Evaluating the Method – Digital Ethnography

Uncovering longitudinal life narratives: scrolling back on Facebook

  1. The researchers are trying to explore the potential role of sustained social media use in longitudinal qualitative research. They want to uncover how ‘growing up’ stories are told and archived online, seeing how what people say and share on social media can change over time. They focus on understanding the ‘digital trace’ on Facebook timelines, arguing that ‘scrolling back’ through Facebook with participants as ‘co-analysts’ of their own digital traces can add to the qualitative longitudinal research (QLR) tradition. Finally, they argue for the inclusion of these often highly personal, deep, co-constructed digital texts in qualitative longitudinal research.
  2. They define digital ethnography as studying young people in their twenties who have been using Facebook for more than five years. They set their framing of Facebook as an archive of life narratives. Next, they introduced their own Facebook Timelines study, and the ‘scroll back method’ as the focus of their interviews, along with a discussion of ethics and limitations. Lastly, they brought the threads of the article together to advance their argument around the potential contribution of a ‘scroll back method’ to qualitative longitudinal research (QLR) and how the method may be used to study other social media.

Ethnographic Research in a Cyber Era

  1. The researchers are trying to explain how online spaces were needed to more fully understand physical environments and issues. They argue that studying a group of people in their “natural habitat” now includes their “online habitat” as well. Lastly, they want and urge ethnographers to consider how digital spaces inform the study of physical communities and social interactions.
  2. They define digital ethnography as drawing their research from two ethnographic studies. These studies were used to explain how online spaces were needed to more fully understand physical environments and issues. They present ethnographic data to demonstrate the importance of considering online spaces. Their research focused on three specific online spaces to gather data: Facebook, Yelp, and corporate websites.

Both articles

3. Similarities: Both studies conducted digital ethnographies and examined the use of spaces on social media. They both examined the use of Facebook.

Differences: While they both examine the use of Facebook, they examined it differently. The first study had researchers sitting down with participants and do the scroll back method, which is where they both scrolled through the participant’s Facebook to look at older posts up to most recent posts. In the second study, three specific online spaces were looked at in order to gather data: Facebook, Yelp, and corporate websites. After looking at a participant’s Facebook page, face to face interviews were conducted to see how Facebook influenced participants to act in certain ways. Yelp was examined to grasp participants’ habits such as how they get their information online.

Strengths: The first study had a good sampling procedure of studying young people in their twenties who have been using Facebook for more than five years. The second study included interviews which is useful for answering in-depth questions about gendered space and labor. Conducting face to face interviews is a good qualitative research method, because it allows for a deeper analysis.

Weaknesses: The first study was less comprehensive than the second study, because no face to face interviews were conducted.

3 thoughts to “Evaluating the Method – Digital Ethnography”

  1. Hey Alice,

    First off, love love love a beautifully outlined response. Thank you for the neat structure. I think you hone in on an important point regarding the Facebook study utilizing face-to-face interviews mediated by having them use the scroll-back method. Also liked that you directly compared both articles.

    Also, I don’t think I ever thanked you for the Fast and Furious reply. I do appreciate it. Now it’s a matter of carving out a full 24 hours to watch them. Check out ‘Olympus has Fallen’ if you’ve not already. It is entertaining hot garbage.

  2. Alice,
    Great post, and as always your organization of your writings makes it so easy to understand what you are saying and respond to your posts. The summaries were very effective- if someone did not read these articles they could still have a basic understanding of what they were about based upon your ability to summarize them. Your comparison in the “Both Articles” section highlighted the key similarities and differences and quickly allowed me to understand what you thought were strengths and weaknesses. I agree- the strength of sampling from a social media source such as in this case Facebook is that sampling procedures can vary to best target the population you want and also that in the case of the interviews that a deeper understanding of the details as to “WHY” persons may act and respond the way they do is available. In terms of weaknesses, I agree with your comment regarding comprehensiveness- the examination of digital data is typically quick, easy to access, and you can get massive sample sizes relatively easy, BUT data does not provide details and is relatively low in its ability to be comprehensive- both about the specific sample taken at the time and any applications to future studies.

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