[Air-L] virtual ethnography

manuel.boutet at free.fr manuel.boutet at free.fr
Sat Jan 31 14:51:35 PST 2009

Selon Pearse Stokes <pearsestokes at gmail.com>:

> Further, if you consult recent articles that claim to perform virtual
> 'ethnography' generally they perform 'participant observation' without
> actually 'writing the culture' (the 'graphy' in ethnography). An example
> would be boyd's 'Why Youth (heart) Social Networking sites' ... an
> extended period of 'deep And for the most part virtual ethnography is
> just interviews and qualitative analysis. Which isn't ethnography.

About the "graphy" part of "virtual ethnography", i can't agree with your
statement of impossibility. But i agree about the issue, and above all if you
mean it literally, if by "graphy" you mean "visual". I see it as an open
question today, a state of art, and our responsability to go further.

For exemple, more than the quantitative / qualitative debate or articulation, it
seems to me more fruitful to think about the role of museography when
qualitative methods where created, and about the extended use by "ancient"
anthroplogists of maps, plans, and other sketchs and drawings, as they were too
in the "travel diary" tradition.

For exemple, to achieve a better description of the ties in the Internet network
- writing is very poor to account for their complexity; i found usefull to use
some tools to map them. These maps were  built to complement descriptions. It's
a necessity, because, even when you describe precisely how participants find
their way, without a map it's not clear for the reader how such "short views"
(participants views are "shorts", they are "for practical matters") could build
together a "shared space" or "social webspace".

My point is, i really believe in virtual ethnography, because social sciences
really need these accounts about the ways people not only "act" but find their
ways out there.

(Actually, i can send my recently publish paper about that very question, but in
French. English conterparts are not ready yet.)

Manuel Boutet

Centre Maurice Halbwachs (CMH)


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