Exploring ethnographic techniques for ICT non-use research: An Amish case study

Lindsay Ems


This paper explores the ethnographic methods used to study information communication technology (ICT) non-use among a group of ardent non-users, the Old Order Amish. During a multi-year investigation in two Amish settlements, three specific strategies proved essential to gaining access to members of the target population and acquiring relevant and meaningful data for analysis: 1) engaging a principal informant, 2) privileging the body as a communication medium, and 3) developing new personal connections through existing personal connections. By employing these techniques, barriers to access were productively mitigated. The data collected using these techniques yielded rich insights about Amish ICT use, and non-use and what those variable modalities meant for the perceived empowerment of Amish communities in an increasingly high-tech and globally networked world. This study documents a set of techniques, which have been successful in collecting rich ethnographic data to describe Amish ICT use as inherently situated in a complex ecology of socio-technical life. Additionally, it presents a toolkit for studying ICT use and non-use among the Amish, as such toolkits have not been described in previous research. The application of these techniques for researching ICT non-use in other contexts is also discussed.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v20i11.6312

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