First Monday

Digital ethnography: A qualitative approach to digital cultures, spaces, and socialites by Coppelie Cocq and Evelina Liliequist



Abstract
This paper introduces principles for the application and challenges of small data ethnography in digital research. It discusses the need to incorporate ethics in every step of the research process. As teachers and researchers within the digital humanities, we argue for the value of a qualitative approach to digital contents, spaces, and phenomena. This article is relevant as a guide for students and researchers whose studies examine digital practices, phenomena, and social communities that occur in, through, or in relation to digital contexts.

Contents

Introduction
What do we mean by “digital ethnography”?
Ethnography for small data research
The planning phase
Ethical aspects
Methods of collecting materials
Ending the fieldwork
Production and dissemination of research results
Conclusion

 


 

Introduction

Reels, stories, online activism, digital meeting places ... The Internet and social media offer a variety of environments and arenas for research. Through digital ethnography, we can investigate media events, everyday life, digital culture, experiences of technology, the materiality of technology, or how different groups use digital media.

In this paper, we provide an introduction to digital ethnography as an approach, from the process of selecting sources, to the dissemination of research results. A central stance throughout the article is that digital ethnography is to a great extent about reasoning with ethics in the foreground. Based on research in the field of digital humanities and Internet research, in combination with our research experiences, we provide examples of how digital ethnography can be applied. We also point out some ethical dilemmas and considerations that often arise in the research process. This paper is relevant as a guide for students and researchers whose studies examine digital practices, phenomena, and social communities that occur in, through, or in relation to digital contexts.

Digital technology and the emergence of digital environments have brought new ways of documenting and conducting fieldwork. The use of various forms of technology in connection with ethnographic fieldwork, however, is not a new phenomenon — it has long been part of the researcher’s practice. Everything from cassette recorders, dictaphones, Polaroid cameras, system cameras, and video cameras, to computers and smartphones have been used as tools to collect and document material and events during fieldwork. A distinct difference that digital technology has specifically brought about is that the researcher, via a computer or smartphone, can gain immediate access to several different digital environments and digitally interact with research participants. Such a change contains both opportunities and challenges.

In the context of the digital humanities, and as teachers in digital research, we have observed a need for methodological considerations in relation to qualitative approaches and small data. Our experience is that students today have an increasingly broad digital competence and awareness. This is not surprising since the Internet and digital environments is “embedded, embodied, and everyday” (Hine, 2016) and is thus a natural part of life for many students. Many have important insights and experiences about, for example, social media from a user perspective. Despite this, we observe that there is not always the same know-how when it comes to converting such experiences into academic knowledge, and in addition to being able to analyze digital practices, phenomena and technology in a wider perspective. This article can be seen as a contribution to providing students and researchers with such skills.

 

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What do we mean by “digital ethnography”?

Digital ethnography involves methods and approaches for conducting ethnographic studies in relation to digital contexts based on the ever-changing conditions that “the digital” in a broad sense gives rise to. “Digital ethnography” is based on ethnography (from the Greek ethnos (ἔθνος), “people”, and grafein (γράφειν), “write”), which is applied in several disciplines (mainly in the humanities and social sciences). However, the fact that this ethnography is called digital should not be interpreted as a form of ethnography limited to online materials and/or methods; rather, it is common to combine online and offline materials and approaches.

One can come across various terms when reading previous research in relation to digital practices and how to conduct fieldwork with digital components. This can partly be explained in relation to how methodologies for understanding the Internet and research in digital settings have emerged from different disciplines, which can bring a slight difference in focus and methods commonly used in different disciplines. Nethnography is an example of a term whose subject affiliation partially gives a different meaning to the method: the term was coined by Robert V. Kozinets (1997), who was early on in conducting consumer and market research in an online context. In some previous studies and popular method books (e.g., Berg, 2015), the term nethnography is being used the way we would rather define as digital ethnography.

Different terms can partly also be explained in relation to specific spatial and temporal contexts. For example, early studies were often based on notions of digitally mediated environments as a “cyberspace” that was partially separated from the material body and physical space. Terms such as virtual ethnography (Hine, 2000) and cyberethnography (Robinson and Schulz, 2009), are examples of terms yielding from notions of digitally mediated environments as partially separated from the material body and physical space (see Boellstorff [2008] for a historical account about virtual worlds). In short, it can be said that digital ethnographic studies for a long time mainly focused on text and narratives in digital contexts (e.g., Murray, 1997; Aarseth, 1997; Hayles, 2002), while later research more often dealt with understanding social communities and digital practices (Boellstorff, et al., 2012; Manning, 2018). The type of digital ethnography applied today is rarely limited to perceptions of the Internet as a bounded place. Rather, the Internet is understood as an important element in what constitutes a society and how it functions [1]. Based on such an understanding, we define digital contexts and digital technology as an integral part of society and the lives of individuals. How these contexts, technologies and digital environments will be and what conditions they will hold in the future remain to be seen, but we need to be aware that our practices are a work in progress. For example, the increasing implementation of AI, which we have probably just seen the beginning of, is likely to set new conditions for conducting research, research data, and research participants.

 

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Ethnography for small data research

The ethnographic claim to knowledge is about going deep into a question and showing its complexity. Most often, it concerns the collection and analysis of smaller amounts of data, so-called small data, which are qualitatively analyzed and presented through “thick descriptions” (Geertz, 1973; Honko, 2000). One of the most important aspects that characterize ethnographic research includes participation in the cultural practices studied and/or some form of interaction with those involved. By “being close” to what is being studied, in-depth knowledge of the field and the perspective of the participants are better embraced. Ethnography is thus a way of conducting research and at the same time building relationships with the field.

A central ethnographic principle is about being present in the contexts that are relevant to the research question(s) and participating in the contexts where the research subjects participate. Hsu (2014) emphasized that the researcher should be present where digital media and technologies have meaning and become visible: “In situ engagement with people’s lived experiences through the frame or the implementation of digital media and technology”. The researcher’s presence, and thereby own experiences of these contexts, constitute important instruments for the production of knowledge throughout the research process. However, presence in digital ethnographic studies can look very different depending on how one can be present and through which media. Not rarely, researchers also need to combine different ways of being present, in multiple settings online and offline, based on the question: “Where do I need to be in order to study X?”

Another central feature of an ethnographic research process is reflexivity, which includes the position of the researcher in relation to the research subject and to the field. For instance, how does the presence of the researcher affect the spaces and socialities being observed? What does it imply to be visible in the (digital) field? Reflexive aspects are important for how research is carried out, how knowledge is reached and thus also for the research results. The digital means that traditional concepts and methods need to be adapted and reevaluated. Above all, research conducted digitally actualizes new and changed ethical aspects, which also include the reflexive considerations mentioned above. Annette Markham (2006) advocated ethics as an integral part of the researcher’s method: “ethics is method — method is ethics”. Elizabeth Buchanan developed this further by claiming that “the researcher’s choice of method in relation to his research questions gives rise to certain ethical stances — these should in turn shape which method choices are ultimately made” [2]. This means that we must start from an ethical awareness in every step of the research process instead of reducing it to a checklist that can be checked off in the beginning (Markham, 2006). Rather, an ethically sustainable practice should be central from the project idea to the implementation and dissemination of the study. The guidelines developed by the Association of Internet Researchers, AoIR (see e.g., franzke, et al., 2020) provide a good basis for developing such a practice, here with a focus on the humanities and digital ethnography.

It is not possible to develop any universal rules for digital research that are sustainable over time, and applicable in all research situations, since digital environments and digital technologies change rapidly. The guidelines developed by AoIR are based on basic ideas found in various research ethics regulations (for example, the American Anthropological Association’s guidelines) and advocate ethics as an empathetic practice and are largely about judgment and reason — being able to weigh research risks and benefits against each other. These guidelines rest on basic ethical principles such as not to expose the participants to possible harm, and to prevent risks of the participants being harmed, confidentiality and consideration in relation to the ownership and dissemination of data. The 2019 AoIR guidelines also include a section regarding researchers’ safety and ethical considerations for the researcher in relation to an increase in risks and threats toward researchers [3]. Ethical considerations presuppose a procedural and context-oriented approach: assessments and revisions must be made along the process based on the specific context in which the research takes place, in line with an ethnological reflexive approach.

 

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The planning phase

A research process contains different steps. To begin with, a study must be well-designed. In this stage, a first purpose and research questions are formulated. Based on these, one can think about methodological choices in relation to the specific kind of empirical material needed to answer the purpose of the study and the research questions set to be addressed. During the planning phase, the fieldwork is also prepared based on questions about selection of sources and how the field should be defined and delimited. It can be difficult to know in advance which contexts and places a fieldwork should include, especially in studies that deal with following a question or a phenomenon across contexts and places. The fieldwork conducted in studies that examine digital practices often tends to include several digital platforms, and also overlaps between digital and physical contexts [4].

Before fieldwork, it is critical to get an overview of which platforms and other contexts that may be relevant for answering the research question(s). The planning phase is important partly in order to get an overall picture of what the research question is about (for example which relationships it contains and which spaces and contexts it is part of), partly to make the fieldwork manageable. In digital environments, there is a variety of data, both visual content and textual content, that could potentially be used as research material. The amount of material collected during a digital fieldwork therefore risks quickly becoming very extensive. For that reason, one should consider what needs to be collected. It is also central to reflect on which contexts are ethically sustainable to collect material from, and to weigh in the ethical aspects of being present at all for research purposes in a certain environment. During a fieldwork one should be flexible and prepared for the fact that certain types of material will potentially not be accessible, and/or that during the course of the process new contexts may be added that become relevant to take part in. A well-prepared and well-thought-out fieldwork hopefully means that most pitfalls can be avoided and that there is good preparedness if ethical dilemmas arise.

Another issue related to selection concerns who to reach through digital platforms. A digital fieldwork (often) means reaching out to more people and (mostly) independent of geographical location. At the same time, it is therefore valuable to ask questions about who has access to different digital platforms, and who has experience and knowledge of specific platforms, and the Internet in general. In the planning phase, it is therefore worth considering whose and what experiences certain contexts can provide. Another aspect concerns how the selection often is managed by algorithms and might be partly beyond the researcher's control. A search on, for example, Google provides what can be seen as a selection of material already at that stage. The results may differ from someone else’s search results because it is influenced by previous searches or by what the search engine has learned about one’s (assumed) interests and patterns through previous search history. Search engines that do not save data can therefore give a better start because the selection is left to a greater extent to the person conducting a study.

The selection of platform can be based on preliminary observations that enable the researcher to identify where a phenomenon is relevant to be examined. This can depend on the community studied, the group targeted, the socio-cultural or linguistic context, etc. Choices of field sites can also be guided from dialogue with research participants, which was the case in Liliequist (2020) were the selection of platforms was based on the digital environments, location-specific practices and phenomena that the interviewees brought up in interviews as important to them. Knowledge of the specificity of a platform (its main target group, affordances etc) is central in order to contextualize and understand communication and socialities specific to the group or phenomenon to be examined. TikTok, for instance, offers the possibility to approach the combination of music, video, text, memification etc that are part of shaping and carring out experiences among (most often) youths (e.g., Eriksson Krutrök, 2021; Abidin, forthcoming). As another example, hashtags provide insights in specific topics and forms of communication and can be selected after following and monitoring posts and keywords and identified as the most used hashtags in the specific context (Cocq, 2015) [5]. For studies about visual narratives (Kozharinova and Manovich, 2024) and visual social media cultures (Leaver, et al., 2020), Instagram can serve as relevant platform. Combining various methods for collecting and creating data is often valuable in digital ethnography, for instance conducting interviews and personal conversations with social media users whose messages are included in the collected material. In the study referred to above (Cocq, 2015), users were contacted via e-mail or private message on Twitter or Facebook. The choice to supplement the data with interviews is not only about gathering additional material. This also gives the opportunity to discuss and reflect on the study with the participants. In other words, the interviews can open for another form of participation, while the participants receive information about the project. It also provides an opportunity to obtain informed consent and for better contextualizing the digital material (see also Liliequist, 2020).

 

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Ethical aspects

The Internet as a place means that a lot of material is available and relatively easy to collect. However, the availability of a material cannot always be equated with the right to freely use it for research purposes. The question of what is private and what is public online has been debated and studied in previous research (see, e.g., Marwick and boyd, 2018; Nissenbaum, 2010). The question of private versus public material should rather be problematized based on how the information is made public, and based on whether it is intended to be private or not (cf., Markham and Buchanan, 2012). A message on social media is often not just a line of text — it can also be a post in a conversation or a debate, it can be directed at a specific reader or a specific audience or it can be written with the ambition to be spread. However, we can assume that in most cases posts on social media have not primarily been written and published with the intention of constituting research data.

Furthermore, and above all, the sensitivity of the topic should be considered when selecting and using the material — just as in offline contexts. This balance requires a high degree of judgment because the consequences of the research for the research subjects cannot be predicted. An overriding ethical principle to start from is the possible vulnerability of the participants. The greater the vulnerability, the greater the researcher’s obligation to protect the participants. Research studies must be designed so that they do not violate privacy or risk causing harm. In addition, there are also expectations that research should be relevant to the participants. This principle is, for example, central to indigenous ethics, where research is expected to be not only ethically correct but also beneficial to the Indigenous groups concerned (see, e.g., Chilisa, 2012; Smith, 2012).

A basic principle of research ethics concerns informed consent, that is that research participants, based on having received information about the study and the conditions for participation, give their approval to participate for research purposes. It may seem relatively simple and uncomplicated, and taken for granted. But in groups on Facebook, for example, the issue of informed consent becomes a somewhat more difficult issue, not least in terms of when consent is necessary and who in such a case has the right to give it. If a group has several thousand members and no individual members are directly described or cited, does the entire group have to be asked for consent to make it okay for the group to be observed? Is it enough for the group administrator to give consent on behalf of the group, or should individual members always be asked? There are no easy answers here, but a principle to follow can be whether individual members are quoted, described or in other ways if individual members can be distinguished, or whether the group is only described as a whole without citing individual posts. In other words, consent can be acquired in different ways, and research participants must be informed about and able to negotiate it. Many Facebook group also have rules for interactions which can also include preferences for how researchers should proceed. Such descriptions and group rules are always good to read up on beforehand. Taking such things in account is also part of a wider sensitivity towards the context, which is in general recommended.

Online networks tend to reproduce offline networks (Cocq, 2016; Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, 1996). Especially in the case of geographically localized groups, it is very likely that a social media network will overlap to a large extent with existing offline networks. In the context of small communities, participants can be easily identified by other community members, and user anonymity cannot be guaranteed by simply deleting or changing names. Ethical considerations might result in a decision not to refer to authors by username, language group, age or gender [6].

The potential private and intimate nature of the content — regardless of whether it is an open or close group, platform or context — also implies ethical and methodological considerations. In the case of dating apps, for instance, it is essential to consider where and when it is suitable and appropriate, or not, to participate or observe, for example, when there is sexually explicit material (see, for instance, Liliequist, 2020). Both closed digital contexts and/or sexual content online can of course still be studied, but the degree of sensitivity implies that careful ethical considerations are to be made early in the project.

 

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Methods of collecting materials

Ethnographic material can be collected in various ways. In this section, we have chosen to exemplify and discuss two common ethnographic methods for data collection: interviews and observations. An important point to note is that the empirical material in digital ethnographic studies does not necessarily have to be collected exclusively through digital methods. It may just as well be material that has been collected analogically, but which says something about digital use, digital practices and phenomena. It is also common to combine online and offline methods to gather empirical data.

The ethnographic knowledge claim is about understanding a research question with a focus on the complexity of what is being studied, rather than simply making generalizations based on a large amount of data. Ethnographic empiricism consists almost exclusively of smaller data sets that are analyzed qualitatively. In other words, working with small data is about making a lot out of a relatively small amount of material, centered around a specific question that is studied from several different perspectives and contextualizing layers. When working with small data, ethnographers often seek to follow and understand the many relationships and different contexts that a specific research question is part of. An example could be a study on how social media gain meaning in relation to how digital platforms are used in specific times — and location-bound contexts. In addition, one and the same platform can be used by different types of users, for example Facebook among parents of small children, queer or other minority groups, or in different age groups, geographical contexts and so on. Another contextualizing layer is about understanding how functions, interfaces, graphic design, algorithms and so on are also involved in shaping how and in what ways digital platforms can be used.

Interviews

Interviews are perhaps the most common method for collecting and creating ethnographic data. Different ways of conducting an interview — face-to-face, via chat, e-mail, phone, digital video and/or audio calls such as Zoom, Teams, Skype, or WhatsApp, etc., all have their pros and cons. Each interview is a unique encounter between researcher and interviewee, and the way an interview is structured will have an impact on the results. How interviews are conducted, and through which media, can vary and thus the type of knowledge that will be possible to obtain from an interview. An interview where the interviewee and the researcher sat together for several hours is more likely to capture a more comprehensive story about a phenomenon than a shorter interview. Aspects such as the length, form and format of the interview, as well as the relationship and interaction between the researcher and the interviewee, can be advantageously discussed in relation to the results of a study. In cases where interviews are conducted through digital media, the functions of the specific media should also be taken into account. For example, what does it mean if an interviewee responds to something with a thumb up emoji on Facebook? What potential consequences can arise from the omission of tone of voice, body language and other non-verbal communication?

Another reflexive aspect to take into account are differences between how people express themselves verbally versus in writing, and also in what ways the interaction between the interviewee and the researcher feels depending on whether they meet in a physical or digital room. In some cases, a written interview can make it easier for interviewees to express themselves about a certain question, because they can answer the questions when they have time, and because it can sometimes be perceived as easier to write about something rather than to talk directly to another person about it. In other cases, physical proximity between the interviewee and the researcher can be directly decisive for the interviewee wanting, daring and being able to tell something. The computer screen can be both a limitation and a bridge builder in the meeting between informants and researchers. Conducting interviews digitally also has practical and financial advantages because the researcher does not need to physically move to reach the people they want to interview. It makes it possible to reach informants unhindered by geographical distance, provided that connection is available. However, in some cases it can be a disadvantage that the researcher cannot physically see and experience the informant's physical environment and context and thereby gain their own knowledge of it. This can be significant even when it comes to digital practices, since these, as mentioned, are rarely completely disconnected from offline contexts. Conversely, however, there is a risk of missing something important from the research participants’ digital context if the only contact with the interviewees takes place in a physical environment.

Observation

In addition to interviews, observations are a common data collection method. Observations aim to pay attention to what is concretely being done and happening, but the researcher often seeks to understand more about what these activities, interactions and events mean in a larger context. An observation can, for example, give insight into things that may be difficult to express in words or that are perceived as too sensitive to talk about. Other times, it can be about things that seem so obvious that the interviewees don't think to mention it, or are even aware of.

Based on our research experience, we recommend that the planning of a fieldwork begins with freely navigating and mapping the “area”, thereby becoming familiar with the digital environments relevant to the study. By the researcher themself being present in digital contexts and thereby experiencing and exploring these contexts, they gain knowledge from a user perspective, including how different platforms are used. Quite early on, it is also possible to notice common practices and patterns in the social interaction that takes place on the platforms being studied. Later in the process, observations can be made more specifically and systematically. This can be beneficial regardless of whether the environment itself is the main focus of the study, or whether it is a medium where, for example, certain digital practices are carried out or where specific issues are debated. By starting by unconditionally observing digital platforms, better opportunities are provided to later ask informed questions in cases where the observations are supplemented with or followed up by interviews. It also provides a broader understanding of how digital environments and platform-specific conditions can have significance for the specific research question(s).

Documentation is central to the ethnographic process, not least when it comes to Internet navigation. The simplicity and speed of navigation sometimes makes it difficult to remember which paths were made during an observation. A documentation of the search paths may therefore be necessary in order to be able to trace back to the source that eventually became part of the study's material. The results produced via a search engine can lead to new terms, and new pages. A link on one page may lead to another. A thread in a conversation can lead to another discussion thread and so on. The importance of tracking selection paths should therefore not be underestimated. Screenshots and screen recording are easy ways to do this (when it does not conflict with ethical principles) and also have the advantage of making one aware of one’s own way of navigating. We recommend including field notes with descriptions of the context as it is at the time it is observed. If there have been any significant differences since the material was collected, this can be commented on in relation to reporting the research results.

 

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Ending the fieldwork

At the end of a fieldwork, the contexts where the research data have been collected are usually left and the analytical work with the material begins. During a fieldwork where a digital platform has been the place for the meeting between researchers, study objects and informants, it can be difficult to clearly define when a fieldwork has ended and if, and if so when, a studied context really is left. It may sometimes be relevant to remain a member of the digital context(s) observed in order to be able to stay abreast of events and changes in the studied groups, even if there is no longer active data collection.

It can also be about situations where the person carrying out the study is themselves part of the context being studied and, in addition to participating in the role of researcher, also uses certain digital contexts privately. In many cases, it may also be relevant to remain in the observed groups even after a study has been completed in order to be able to share the results of the study and capture any response to it. In such situations, the researcher remains in some sense in the field after the study is completed. It is thus not easy to determine when a fieldwork is over, even if it is not as actively going on. However, this does not only apply to those who research a digital context, but to the highest degree also to those who are part of the studied context. The posts that are made in a group, for example information that a study is in progress, can potentially still receive a response or interaction even after the study has been completed. It may therefore be worth thinking about whether, and if so, how long, posts made for research purposes should remain in the groups. There is also a risk of traceability in relation to the presence of a researcher in digital contexts, such as posts about the study. In addition, the researcher’s membership in certain groups can also, by extension, risk revealing the anonymity of the informants. Deleting posts after the end of the field work, or before publication can therefore be a way to go (cf., Liliequist, 2020). The disadvantage of such practice is that the transparency of the study risks decreasing, and that documented traces of the research process are lost.

 

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Production and dissemination of research results

At the end of the research process, research results are produced, for example for a student essay and or publication such as a dissertation, an article or a book. In this phase, the author should again consider what information needs to be included or omitted. In some cases, this may involve partially changing the material to prevent traceability. In other cases, it may be a matter of changing the source language. What is sensitive information can be advantageously discussed with the research participants based on the context and results of the study.

Anonymity and confidentiality must be offered to participants, but this may need to be balanced with copyright aspects in some cases. The researcher and research participants can (preferably early in the process) agree on which degrees or forms of consent are deemed appropriate, for example if the participants consent to their texts (tweets, posts, etc.) and usernames being published, or if they consent to their texts being published and statements are used as data but not cited or linked to the username, or if one is allowed to print the names when their texts and statements are cited (see, for example, Lawson, 2004). These issues should also be assessed in accordance with recommendations and rules set by scientific ethics councils.

In the case of social media data, there is often a diffuse distinction between public and private data. This implies that it is highly relevant to reflect on the extent to which it is legitimate and motivated to quote a personal post, tweet, or story in a research publication. In research in indigenous and minority contexts, for instance, informed consent, participation, and transparency in research are key principles. A common practice is to share a draft of a research article with interviewed participants prior to its publication in a scientific journal (see, for instance, Cocq, 2016; Liliequist, 2020; Lawson, 2004). This can be an invitation to comment on the use of the material and the presentation of the results, for which the author and researcher is responsible.

In addition to standard measures, additional measures in the preparation of the research results are sometimes required. For instance, since verbatim quotations can be searched and lead to the identification of a person, additional ethical measures might be needed. Sometimes translating digital content can also be enough. In order to preserve the anonymity of the informants, and to protect the digital environments that are studied, a certain amount of fiction could be mixed into the authentic material (cf., Markham, 2012). However, changes in materials should not be taken lightly and should be done with great care. It requires the researcher to spend time in the environments to replicate the mood, tone, background information and messages of the original posts in order not to risk distorting or changing the digital contexts intended to describe and analyze.

 

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Conclusion

In this paper, we defined digital ethnography as an approach in studies that fully or partially involve digital environments, practices, and/or uses of digital technologies. We discussed various questions and reasoning that provided support for shaping approaches for qualitative studies that contain smaller amounts of data, so-called thick descriptions, and small data. However, we recommended that even studies involving larger data sets, i.e., big data, consider the ethical issues and aspects highlighted in this paper. Big data needs perspectives from small data [7], because numbers do not speak for themselves [8]. In research about and with big data, the importance of contextualizing is at least as great as in other research areas in the humanities and social sciences — and the challenges are possibly even greater.

The rise of the Internet and digital technology has brought a series of new possibilities for how, where, and in what ways research can be conducted. But these new possibilities also mean that we as researchers must think about how we conduct research so that it is carried out in an ethically sustainable manner. A large part of the aspects of digital ethnography that we address in this article is about being reflexive and making careful considerations, when there is not always any absolute right or wrong answers or approaches. In that sense, teaching digital ethnographies in many ways is about raising question marks rather than handing out answers. Further we want to stress that there is no sole way to conduct a digital ethnography: rather than one digital ethnography, there is a broad spectrum of digital ethnographies. Each new study can also, in addition to its specific knowledge goals about particular issues, contribute to the methodological development and a lively dialogue about how ethnographic studies can be carried out in relation to digital contexts. We therefore want to emphasize the importance of continuous dialogue between researchers, as well as in student groups, in order to develop a well-founded ethical way to navigate among the challenges that students and researchers face in the encounter with materials and phenomena in digital contexts. End of article

 

About the authors

Coppélie Cocq is a professor in Sami Studies and Digital Humanities, Humlab, at Umeå University (Sweden).
E-mail: coppelie [dot] cocq [at] umu [dot] se

Evelina Liliequist is an associate professor at Humlab and researcher at the Centre for Regional Science at Umeå University (Sweden).
E-mail: evelina [dot] liliequist [at] umu [dot] se

 

Notes

1. See Hine, 2016, p. 27.

2. Buchanan, 2011, p. 92.

3. frankze, et al., 2020, p. 11; see also Massanari, 2018; Cocq, et al., 2022.

4. See de Seta, 2020, for a discussion about the “messiness” of digital ethnographies.

5. See, for instance, Cocq, 2015, about tagging practices as folksonomies to promote and support Sámi language learning.

6. See, for instance, Cocq, 2015, in the context of language minority groups.

7. Cocq and Johansson, 2017, p. 115.

8. Cf., boyd and Crawford, 2012, p. 666.

 

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Editorial history

Received 9 May 2023; revised 5 April 2024; accepted 20 April 2024.


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Digital ethnography: A qualitative approach to digital cultures, spaces, and socialites
by Coppélie Cocq and Evelina Liliequist.
First Monday, Volume 29, Number 5 - 6 May 2024
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doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v29i5.13196