[Air-L] virtual ethnography

Pearse Stokes pearsestokes at gmail.com
Fri Jan 30 16:18:00 PST 2009


I just thought I'd add the following.

Firstly, I'm not sure Miller & Slatter perform any kind of 'virtual 
ethnography' in the strict sense in 'The Internet: An Ethnographic 
Approach' and generally I think it's massively dated.
The key text from the 90s would be Hine's Virtual Ethnography and 
Hakken's Cyborgs at Cyberspace. I consider Hine's to be way ahead of its 
time in terms of the other books that were emerging at the time and 
actually still pretty current.

My problem with Virtual Ethnography is that it commits the cardinal sin 
of bad ethnography; It takes a preconceived notion and attempts to graft 
that method onto a new research site. Also, I believe the dichotomy of 
virtual and real is a false one. Furthermore, it retains the 
anthropological stance of the researcher, and 'the other'. It places the 
web firmly 'in there' (inside the box or across a 'network of networks') 
and I argue that it most definitely does not exist in there and that the 
term virtual is nothing more than a convenience.

More recently Virtual Ethnography or Netnography or webnography, are 
performed primarily in the commercial arena, with Puri's Web of Insight 
as a sort of handbook (available here: 

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.

I think cyber anthropology is a better direction than virtual 
ethnography. Anyway, thats just my feed back,

Good luck!

Message: 1
Date: Thu, 29 Jan 2009 17:25:51 -0600
From: scott at scottmacleod.com
Subject: Re: [Air-L] virtual ethnography
To: air-l at listserv.aoir.org, mathias.fuchs at creativegames.org.uk
	<S362488AbZA2XZv/20090129232551Z+60567 at ams10.chi.affinity.com>
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Here's a MIT OCW "Ethnography" course - http://tinyurl.com/dg32zg (also 
ySpring2003/Calendar/index.htm) - but not on virtual ethnography. 

In a related vein, I'm looking for a "Virtual Ethnography" syllabus from 
MIT, Cal, Stanford, Cambridge, Ivy League schools, the Sorbonne, University 
of Munich, University of Chicago, etc. Are there any syllabi out there that 
you know of on "Virtual Ethnography" vis-a-vis MIT's above? 



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