Evaluating the Method: digital ethnography

Ethnographic Research in a Cyber Era

Summarize briefly each paper briefly: what are the researchers trying to accomplish?  What are they arguing?

In Ethnographic Research in a Cyber Era, the authors are arguing for the validity of cyberspace as a space worthy of ethnographic research. While traditional ethnographies are useful in studying how individuals and groups live their social lives, online platforms also provide a space where people can be studied. This is due to the fact that a majority amount of the American population uses the Internet in some way, whether it be through forums or entertainment platforms like Youtube. Online forums have shown to build communities with set norms, values, and practices. As such, digital ethnographies are needed to study these occurrences.

How are do they define digital ethnography?  How do they suggest it should be approached?

The authors defined digital ethnography as involving a multisited approach where the ethnographer follows the issues and participants into physical spaces and online spaces. By doing so, ethnographers have a full complete perspective of the issues and participants.

What are the similarities and differences between these two perspectives on digital ethnography? What are the strengths and weakness of the researchers’ approaches to digital ethnography? Which article seems to be more relevant and correct in its approach, in your opinion?  Why?

As previously mentioned in past posts, digital ethnographies pose ethical concerns and issues of privacy and consent. Also, conducting a study both offline and online requires a lot of energy, mentally and possibly economically. Lastly, ethnographers need to be aware that people online may present themselves differently than how they are in person.

Uncovering longitudinal life narratives: scrolling back on Facebook

Summarize briefly each paper briefly: what are the researchers trying to accomplish?  What are they arguing?

In Uncovering longitudinal life narratives: scrolling back on Facebook, the authors explore the ‘digital trace’ left on Facebook with Facebook users in their twenties. They uncover how ‘growing up’ stories are told and archived online and what stories are shared on social media over time. Overall, the authors are arguing for the inclusion of digital texts in qualitative research.

How are do they define digital ethnography?  How do they suggest it should be approached?

The authors used digital tracing for their digital ethnography. Using pages and profiles that constitute digital social media as ‘texts’, the authors used the scroll back method to engage the participants as co-analysts of their own digital traces. They were used to fill in the blanks and provide context.

What are the similarities and differences between these two perspectives on digital ethnography? What are the strengths and weakness of the researchers’ approaches to digital ethnography? Which article seems to be more relevant and correct in its approach, in your opinion?  Why?

Like the other study, Facebook is mentioned as an environment of “context collapse” where the boundary between public and private life is blurred. As a result, ethics is questioned when conducting a digital ethnography. In my opinion, this article seems to barely cross the line between keeping distance from the participants. For this study, the researchers had to first add the participants on Facebook as a friend so they could gauge what the participants like, frequencies of their posts, and what they were posting. While they made it clear that the participants could limit the content they had access to, how many participants actually did that? Would that have affected the research? Is having the participants as co-analysts creating bias?

2 thoughts on “Evaluating the Method: digital ethnography

  1. Hi Jannie,

    Good job summarizing each study concisely! I agree with you that conducting a study both offline and online would require a lot of energy and that ethnographers need to be aware that people present themselves differently online and offline (kinda makes me think of fake Instagrams haha).

    – Alice

  2. Jannie,
    Great post!, and I agree with Alice and your comment that conducting both online and offline studies require a great deal of resources. Also, as you both mentioned, there can be a significant difference in how individuals represent themselves online and offline. Research findings from one study could vary significantly from the other based even if you had the same participants and kept a significant portion if not all other parameters the same- other than the obvious difference of one being online and the other being offline. The text this semester did a great job of explaining some of the careful considerations that need to be made between the online and offline environments.

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