Time and Timing: Exploring Farmers’ Reluctance to Use Web-based Discussion Groups

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Web-based discussion groups (WBDG) are a promising method for engaging in research with farmers. Their most attractive features are that they are expected to encourage a rich dialogue, as successive posters built on the contributions of the original visitors, as well as allow all opinions to be expressed and time for issues to be thought through.

The research for this paper uses a failed WBDG (designed to explore the management intentions of a group of irrigation farmers facing significant water reforms) as a case study. Informal unstructured telephone interviews were carried out with twenty-eight WBDG non-participants to identify and explore best practices in WBDG development and identify possible barriers to participation.

After the analysis of interview responses a number of issues were identified as contributing to decisions regarding participation in the WBDG including: (1) lack of time, (2) uncertain benefits / relevance, (3) lack of IT skills and abilities and (4) Internet speed.

Although lack of time was the most commonly cited reason, it is more likely that an individual’s willingness to participate was related to perceptions of relevance either for that individual or for their community. Relevance is also influenced by timing, in that change caused by exogenous forces is continually happening, so that depending on the nature of the changes, at any point in time there may be greater or lesser relevance.

As farmers appear to use the Internet sparingly, reluctantly and in a way that best suits their needs, the extent to which they choose to participate in WBDGs will be strongly dependent on the farmers themselves, but will also be affected by the relevance of the issue being considered, the timing of the research and how this interacts with and influences the relevance of the discussion topic.


Keywords: Web-based Discussion Groups, Internet, Farmers
Stream: Research Methodologies, Quantitative and Qualitative Methods
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Time and Timing


Dr Geoff Kuehne

PhD Student, Division of Business
School of Commerce, University of South Australia

Adelaide, SA, Australia

Geoff has had a twenty-five year career as a wheat and sheep farmer in South Australia. After selling his farming interests he embarked on an MBA with the University of South Australia. He is the recipient of a PhD scholarship with the purpose of researching irrigators management response to reduced water entitlements. His research interests are in the areas of identifying and exploring the values and attitudes of farmers and how this influences their decison making behaviour; also how these values and attitudes are formed, how entrenched they are and how they can be changed

Henning Bjornlund

Associate Research Professor, Business, Centre for Regulation & Market Analysis - School of Commerce
Adelaide, SA, Australia

Henning Bjornlund, has 14 years experience in assessing the operations and impacts of rural water markets in South-Eastern Australia as well as other water policies. He has attracted four consecutive national competitive research grants and published widely both nationally and internationally in this area with a total of 177 publications or presentation. He is an Associate Research Professor at the University of South Australia and also holds a Canada Research Chair in Water and the Economy at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta.

Ref: I08P0507