modern-day Greek Diaspora, paying particular attention to the time period from 1890 onwards. It was around this time that the first overseas mass-emigrations took place, into which context Kytherian emigration can be located.
2.1.1. Historical lines of development
As previously stated, migrational movements from Greece date back far historically.92 However, from 1890 onwards there was a lull in migration of an unprecedented scale, mirroring the desolate conditions within Greece at the time: the ongoing wars – between 1863 and 1974 Greece was involved in seven -, the perpetual bankruptcy of the Greek state, as well as its general political instability (from monarchy over dictatorship, military junta to democratic government, Greece shouldered every form of government) obstructed the implementation of an efficient infrastructure and economy (cf. Eichheim 2006: 127). During the bulk of its recent history93 , Greece simply could not offer the majority of its population a socially and economically stable perspective, which led many to consider emigration as the only feasible path to a better future.
These refugees were largely people of Greek descent living in Asia Minor, who, after the destruction of the city Smyrna (present-day Izmir) in 1922 by Atatürk's troops (real Name: Mustafa Kemal), were either driven from their homes or fled, resulting in large-scale resettlements in Greece (A more detailed description of the historical context of the so-called Asia Minor Catastrophe will be given below). There were many musicians among the refugees; their oriental melodies influenced the musical subculture of the harbor cities and thus helped start a new musical style that, due to the social background of its evolution, is often compared to the American Blues. Today, after an initial decline, rebetiko music once more finds large popularity in Greece.
According to conventional periodization (cf. Hassiotis 1989: 13), the history of Greek diaspora begins in the year 1453, which marks the conquest of Constantinople by the Osmans and with it the begin of the 400 year-long Turkokratia – the Turkish rule over Greece. It is considered the “darkest period of Greek history” (Clogg 1997: 33) during which thousands of Greeks fled into exile.
Greece only attained its sovereignty in 1830, after long, bloody disputes with the Turks, at the intervention of the superpowers France, England and Russia (cf. Eichheim 2006: 115ff.). This achievement was by a large part due to the efforts of those Greeks who, during the centuries of Turkish reign, had become scattered across Europe. Here, they not only acquired wealth and influence, but came in contact with the progressive ideas of Enlightenment and the French Revolution – an influence that would manifest itself in a pronounced awareness of national identity as well as a persistent eagerness for revolutionary actions (cf. Tamis 2005: 14).
Like thousands of other south- and eastern European immigrants, Greeks began to emigrate to the industrially booming USA in the 1980s in reaction to the critical political and economic situation in their home country, until the outbreak of World War One (cf. Clogg 1999: 13 and Brinkley
2004: 472 f.).
Here they were commonly hired as workers in factories, mines and the railway industry, though many soon established themselves independently as shoe polishers, in black market trade and in gastronomy (cf. Moskos 1999: 103). The peak of Greek immigration into the United States was reached between 1900 and 1917, when a wave of 450,000 (predominantly male) migrants passed the gates of Ellis Island. Soon hereafter, growing restrictions on American immigration policy literally barred those same gates until the end of the Second World War (cf. ebd.: 105).94
Another formidable wave of migration was created at the outset of the aforementioned Asia Minor Catastrophe of 1922. In the decades preceding 1830, the Greek Territory had gained considerably in size, allowing aspirations for the Megale Idea, the 'Big Idea', to arise. These plans proposed the unification of all Greek territories of the Near East under one flag. The city of Smyrna (present-day Izmir), then populated mainly by Greeks but ruled by Turks, was a focal point in these territorial schemes.
As the victors of the First World War signed the consent for the occupation of Smyrna at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, the dream of a 'Greater Greece' appeared almost within reach. 95
However, the resistance of Turkish troops under a young Mustafa Kemal (later: Atatürk) proved unexpectedly vehement. At the same time, the support promised by the Allied forces fell though, causing the Greek army to suffer a crushing defeat in the summer of 1922.
The legal foundation for this was the 'National Origins Act' of 1924, which specified that annually, for each country, the amount of people emigrating to the US could not exceed a quota that corresponded to 2% of all Americans in their home country as of the year 1890, Immigration from Japan and China was entirely prohibited.
(cf. Brinkley 2005: 639 f.). The cause for this restrictive immigration policy was the conflict arising during the Roaring Twenties between the advocators for a modern America and those who clung to a traditional model of society that favored the cultural homogeneity of the American people: “America should […] remain American“ (Dippel 2005: 88).
The official decisions for the annexation of Smyrna were settled a year later in the Treaty of Sèvres: they foresaw that, while the city would remain under Turkish governance for the next five years, it could formally (should a still-to-be-organized local referendum proffer it) be repossessed by the Greeks (cf. Clogg 1997: 122).
The prosperous city of Smyrna was burned almost to the ground, the massacre claiming around 30,000 (Armenian, Frankish and Greek) Christian casualties (cf. Clogg 1997: 120 ff.). Following the disaster in Asia Minor, about 1 million of the estimated 1,25 million fugitives seeking a new home settled in Greece. The rest migrated to the US, Canada, South Africa or Australia. On top of this, an additional 160,000 people were forced to leave their settlements in Asia Minor due to the agreed population shifts between Turkey and Greece96 (cf. Tamis 2005: 20 f.).
The turbulent domestic policy of the years between the two world wars, as well as the duration of the Greek Civil War (1946-49), ensured a continuous increase in growth for the Greek diaspora as people continued to leave the homeland (cf. ebd.: 21 ff.).
Despite its precarious situation, Greece succeeded in achieving several important structural progresses, which – by raising demand for work force - helped reduce emigration by about a quarter of the figures reached in the two preceding decades (cf. Hassiotis 1989: 21 f.).97
The end of the Civil War in 1949, however, again saw an immediate influx of emigration that lasted until 1974: in this time-frame, around 900,000 Greek migrants entered central European countries as guest workers, roughly 270,000 left for Australia and 108,000 for Canada.
The underlying causes for this immense wave of migration were a textbook-example of coinciding push- and pull-factors: on one hand there was a strong demand for work forces in the economically booming postwar-countries, and on the other lay the accordingly large work-force potential of an economically unchanged, weak Greece. The structural condition of Greece would only improve (and migration decrease) with the establishment of a stable democratic government under Konstantinos Karamanlis in 1974, as well as through the incorporation of the Hellenic Republic into the European Union in 1981. The socio- and economical political measures that followed were instrumental to moulding Greece into a more modern, urban society (cf. Tamis 2005: 23).
Due to the remarkable migrational incentives of the 19th and 20th century, a large number of Greeks, today - or people of Greek origin - live outside the borders of the Hellenic Republic. According to estimations of the General Secretariat for Greeks Abroad (GGAE) they amount to about 5,5 million.98 By this statistic, a majority of these Diaspora-Greeks live on the American continent (3.402.220), followed by Europe (1.182.973), Oceania (710,070), Africa (139.790)
and Asia (79.350) (cf. Abb. 2).
The simultaneous expulsion of ca. 390,000 Turks from Greece, in particular from Thrace and Macedonia, created large settlement vacancies for the incoming refugees (cf. Tamis 2005: 20 f.).
Of course, shifts in immigration policies of host countries – especially the strict regulations in the US – had an integral part in this regression (cf. Hasstiotis 1989: 21 f.)
Figure 2: distribution of Greek diaspora by continent (source: GGAE)
The dominating Greek presence in America, Europe and Oceania can be explained by the high concentration of Greek descendants (historically documented) within four nations: the US, Australia, Germany and Canada99. According to current census data, for example, 1.153.295 million people in the United States claim Greek origin (cf. U.S. Census Bureau 2004: 4). In Australia, the figures reach up to 365.150 (cf. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006: 4).There is good reason to suggest that many of these 365.150 who claim Greek migrational background have Kytherian roots. Because Kytherian in Australia represent the primary group of kythera-family.net-users, their migrational history as well as their living conditions in Australia will be illustrated in brief.
cf.: http://www.ggae.gr/gabroad/organosi.en.asp (as of 15,03,08).
However, as ceded by the GGAE (cf. ebd.), the validity of these figures seems questionable; the criteria for common origin classification vary widely both by time and country of measurement: „…[they] may be based on factors such as: color, race, ethnic nationality, language, religion, customs, tribes etc.”, a paper published by the United Nations Statistics Division (2003t: 4) states, demonstrating the difference in national procedures towards ethnic categorization. Thus, these figures serve only as a rough guideline.
cf.: http://www.ggae.gr/gabroad/organosi.en.asp (as of 15,03,08).
2.1.2. Kytherians in Australia
The Greek island Kythera, also known as Cerigo, measures ca. 16 times 24km and lies south-east of the Peloponnesian peninsula, above Crete. In mythology, Kythera is known as the birthplace of Aphrodite: here, on the sandy beach of Paleopoli, the goddess of love emerged from the sea foam and was then swept away to Crete in a sea shell. Another legend also claims that it was on Kythera that Helen, daughter of Zeus and the Spartan King Menelaus's wife, and Paris, Prince of Troy, fell in love, sparking the Trojan war.
This cultural legacy of Kythera inspired the French painter Jean-Antoine Watteaus' (1684-1721) most famous masterpiece: the oil painting 'Embarkment to Kythera' (frz.: Pèlerinage à l'île de Cythère) depicts men and women courting each other around a statue of Aphrodite. It illustrates Kythera as a paradisiacal haven of romantic love, a sort of Eden.100 (cf. Vanges 1993: 21ff.)
This mythologically transfigured portrait of Kythera sharply contrasts the image painted by historical facts: „In reality“, Peter Vanges states (ebd.: 22), „Kythera is a small and relatively poor island which has been exploited over the years because of its strategic position.”
Geographically situated in the direct strategical crossfire of different super powers, Kythera has long been a covetable territory: in antiquity, Spartans and Athens took turns in dictating Kythera's fate by alternating conquests (cf. ebd.: 39ff.).
In 1309, the island came under near-continuous101 Venetian rule for almost 500 years, constituting the alternative name Cerigo. In 1797, Napoleon freed the island under the banner of the French Revolution, laying the foundations for an independent Kythera (cf. ebd.: 54ff. and 93ff.).
Peaceful times would only reach Kythera with the British protectorate institutionalized by the Treaty of Paris in 1809, which granted the autonomy of the Ionian Islands. (cf. Ebd.: 125).
In 1864, Kythera was united with the then freshly-founded Greek state (cf. Prineas 2006: 13). At this time, the island had around 14,000 inhabitants (cf. Ebd.: 10). Today, about 3.500 people live on Kythera, with less than 3,000 of them natives (cf. Glytsos 2004: 1).
This decline in population points towards an animated history of emigration, which begins towards the end of the 19th century and reached its peak at the end of the Second World War.
This image can be viewed at http://www.kythera-family.net/index.php?nav=5-12&cid=3&did=173&pageflip=1 (current as of 01,02,08)
The Turks, who at this time occupied nearly all of remaining Greece, only managed to hold Kythera between 1715 and 1718 (cf. Vanges 1993: 91f.).
Countless abandoned or derelict houses on the island show witness to this 'Exodus'. The causes hereforeare in accordance with those of Greek migration documented earlier: Because income sources and possibilities were highly limited for the islands' inhabitants (Kythera's agricultural potential being restricted mainly to the production of goods such as olive oil, honey and wine), most families lived under extremely humble circumstances, while many suffered outright dire poverty (cf. Conomos 2002: 32ff.). In this context, news of the 'New World' – America – spread like a wildfire: „For Greece’s many rural poor, America was the land of opportunity and everyone, it seemed, knew a man who had gone there for a few years and returned with enough money to set himself up for life” (Prineas 2006: 19). Records from Ellis Islands indicate that many of the Greeks who reached New York at the beginning of the 20th century came from Kythera. (cf. ebd.).
It was Australia, however, rather than America, that would turn out to be the primary destination for Kytherians: the first Kytherian to tread Australian soil is said to have been called Emmanuel Kritharis, although little more is recorded about him. Towards the end of the 19th century he was followed by other Kytherians, many of them in pursuit of the gold-rush (cf. Vanges 1993: 253f.).
In 1908, when a Kytherian by the name of Nicholaus Laurantus reached Sydney on board the SS Seidlich, there were already 400 Kytherians living in New South Wales alone; more than from any other region of Greece (cf. Michaelidis 1987: 3). In the years preceding the war, Kytherians represented the largest group of Greek migrants in Queensland (cf. Conomos 2002: 30).
The migrational background to these numbers was the same in most cases. It was mostly young men who took the long and burdensome journey to Australia upon themselves: From the island they had to travel to Piraeus, from where the route continued over Port Said in Egypt over Ceylon, until finally docking in Sydney. On average, the trip to Australia took over a month (cf. Vanges 1993: 254).
Upon arrival they were faced with a hard lot: lacking English skills and the right technical qualifications, they often only met the lowest job requirements (cf. Michaelidis 1987: 3). These unfavorable conditions ultimately led to what is often labelled the “Shop-Keeping Phenomenon”
(Gilchrist 1992: 190). This expression summarizes the early Greek (and especially Kytherian) migrant experiences in Australia like no other: “[By] the 1940s there was hardly a town in southern and central Queensland and in New South Wales that did not contain at least one Kytherian cafe!” (Conomos 2002: 30). Kytherians arriving in Australia would customarily get hired in one of these Greek cafes, which beside coffees and snacks also offered the soon-to-become-famous American Milkshakes.
Often times it took several years of work just to put enough money aside to pay off the passage to Australia itself. At the same time, these frugal wages earned with such cafe work were needed for for other things: support for the family back home on Kythera, possibly some financial help for a relative to cross over to Australia, as well as for later aspirations to open an Café of one's own in the future. „When the pioneer had established his shop or cafe there would often be a place for a brother, cousin or nephew as kitchen-hand or general cleaner, working long hours for low wages but assured of basic food and accommodation and a degree of family guidance and protection” (Gilchrist 1992: 191).
In this way, step by step, whole Kytherian families would be reunified in Australia, a typical case of “chain migration” (cf. Han 2005: 12f.).
The majority of migrants did not initially plan to settle permanently in Australia: „Every migrant’s original plan was to work hard, acquire some wealth and return ‚home‘ as soon as possible“ (Vanges 1993: 253f.). These cafés, however, often marked the Kytherian-Australian success stories, leading the immigrants to remain in Australia contrary to original plans.
Image 3: New York Café with employee (source: kythera-family.net; Copyright: K. Orfanos)
Gradually, Kytherians managed to establish themselves socially in Australia. While early migrants often reported strong resentment from the Australian population towards the southern-European immigrants (cf. z.B. Conomos 2002: 352ff.), today Greeks are viewed as a well-integrated part of Australian society; comprising a third and forth generation living in Australia today, they boast a good possession of the language and have achieved a clear educational advancement (cf. Glytsos 2004: 1f.).
Nevertheless, especially amongst Kytherians there appears to be a huge break in the link to their origins. This can be seen in many Kytherian associations based in Brisbane, Canberra and Sydney, such as the ‚Kytherian Association of Australia‘ (Sydney), the‚Karavitiko Symposium of Sydney‘,102 the ‚Ladies Auxiliary, Kytherian Association of Australia‘ (Sydney), the ‚Kytherian Brotherhood of Queensland‘ (Brisbane) and the ‚Kytherian Brotherhood of Canberra‘ (cf. Vanges 1993: 254f.), as well as a well-structured network of Greek-Orthodox churches across the country. In recent years, there has been an increased interest in history of Greek- or Kytherian-Australian migration – a fact indicated by the wealth of publications on this topic that were found the author of this paper. For the most part, these are books written by the children of these same immigrants, such as Peter Prineas‘ „Katsehamos and the Great Idea“ (2006), Peter Vanges‘ „Kythera – A History“ (1993) or Denis A. Conomos‘ „The Greeks in Queensland“ (2002).
These facts may not serve as concrete proof, but are probative clues that, after over 100 years of migrational history, Kytherian culture in Australia is still very much alive. This, in turn, speaks of a certain level of identity within the Kytherian-Australian population; they are the ones who sit in the committees of the above-mentioned associations, organize and attend dance events, read and write books. Thus, despite the fact she was de facto abandoned by many of her inhabitants, many of them never to return again, it appears that the island of Kythera instills a continuous fascination. In his preface to Peter Vanges' story about Kythera, Professor Manuel Dimitrios Aroney (1993: vii) writes:
Amongst my earliest and strongest recollections as a child was a sense of being Greek, being Kytherian.
Yet this was in a small town in the sugar cane lands of Northern Australia, a world away from Greece.
Kythera to me was an abstract concept – something undefined, special, mystical; a reflection of a parental
love and nostalgia for a motherland forever lost to them. My parents, like so many other migrants of the
early years of this century, were never to return.
‚Karavas‘ is a village on Kythera.
2.2. Kythera-family.net: a website for Kytherians worldwide
The following text addresses the objective of this paper's empirical case study, the website kythera-family.net, in more detail. How did it come into existence and who developed it? What type of Ethnoportal does the site portray exactly? How does it work? These are the questions that need to be answered in order to fully understand this study.
2.2.1. Creation and development of kythera-family.net103
The idea for the website kythera-family.net stems from James Prineas, an Australian living in Berlin whose paternal grandparents migrated from Kythera to Australia. After graduating from high school in Australia, Prinaes set about putting his dream to travel to Greece into action. He spent the majority of his two-year travels through Greece on Kythera, where he got to know and love the inhabitants of the island, their stories, customs and traditions. Further travels were to come in the following years. With a growing fascination for the island and its populace came a realization of the transitory nature of its cultural legacy – and the desire to conserve it: “these people's time is coming to an end, we need to preserve as much of their culture as possible for future generations before it's too late.”
The hobby photographer Prinaes set about taking as many photographs of the island and its inhabitants as possible. In 1996 he organized an exhibition of his images of Kythera in Sydney, which was received with large resonance. According to a statement by Prinaes, several visitors had driven thousands of kilometers to view the exhibition – and not only only that: they brought countless photographs of their own to show the other guests. “It quickly became clear that the items people had at home were at least just as exciting as the photographs I was displaying. ... So that is how it began: when I realized how much was stored in private possession, and what a pity it was that it remained private.”
Take for example a photograph from 1920 showing 10 people, of which the owner of the photograph can perhaps only identify two; the probability, says Prinaes, that this image could be of interest to hundreds of people, and that these could help in identifying the eight other people, is extremely high. This sort of musings led Prinaes to develop the idea of an online-cultural archive that would help make cultural material about Kythera accessible to a larger public. For a couple of years he worked on the concept and its practical realization
The following statements, unless otherwise specified, are based on the interview conducted with the web page's founder by the author (cf. attachment 3, interview protocol 4, cited in following as: IV/4: page number).
One of the biggest difficulties lay in financing the webpage: about $30,000 were needed as a start capital – and eventually collected. George Poulos, one of the main activists of the website (who will be mentioned later at length), described the rocky path towards this achievement in an interview for
Epsilon Magazine (2006: 2) as follows:
In October 2002, Ann Coward, former Kytherian Association of Australia Secretary, […] sent Angelo
Notaras an email advising him of the hitherto frustrated efforts of James Prineas to establish a Kytherian
archival web-site. James had developed a sophisticated “business plan and mission statement” which was
circulated in Kytherian circles. He was finding it difficult however, to raise the funds required. Angelo
read the plan, and quickly accessed that the idea was superb. “We knew he had a great idea, and it was
worth pursuing. That’s how we got involved.“
From that moment on, with the sponsorship of Angelo Notaras and his brother John Notaras, the project came into life. A large part of the needed contributions were also drawn from the Nicolas Aroney Trust, established especially for the implementation of Kytherian cultural projects. Numerous further donations were given by private individuals. These contributions mainly financed the technical-construction of kythera-family.net by an agency for Internet programming, as well as an internet designer. In July 2003, kythera-family.net finally went online, and within few months the website held over 200 entries. Today it has around 13.100 entries and counting, with new entries contributed almost daily. According to the site-operator, the site has a daily around-the-clock average of 30 visitors. Kythera-family.net's wide reception is also due to two events: the ‚Sydney Launch of kythera-family.net‘ that took place in 2004, not long after the site's creation, as well as the ‚Brisbane Launch of kythera-family.net‘ in 2007.104 With 350 guests in the first, and around 500 guests in the latter case, both events were well-visited; bearing in mind that Kytherian-Australians are not only an ethnic minority, but a subcategory at that.105 The main goal of both events was to introduce the website to the members of the respective communities and to explain how it worked, in order to win more users and promote the site's development.
The author attended the ‚Brisbane Launch of kythera-family.net‘ which proved extremely helpful for this study (as will be seen later).
The remarkable numbers of attenders are indeed noteworthy: the organizers of the second event had to change the venue at short-notice, as twice as many guests announced themselves that originally speculated.
Image 4: 'Brisbane Launch of kythera-family.net' (source: kythera-family.net; Copyright: S. Tryfillis)
Image 5: 'Brisbane Launch of kythera-family.net’ (source: own property)
The success of kythera-family.net encouraged the founders to widen the principle of the site under the label Culturesafe and thus make it accessible for further cultural communities:
The Culturesafe Cultural Archive System allows your community to collect and preserve its heritage and
display it online for present and future generations. A Culturesafe website provides a secure and easy to
use platform for individual members of a community to submit from their private collections. The online
availability of such material will encourage younger and future generations to take an active interest in
Alongside kythera-family.net now exist the site ellerntal.net for the German region Ellerntal and palestine-family.net for the worldwide community of Palestinians. While the website palestine-family.net, with 3.500 entries since its creation two years ago, promises to enjoy similar success to that of kythera-family.net, the ellerntal.net project with 350 entries after five years of existence can be regarded as failed. Possible reasons why kythera-family.net experiences a far broader resonance than ellerntal.net will be discussed at a later point in more detail. Let us first take a closer look at kythera-family.net.
2.2.2. Set-up and operation of kythera-family.net
A detailed description of the subject, in this case the kythera-family.net website, is the prerequisite of any qualitative analysis (cf. Mayring 2002: 21), in this case to determine the website's significance for the cultural identity of its users. What does the user see, read or hear upon entering to Homepage of kythera-family.net and subsequently clicking through the categories? In what way can own material be contributed to the website? Can a contact be established between users? The description of kythera-family.net's entry page should serve as a rough impression of the set-up and operation of the site:
cf. http://www.culturesafe.de/ (Stand : 29,01.2008)
Image 6: Homepage of kythera-family.net (as of 25,09.2007)
As can be perceived from the screenshot, the entry page http://www.kythera-family.net/ is graphically partitioned into a horizontal banner at the far top and three underlying columns. At the top right of the banner the language can be selected, offering English, German, Greek as well as the option 'Multilingual'.107 A search field positioned beneath it enables a direct search for specific themes, persons, etc..108 At the top left of the first column users can log-in (or register), underneath this field the current number of site visitors can be viewed, as well as the navigation menu. The middle column sports the invitation to „Submit your family material directly to this site too!“, accompanied by a concise explanation of the site's functionality: „It’s free and easy and you’ll be helping the world-wide community discover each other’s Kytherian Heritage. Simply register and
Underneath, the newest entries of different section are listed, directly accessible by mouse-click. The right column lists family- and village names in alphabetical order: a click on one of these names leads directly into the respective sections, i.e. ‚People‘ ‚Villages and Towns‘.
The respective selection only determines the language of text passages configured by the operators, i.e. guidelines for site usage and notes to the individual categories, etc. The majority of English-language user entries are not affected.
Entering the family name 'Poulos', for example, renders all entries that contain that name as well as all entries submitted by people of that name.
To examine the set-up and functionality of the site in greater depth, it is necessary to take a look at the individual menu points (unless self-evident):109
• About Us: In this section the goals and aims of the website, the history of its creation as well as the Website-Team are introduced.
• Your Personal Page: Here logged-in users can view a list of their own entries and have the option to edit them. There are two subcategories: „Your Family Trees“ shows one's own family tree as far as set up (more about this later); „Your
Preferences“ manages one's personal information (name, password etc.).
• All Recent Entries: This function keeps the user keep up-to-date without having to browse categories individually.
• People: This menu point is divided into subcategories ‚Names‘, ‚Nicknames‘, ‚Surnames Book‘, ‚Life Stories‘, ‚Notable Kytherians‘ and ‚Obituaries‘. The name section enables quick and easy information to/about a person: clicking on the name 'Aloizos' gives eleven entries across all categories, either submitted by somebody of, or containing that name in the text. The category 'Nicknames' can be explained as follows: „Because Kythera was settled in such a way that a few dozen original families spawned the majority of present-day Kytherians, almost every branch of every family had a ‚nickname‘ to distinguish it from that of others with the same surname.“
The category 'Kytherian Surnames' alludes to a book written by Emmanouil Kalligeros in 2003 of the same title, which examines 256 Kytherian surnames etymologically. The results of this study are planned to be disclosed on the website as soon as it has been translated into English and published. ‚Life Stories‘ tells the individual fates of Kytherians. Because many of these are famous members of the 'community' such as the previously mentioned Nicholaus Laurantus or famous film-maker George Miller, several of these entries overlap with those in the section 'Notable Kytherians'. The section ‚Obituaries‘ commemorates Kytherians who have passed away. Some of these texts were originally published in newspapers, some specially penned for the website.
• Gravestones: This sections discloses photographs of gravestones; although the vast majority of these stand on Kytherian graveyards, a few are located in Australia and the US.
• Villages and Towns: Here all locations on Kythera are listed. One click on the place name gives the user the number of subsections.
• Family Trees: This section instructs the user how to reconstruct a digitalized personal family tree. The idea behind it is as follows: „Up until the middle of the last century, Kytherians predominantly married Kytherians, even after they had emigrated. Just one family tree going back a few generations probably includes relatives of hundreds, perhaps thousands of us, so just imagine what a wealth of family knowledge will be at all of our disposal when the dozens of Kytherian family trees already documented by the genealogists amongst you become visible on Kythera-family.net?”
• History: Broken down into 'Archaeology' ‚Archive/Research‘, ‚Artifacts‘, ‚Documents‘, ‚General‘ ‚History‘, ‚Myths and Legends‘, ‚Old Letters‘, ‚Oral History‘, and ‚Vintage Maps‘, this menu point offers the user a broad variety of historical material on Kytherian culture. Introducing each point separately would take too long, but to give a brief impression of the diversity of entries: ‚General History‘ alone harbors 233 entries on heterogenous topics: from „Who was the first Kytherian in Australia?“ over „Events on Kythera. 1917-1940“ down to „Greek cuisine. History of the influence on Australian cooking“, to name a few. The subsection ‚Documents‘ houses over 100 entries, mostly scans of miscellaneous documents, f. ex: a poster from the 1960s promoting migrants to take on Australian citizenship; a Kytherian's hand-written entry into the Ellis Island books; a yellowed application for naturalization into the US from 1917; the menu of a famous Kytherian-Australian cafe from the 1940s; caricatures from the early years of migration to Australia depicting native racist prejudices towards the immigrants, birth and death certificates etc.
As information sources are self-evident on grounds of category names, citations will not be given individually.
• Culture: This menu point is sub-classified into ‚Architecture‘, ‚Bibliography‘, ‚Food and Recipes‘, ‚Home Remedies‘, ‚Kytherian Arts/Crafts‘, ‚Kytherian Identity‘, ‚Nature‘, ‚Religion‘, ‚Sayings and Proverbs‘, ‚Songs and Poems‘,‚Stories‘, and ‘Written About Us’. Many of these categories are self-explanatory, although the category ‚Kytherian Identity‘ may deserve special attention; it comprises 28 entries, such as: a book review; a Kytherian-American woman's travel journal; a range of speeches held on a variety of occasions, f. ex „A Vision for the Future. A unified spirit of Kytheraismos amongst Kytherian Associations and Brotherhoods in Australia“ or “Preserving and recording our Kytherian History, Heritage and Culture” – all in all, a group of highly heterogenous entries that could easily be dispersed into other existing categories.
• Blogs: Until now, the newly-created category 'Blogs' holds 10 entries. The majority are submitted by a woman who is currently spending a year on Kythera and recounts her experiences in regular intervals. Among other entries she documents the olive harvest or Christmas celebrations on Kythera. Other users can leave comments on these entries, an option few have used so far.
• Photography Island: Here users can post photographs of the island, organized by subject matter: ‚Architecture‘, ‚Churches & Icons‘, ‚Modern Landscapes‘, ‚Modern Portraits‘, ‚Signs & Statues‘, ‚Social Life‘, ‚School Photos‘, ‚Weddings & Proxenia‘, ‚Working Life‘ and ‚Miscellaneous‘
• Photography Diaspora: The principle is the same as above but with different subcategories: ‚Vintage Portraits‘, ‚Cafes, Shops & Cinemas‘, ‚Kytherian Art‘, ‚Social Life‘, ‚Weddings & Proxenia‘, ‚Working Life‘, ‚Miscellaneous‘.
• Audio/Video: This sections stores recordings of ‚Diaspora Interviews‘ (two entries) and ‚Island Interviews‘ (one entry), Kytherian music and natural recordings taken on Kythera. The section ‚Vintage Films‘ remains without entries.
• Associations: This section can be seen as a type of forum for the numerous Kytherian cultural associations worldwide, with the option to introduce oneself with one another, configure contact details, announce upcoming or summarize past events.
• Tourist Information: The subcategories ‚Addresses & Numbers‘, ‚Calendar of Events‘, ‚Kytherian Business Guide‘, ‚Links‘, ‚Sightseeing‘, ‚Weather & Daylight‘, ‚Where to eat‘ and ‚Where to stay‘ create a form of Seviceguide for the island of Kythera. Tourists planning a trip can find comprehensive information here for preparations.
• Island News: Is there a running exhibition on Kythera? Who contributed a donation to the local hospital? Has a Kytherian passed away? How are communal elections going on Kythera? Answers to these questions and more can be found in this rubric.
• Academic Research: This category serves as an archive for scientific material relating to Kythera. A lot is put to public disposal by the ‚Society of Kytherian Studies‘ which forms its own subcategory. In additional, following subcategories can be delved into: ‚Archaeology‘, ‚Demography‘, ‚Diaspora/Migration‘, ‚Education‘, ‚Environment/Ecology‘, ‚Ethnology/Anthropology/Folklore‘, ‚History‘, ‚Religion/Church‘, ‚Sciences‘.
• Kythera Cultural Association: As the central organization for promoting culture on Kythera, this association is listed extra. Information about its activities, publications etc. can be taken from the following sub-points: ‚News & Archive‘, ‚Current program‘, ‚Documents‘, ‚Photographic Archive‘, ‚War & Occupation‘, ‚Photographic Encounters‘, ‚Publications‘, ‚Sponsors‘.
• Natural History Museum: For those interested in the flora and fauna of Kythera, this category offers entries on the categories ‚Birds‘, ‚Fish‘, ‚Flowers‘, ‚Fossils‘, ‚Insects and Kin‘, ‚Mammals‘, Reptiles & Amphibians‘, ‚Rocks‘, ‚Seashells – Bivalves‘, ‚Seashells – Gastropods‘,‚Seashells – Miscellany‘ and ‚Urchins & Crabs‘. Most of the entries are provided by the Natural History Museum of Kythera.
• Guest Book: The guestbook on kythera-family.net allows the user „to let us know what you think of the site and of anything Kytherian in general“. This option has been used 233 times so far, though several entries would be better posted in the next category.
• Message Board: This category can be compared to a posting board, i.e. it serves for event announcements, questions of all sorts, search for relatives. A user-friendly 'answer function' enables other users to respond directly to a query. With 367 entries, this too can be considered a well-utilized function.
• Newsletter and Newsletter Archive: Once a month, James Prinaes composes a newsletter and sends it to subscribers per e-mail. Users have the option to sub- and unsubscribe.
• Sponsors: self-explanatory
• Information- and knowledge resource: After four years of existence, kythera-family.net offers a diverse and comprehensive collection of information and knowledge related to the culture of the island Kythera, its inhabitants and descendants, that is accessible to all users. The site can therefore be regarded as an information- and knowledge resource.
• Contact tool: Every registered user has the possibility, once logged in, to establish contact with other users via the website, either by answering a query on the Message Board (in this case visible for all), or by writing the author of a guestbook entry an e-mail. The site can therefore be regarded as a contact tool.
• Platform for discussion: Beyond the Message-board utility, the site also enables group discussions; however, as these types of discussions (unlike chats) can only run asynchronous, this function holds a weak position.
• Means for publication: From the view of users who help contribute to the sites status as an information- and knowledge resource, kythera-family.net can also be regarded as a means for publication.
2.3. Examination methodology
The examination of kythera-family.net has the general goal of discerning whether and to what extent the site has an impact on the cultural identity of its users. Its central focus was a qualitative content analysis of the sites guestbook that was conducted along the lines of Philipp Maryann'ss (cf. 2007) model of procedure.
The screening and complementation of results was done by means of data extracted from open, loosely-structured interviews with both sites users and operators, likewise applying techniques of qualitative content analysis. The exact examination procedure will be illustrated at length.
2.3.1. Qualitative guestbook content analysis
The kythera-family.net guestbook allows users „to let us know what you think of the site and of anything Kytherian in general.“110 In total, this section currently holds 223 entries (as of 18,02.2008), i.e.: this promised an insightful wealth of data for this pursued purpose. Should the site have a relevance for its users cultural identity, this would surely be implied or expressed in its guestbook entries. The method of qualitative analysis was chosen for this material analysis because it encompasses a row of techniques that are on the one hand systematic and regulated enough to allow an intersubjectively comprehensive conduct during the analysis of oral material, but that on the other hand are created open and flexible enough to comply with its “complexity, the significance, the eligibility of interpretation”(Mayring 2007: 10).
Direction of the analysis
The precise interpretation goal lies in developing a system of categorization within which different dimensions of significance for the user's cultural identity can be mirrored in an abstracted and manageable form, i.e. through inductive conduct. The categories, rather than being developed theoretically and then tested on the material, are won directly from the material. The this procedure was chosen due to the reflection that a pre-defined, theoretical category catalogue would restrict the subject matter too severely and thus obstruct the development of new, case-specific dimensions of significance.
http://www.kythera-family.net/index.php?nav=66 (as of 05,01.2008)
Nonetheless, the theoretical part of this procedure is of no little importance, as it determines the direction of the analysis, the creation of categories. Theory determines “what one actually wants to construe from the material” (ebd.: 50).
As a starting point, Mayring (cf. Ebd.) suggests using Lasswell's formula [“who says what, with what means, to whom, with what aim?”(ebd.)] as a rough guideline. The focus herein lay on the 'what', i.e. the text content; because the guestbook is explicitly a forum for the site users opinions, it is assumed that this expression of opinion will once again draw conclusions about the question studied. In other words, the analysis was aimed at identifying concretely expressed opinions about the website and summarizing these into categories within an interpretation procedure, reflecting the spectrum of dimensions of significance for the cultural identity of the user.
In what way these dimensions of significance would ultimately be formulated was a question answerable through theoretical consideration, as well as reflecting on the subjective point of view of the parties involved.111
Criterias of selection
Of course these analysis goals take as a prerequisite that the opinions aired in the websites guestbook entries do, in fact, allow conclusions on their significance for cultural user-identity; i.e. that they stand in some sort of contextual relationship with the concept at hand. Taking this consideration further, the formulated analysis therefore requires an ideal-typical definition and operationalization of 'cultural identity'. It has been shown that the cultural identity of migrants (thanks to large part to the worldwide accessibility of the internet) is in a state of constant flux, allowing more and more increasingly hybrid identities to form. This makes the theoretical determination of indicators, if at all possible, increasingly difficult. 112 This calls for a two-way inductive procedure. As these sub-questions are often linked in the existing material, it is pragmatically of little use to examine them in strict isolation from one another. To nonetheless create selection criteria for relevant user opinions, the term 'cultural identity' is understood as a 'sensibilising concept', defined by Herbert Blumer (cited as: Kelle 1994: 235) as:
So boten sich im Anschluss an die theoretischen Überlegungen dieser Arbeit Begriffe wie ‚Herstellung‘,
‚Aushandlung‘ oder ‚Bewahrung‘ an. Aus Sicht der Beteiligten boten sich jedoch andere Begriffe eher an. Dar-
auf wird weiter unten in der Ergebnisdarstellung zurückzukommen sein.
Das soziale Phänomen, das in der Literatur unter dem Begriff ‚kulturelle Identität‘ behandelt wird, ist – wie
unten im Zitat von Herbert Blumer noch deutlich werden wird – gewissermaßen schon von ‚Natur‘ aus – also
weil es sich dabei um ein soziales Konstrukt handelt – zu unscharf, um es in einer Definition ‚festzuklopfen‘.
To deduce kythera-family.net's significance for its users cultural heritage from the websites guestbook entries, it itself needs to become subject of the analysis. The underlying questions are thus analytically broken down into following subquestions:
• How can the culture identity of diaspora-Kytherians be defined?
• What weight does kythera-family.net have in this context?
Whereas definitive concepts provide prescriptions of what to see, sensitizing concepts merely suggest di-
rections along which to look. The hundreds of our concepts – like culture, institutions, social structure,
mores and personality – are not definitive concepts but are sensitizing in nature. They lack precise refer-
ence and have no bench marks which allow a clean-cut identification of a specific instance and of its con-
tent. Instead they rest on a general sense of what is relevant.
Considering the theoretical part of this study, 'cultural identity' leads people to become conscious of their place within a (trans-)culture, i.e. that they share the sense of a common origin (in time and place) with a group of people. Concretely tied into earlier context, as a user write in her entry, „I just wanted to say how fantastic this site is, and how excited I am to finally be able to learn about my family heritage…” The phrase ‚my family heritage‘ shows the personal, emotional tie this user has to Kytherian culture; we have in front of us a phenomenon that in scientific literature falls under 'cultural identity'. Because the phrase is immediately followed by an expression of a subjective assessment of the website, this entry fulfills the general selection criteria.
Die 77 Einträge, die nach dieser Selektion
übrig blieben (cf. Anhang 1), wurden dann zum Ansatzpunkt der Kategorienbildung. Dabei
wurde primär auf zwei spezifische Techniken der Inhaltsanalyse zurückgegriffen:
Zusammenfassung und Explikation
Bei der Zusammenfassung und der Explikation handelt es sich um zwei grundsätzliche For-
men des interpretativen Umgangs mit sprachlichem Material (cf. Mayring 2007: 58), die sich
allgemein wie folgt beschreiben lassen: Ziel der Zusammenfassung ist es, „das Material so zu
reduzieren, daß die wesentlichen Inhalte erhalten bleiben, durch Abstraktion einen überschau-
baren Corpus zu schaffen, der immer noch Abbild des Grundmaterials ist“ (ebd.). Die Expli-
kation zielt demgegenüber vor allem darauf ab, „zu einzelnen Textteilen […] zusätzliches
Material heranzutragen, das das Verständnis erweitert, das die Textstelle erläutert, erklärt,
ausdeutet“ (ebd.). Im Rahmen qualitativer Inhaltsanalysen werden diese Analysetechniken
nun entlang bestimmter Interpretationsregeln systematisch anwendbar und intersubjektiv
nachvollziehbar gemacht. Bei der zusammenfassenden Interpretation der zuvor ausgewählten
Gästebucheinträge wurde nach folgenden Regeln verfahren (cf. ebd.: 59ff.):
In einem ersten Schritt wurden inhaltstragende Textbestandteile113 paraphrasiert, d.h.,
sie wurden in eine knappe, deskriptive Form gebracht, indem vor allem nicht oder weniger
relevante Textbestandteile gestrichen wurden. In einem Prozess der Generalisierung wurden
diese Paraphrasen dann auf ein zuvor festgelegtes, einheitliches Abstraktionsniveau transfor-
miert, wobei eine Reihe identischer Paraphrasen entstanden. Aus diesen Paraphrasen wurden
dann in einem dritten Schritt, welcher vor allem die Bündelung ähnlicher bzw. identischer
Paraphrasen umfasste, die ersten Kategorien gewonnen. Dabei bleibt jedoch zu beachten: So
regelhaft diese Analyseschritte auch erscheinen mögen; letzten Endes handelt es sich dabei
um Interpretationsvorgänge, die als solche ein gewisses Maß an subjektiver Deutungsfreiheit
erfordern. Damit sie dennoch intersubjektiv nachvollziehbar bleiben, werden Deutungsent-
scheidungen, sofern es nötig erscheint, in der Ergebnisdarstellung begründet. Folgendes Bei-
spiel soll helfen, dieses Vorgehen zu veranschaulichen:
In der quantitativ und deduktiv verfahrenden Inhaltsanalyse wird in der Regel vorab genau festgelegt, wel-
chen Umfang diese Textbestandteile mindestens bzw. höchstens haben dürfen, um unter eine Kategorie zu fallen,
und in welcher Reihenfolge sie ausgewertet werden sollen, d.h. es werden so genannte Kodier-, Kontext- und
Auswertungseinheiten definiert, die das Material ‚zergliedern‘ helfen (cf. Mayring 2007: 14). In der Praxis
erweist sich diese Vorabfestlegung jedoch als äußerst schwierig, zumal wenn qualitativ und induktiv verfahren
wird. So räumt auch Mayring (ebd.: 43) ein: „Im Prozeß induktiver Kategorienbildung kann es sinnvoll sein,
solche inhaltsanalytischen Einheiten sehr offen zu halten.“ Trotzdem, so Mayring, solle das Vorgehen auch hier
„zergliedernd, von Materialteil zu Materialteil fortschreitend“ (ebd.) ablaufen. Um dieser Anforderung gerecht
zu werden, wurde folgende ‚Faustregel‘ für die Definition inhaltsanalytischer Einheiten definiert: Unter eine
Kategorie fallen kann jede Wort- oder Satzfolge innerhalb eines Gästebucheintrags, sofern sie das oben einge-
führte Selektionskriterium erfüllt.
Fall Paraphrase Generalisierung Kategorisierung
“I just wanted to say how fantastic this site is, and how excited I am to finally be able to learn about my family heritage
[…]. My grandfather Peter Marios born in 1909 in Diakofti came out to Sydney, Australia approximately in the 1920's, but I don’t know much more than this. He did however have three children: Nicholas (my father), John and Maria, who all appear rather clueless about their father's origins. Hopefully someone out there can help me put the pieces of the puzzle together so I can discover my identity!”
KFN als Möglichkeit zur ‚Entdeckung‘ kultureller Identität
„Thanks for the great site and opportunity to investigate my origins.”
bedankt sich für die tolle Site und die [damit verbundene] Möglichkeit, seine Wurzeln zu erforschen
Site wird geschätzt, [weil] sie es erlaubt, ein Informationsdefizit zu beheben
Tabelle 1: Beispiel für Vorgehen bei der zusammenfassenden qualitativen Inhaltsanalyse
Ausgangspunkt der hier exemplarisch dargestellten zusammenfassenden Inhaltsanalyse sind
zwei, dem Selektionskriterium entsprechend inhaltstragende Textstellen. Bereits bei der Para-
phrasierung wird durch das Hinzufügen zweier ‚logischer Verknüpfungen‘ (Begriffe in ecki-
gen Klammern), welche im Original nur impliziert sind, eine erster Interpretationsschritt in
Richtung des Analyseziels vollzogen. Durch Generalisierung auf ein einheitliches Abstrakti-
onsniveau wird die inhaltliche Parallelität beider Paraphrasen herausgestellt, wobei auch hier
durch das Hinzufügen der Konjunktion ‚weil‘ eine Deutung vorgenommen wird. Die inhaltli-
chen Unterschiede, die dann noch bestehen („etwas über das eigene Familienerbe zu lernen“
und „die eigenen Wurzeln zu erforschen“), werden in einem weiteren Interpretationsschritt
unter der ersten Kategorie subsumiert, wobei der erste Fall gewissermaßen als Ankerbeispiel
fungiert, d.h.: Weil im ersten Fall der Zusammenhang zwischen der Möglichkeit, durch die
Site ‚ein Informationsdefizit zu beheben‘, und der ‚Entdeckung kultureller Identität‘ beson-
ders explizit zum Ausdruck kommt, wurden im Folgenden Äußerungen, in denen diese Mög-
lichkeit ebenfalls hervorgehoben wird, auch unter dieser Kategorie subsumiert. Die Technik der Explikation kam vor allem in jenen Fällen zum Einsatz, in denen eine Textstelle unklar und erklärungsbedürftig erschien. Wie oben bereits erwähnt, handelt es sich bei der Explikation um eine Vorgehensweise, bei der ergänzende Informationen zur Erklärung des Analysematerials herangezogen werden. Diese zusätzlichen Informationen können dem
unmittelbaren Textzusammenhang des zu erklärenden Materials entstammen (enge Kontext-
analyse), sie können aber auch über den eigentlichen Text hinausreichen und beispielsweise
Lexikondefinitionen, historisches Hintergrundmaterial oder auch theoretisches Vorwissen
umfassen (cf. Mayring 2007: 77). Ein simples Beispiel hierfür wäre folgendes: Wenn bei-
spielsweise eine Nutzerin im Gästebuch schreibt „I particularly enjoyed reading the pages –
oral history – on the Kytherians of the far north coast of NSW“, müsste die Explikation klä-
ren, wofür das Kürzel NSW steht (für den australischen Bundesstaat New South Wales).
Auf diese Weise sind in einem ersten Materialdurchgang neun Kategorien formuliert
worden, die dann in einem zweiten und dritten Materialdurchgang am Ausgangsmaterial
rücküberprüft und ggf. revidiert sowie mittels weiterer Generalisierung und Abstraktion auf
sechs Kategorien, die letztlich das Bedeutungsspektrum der Site für die kulturelle Identität
ihrer Nutzer widerspiegeln sollen, reduziert wurden. Für die Überprüfung der aus dem Gäste-
buch erlangten Kategorien sowie für deren Explikation und Ergänzung spielten auch die aus
den Nutzer- und Betreiberinterviews gewonnenen Daten eine entscheidende Rolle, wobei
auch hier die beschriebenen Techniken der qualitativen Inhaltsanalyse – diesmal jedoch de-
duktiv – zum Einsatz gekommen sind. Das genaue Vorgehen bei der Untersuchung der Inter-
views und deren Stellenwert für die Gesamtuntersuchung wird im folgenden Abschnitt erläu-
2.3.2. Qualitative content analysis of interviews
To better comprehend the significance of the conducted interviews within the study, the circumstances under which they came about, their goals and their post-production will be illustrated:
Data sampling and circumstances of origin
Nine interviews were conducted overall, seven with site users and two with its operators (founder and Australia administrator). With the exception of the founder interview that took place in Berlin, all conversations were held during a four-day stay in Australia (Brisbane and Sydney), as, judging by guestbook entries, most active users resided in these two areas. The trip to Australia was furthermore connected to the ‚Brisbane Launch of kythera-family.net‘ mentioned earlier. The participation in this event proved to be unmeasurably helpful in finding potential interview partners, as well as giving the author a contextual insight. After a prior, failed attempt to win interviews via the guestbook and Message Board before her travels, this proved a far easier task once in situ: In Brisbane the author stayed in the house of the site's Australian administrator with another user who had also come for the event, allowing two interviews to be conducted immediately upon her arrival. Another talk with a very active, Brisbane-based user was arranged by the administrator and conducted on the same day. During the Brisbane event, another two interview opportunities surfaced. From this point onwards the 'snowball effect' took its course: one interview partner in Brisbane would establish contact to a user in Sydney, who would arrange an interview partner in Sydney, who would in turn set up another contact. All in all the event participation proved quite valuable for entrance to the field. However, the spontaneous, short-term notice nature of the interviews resulted in highly varying time and place conditions: while Brisbane event interviews were relatively short (20-30 minutes), interviews conducted at the persons own home were considerably lengthier (usually 1-2 hours, in one case even 4 hours). The latter enabled a deeper, more detailed insight into the addressed topic areas and lent interviews a relatively open and flexible nature.
Interview goals and guidelines
The interviews' primary goal was a deeper insight into kythera-family.net's significance for cultural user-identity than possible from guestbook entries alone, i.e. these conversations generated data that helped re-examine, illustrate further and possibly complement the site's dimensions of significance.
To meet this goal, interviews were held loosely structured and open (cf. Mayring 2002: 67); central issues and quest
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