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In the case of those who meet in online chat rooms, these sexual relationships are most often acted out online in the form of cybersex chat.In my research, I have identified two forms of cybersex chat that occur in AOL chat rooms.

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We don't know how many people, over an extended period of time, use online chat rooms.

There is no data telling us how long each individual user spends engaged in online chat and we don't know at which times they are likely to come and go.

An important question faced by researchers of online chat rooms is whether to depend solely upon online interviews and observations in the gathering of data.

Sherry Turkle notes this problem, stating that, "virtual reality poses a new methodological challenge for the researcher: what to make of online interviews and indeed, whether and how to use them." (Turkle, 1995, 324) Turkle chooses not to use online interviews in her research unless she has additionally met that person in real life.

Baym suggests that, "Rather than focusing on building predictive models of CMC [Computer Mediated Communication], more naturalistic, ethnographic, and microanalytic research should be done to refine our understanding of both influences and outcomes." (Baym, 1996, 161)Ethnography is defined by Marshall as "the acts of both observing directly the behaviour of a social group and producing a written description thereof." (Marshall, 1994, 158) In ethnography the "description of cultures becomes the primary goal...

the search for universal laws is downplayed in favour of detailed accounts of the concrete experience of life within a particular culture and the beliefs and social rules that are used as resources within it." (Hammersley & Atkinson, 1995, 10)Researchers who have used ethnographic methods in cyberspace have been confronted with several problems that are different from the ones they are likely to encounter in research off-line.We also know that the use of these technologies requires not just literacy, but computer literacy.On AOL, there are methods of obtaining data on the number of people using a specific chat room and of determining the total number of chat rooms at a given point in time.The first form is computer mediated interactive masturbation in real time.In this form of cybersex, users type instructions and descriptions of what they are "doing" to each other and to themselves while masturbating.Abstract: Text based computer mediated communication (CMC) has recently been the focus of many ethnographic studies by social scientists.

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