Virtual Ethnography “we learn about the Internet by immersing ourselves in it and conducting our ethnography using it, as well as talking with people about it, watching them use it and seeing it manifest in other social settings” Hine• Investigates the ways in which uses of the Internet become socially meaningful.• Can involve different methods: content analysis, analysis of online interactions and/or interviews with participants• Considers how the “virtual” and the “real” worlds relate to one another.• Should be reflective and reflexive
Participant Observation• The view from the inside• Accounting for subjectivitiesDoes lurking count as participation?
Thick Descriptions (Geertz) ;)• Winking isn’t just something your eye does• It’s culturally embedded• It’s only the thick description of the context and culture that lets us understand the role of the wink in sharing a conspiracy, or even parodying another sharing conspiracy.• What ‘the natives’ think they are up to
Virtual Ethnography Activity• Choose an online community to participate in – YouTube communities (Lucielovesyouu, Geriatric1927) – Facebook group – Online forum• Engage with the community and contribute some posts• Write a thick description for your brief engagement with this community
Things to look out for? Micro- interactions Reciprocity in communication coordination of turn taking in conversation Communication as ‘gift’ exchange Ritualised behaviour openings and closings Defining the ‘meaning’ of the communicative space What behaviours are allowed/expected/norms How are these norms enforced
Things to look out for - ethnography• Subjective experience – Your experience of engaging with the community – Your feelings or expectations associated with ongoing involvement – Your relationship to techno-social ideologies ‘making the strange familiar and the familiar strange‘
Feedback SessionWhat counts as ‘thick’ description?Reflexivity• how do your own preconceptions influence your interpretation/participation?Reflection and subjective experience• Time element – how long does it take to become familiar with online practices?• Is it possible or desirable to maintain familiarity/strangeness?
ReferencesGarcia, A.C., Standlee, J. B., & Cui, Y. (2009). Ethnographic approaches to the Internet and computer-mediated communication. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 38(1), 52–84.Geertz, C. (1973) "Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture". In The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays. New York: Basic Books, pp. 3-30.Hine, C. (2000) Virtual Ethnography. London: Sage.