“Nethnography”, “virtual ethnography”, “cyber-ethnography” and “digital ethnography” are overlapping labels which define a heterogeneous variety of research techniques. They essentially have one thing in common: the digital field. Up to now, the growing literature on online ethnography has not adequately considered the intrinsically dualistic nature of social media. On the one hand, we (both as researchers and users) move throughout a multiplicity of digitally segmented spaces, such as social network profiles, blog posts, forums; on the other hand, we query search engines or explore Twitter’s trends – following topics and issues through keywords. I will suggest that we should distinguish between two types of digital field: a structured, “contextual” field and a fluid, mainly “textual” one – resulting from the aggregation of previously disperse communicative contents. Both these two parallel layers of the online environment influence the users’ digital practices – which now represent a consistent part of people’s everyday life, deeply intertwined with offline social reality. While most of webbased investigations deal with “located” communities, recent studies in the realm of digital ethnography and digital methods tend to focus on “thematic” and “networked” fields instead. This shift recalls Marcus’ appeal for a multi-sited ethnography but, in fact, goes further beyond, towards a truly “un-sited” ethnography. I will highlight the main pros and cons of these two methodological outlooks, also referring to an empirical case study – Erasmus students’ collective identity on Facebook. In the conclusion, I will suggest that the ethnographer’s choice between “text” and “context” depends exclusively on the object investigated.

Ethnography and the Digital Field: between Text and Context / M. Airoldi. ((Intervento presentato al convegno ESA Midterm Conference ethnography: Trends, Traverses and Traditions tenutosi a Amsterdam nel 2014.

Ethnography and the Digital Field: between Text and Context

M. Airoldi
Primo
2014

Abstract

“Nethnography”, “virtual ethnography”, “cyber-ethnography” and “digital ethnography” are overlapping labels which define a heterogeneous variety of research techniques. They essentially have one thing in common: the digital field. Up to now, the growing literature on online ethnography has not adequately considered the intrinsically dualistic nature of social media. On the one hand, we (both as researchers and users) move throughout a multiplicity of digitally segmented spaces, such as social network profiles, blog posts, forums; on the other hand, we query search engines or explore Twitter’s trends – following topics and issues through keywords. I will suggest that we should distinguish between two types of digital field: a structured, “contextual” field and a fluid, mainly “textual” one – resulting from the aggregation of previously disperse communicative contents. Both these two parallel layers of the online environment influence the users’ digital practices – which now represent a consistent part of people’s everyday life, deeply intertwined with offline social reality. While most of webbased investigations deal with “located” communities, recent studies in the realm of digital ethnography and digital methods tend to focus on “thematic” and “networked” fields instead. This shift recalls Marcus’ appeal for a multi-sited ethnography but, in fact, goes further beyond, towards a truly “un-sited” ethnography. I will highlight the main pros and cons of these two methodological outlooks, also referring to an empirical case study – Erasmus students’ collective identity on Facebook. In the conclusion, I will suggest that the ethnographer’s choice between “text” and “context” depends exclusively on the object investigated.
Settore SPS/07 - Sociologia Generale
Settore SPS/08 - Sociologia dei Processi Culturali e Comunicativi
Ethnography and the Digital Field: between Text and Context / M. Airoldi. ((Intervento presentato al convegno ESA Midterm Conference ethnography: Trends, Traverses and Traditions tenutosi a Amsterdam nel 2014.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/2434/470728
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