Evaluate// Digital Ethnography

Hallett & Barber – Ethnographic Research in a Cyber Era

The clear through-line in this study is the defining ethnography in digital spaces versus cyber ethnography.  The distinction being that cyber ethnography denotes an ethnography studying CMC. Cyber ethnography studies the mode of transmission.  Ethnographic research in digital spaces involves studying various subcultures via CMC– digital spaces are venues of research rather than the subject of research.Real life issues are brought up online which influences real life. Online para social interactions cannot be separated from real life

Ethnography is notoriously self-reflective, to the point of being neurotic, so it is important in conducting research in digital spaces to establish the parameters of the site.  This would include asking questions like; Is anything gained/lost by utilizing digital. Sidenote: Anthropology is still resistant to research outputs utilizing visual material as research, so it is no surprise that there is a push-back against research conducted in digital spaces.  Long live the monograph?

Conducting research online, particularly in message boards contrasts greatly from the standard participant observer and interviewing methods of gathering data.  One on-going issue in ethnographic methods of research is what Sarah Pink refers to the crystallization of ideas or perspectives. Interviews conducted might be published years after they were conducted.  Online observations and research methods, especially those which are asychnonistic, offer a longitudinal perspective. In digital spaces the evolution of a subculture can be traced over the course of years and does not rely on the researcher being present.

Hallett gives an overview of their ethnographic research taking place both offline and online. Hallett also asserts that multi-sited ethnography offers a more complex and rich entry into a group.A strength of this research is the informed consent of those in the Facebook group.  The study of the salons offers a work-around if interviewing members of a group is difficult. It highlights how to use public online outlets (Yelp.com) in order to collect data. I’m not sure what else to say the masculine salons for totally hetero ‘dudes’ besides that it sounds like Hooters, but you get your nails done instead of eat wings.


Robards & Lincoln – Uncovering Longitudinal Life Narratives: Scrolling Back on Facebook

This study sets up a method for using the Timeline function on Facebook to conduct a longitudinal study of life narratives.  Robards and Lincoln divide their study of Facebook in three major ways; 1.)framing of Facebook as an archive of life 2.) Facebook timelines studies 3.)’scroll back method’ in qualitative longitudinal research (QLR).  The ease of exploring past events which happened offline through online posts creates a sort of “context collapse”. This blurs the line between public and private as well as online and offline events. Utilizing the scrollback method makes the participant a co-analyst  having participants examine their own Timeline. There is also a high degree of concern for informed consent in this study. This is indicated by the not recording the participants while they scrolled through their Timeline and making it clear that they don’t have to remain Facebook ‘friends’ after the study, but leaving that door open for potential future research.




Also this….

Your MySpace identity is dust in the wind

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  1. Hi Megan,

    I like how neat and outlined your summaries are! I agree with you that “ethnography is notoriously self-reflective, to the point of being neurotic.” That’s what can make ethnography so interesting and important. This was very well said.

    – Alice

  2. Good summary of the research. You mentioned several advantages of online research versus data collected through interviews- such as your mention of being able to track data of the course of years without the researcher having to be present. You mentioned how researchers use public online spaces such as Yelp for research data- I think this is a great resource that can be used as a “database” for researchers. I also think about the valuable data that can be collected from other online customer feedback sites and/or tools. Using digital data in order for companies to improve upon their products/services based upon customer feedback has to be so much easier than traditional forms of quality control and I am sure that most customers are not afraid to given very candid feedback about the products/services in online spaces.

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