Qualitative researchers struggle to study the transient fields of social network sites like Twitter through conventional ethnographic approaches. This paper suggests that, in order to step further, we should distinguish between the relatively stable ‘contextual’ fields of bounded online communities and the fluid, ‘meta-fields’ resulting from the aggregation of scattered communicative contents based on their metadata. Both these two intertwined layers of the digital environment interplay with users’ online social practices–which are embedded within offline everyday life and vice versa. While Internet ethnography largely dealt with contextual digital fields, recent developments in the realm of online research allow the ethnographic exploration of digital meta-fields and their publics. This shift recalls Marcus’ appeal for a multi-sited ethnography but, in fact, goes further beyond, towards a truly ‘un-sited’ ethnography. I highlight and discuss the main methodological implications of meta- and contextual fieldworks by presenting an exploratory study of European exchange students’ Facebook identities.

Ethnography and the digital fields of social media / M. Airoldi. - In: INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SOCIAL RESEARCH METHODOLOGY. - ISSN 1364-5579. - 21:6(2018), pp. 661-673. [10.1080/13645579.2018.1465622]

Ethnography and the digital fields of social media

M. Airoldi
2018

Abstract

Qualitative researchers struggle to study the transient fields of social network sites like Twitter through conventional ethnographic approaches. This paper suggests that, in order to step further, we should distinguish between the relatively stable ‘contextual’ fields of bounded online communities and the fluid, ‘meta-fields’ resulting from the aggregation of scattered communicative contents based on their metadata. Both these two intertwined layers of the digital environment interplay with users’ online social practices–which are embedded within offline everyday life and vice versa. While Internet ethnography largely dealt with contextual digital fields, recent developments in the realm of online research allow the ethnographic exploration of digital meta-fields and their publics. This shift recalls Marcus’ appeal for a multi-sited ethnography but, in fact, goes further beyond, towards a truly ‘un-sited’ ethnography. I highlight and discuss the main methodological implications of meta- and contextual fieldworks by presenting an exploratory study of European exchange students’ Facebook identities.
digital field; Ethnography; Internet; meta-field; social media
Settore SPS/08 - Sociologia dei Processi Culturali e Comunicativi
25-apr-2018
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/2434/892684
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