Nethnography in Context: Methodological and Practical Implications of Virtual Ethnography

By Sandra Lopez-Rocha.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The ethnography of computer mediated communication (CMC) is often referred to as Internet, cyber- or virtual ethnography, and nethnography. The research literature on this area is interdisciplinary, although a major focus has been on the impact of CMC on social interactions and the online presentation of the self. Creating methodological guidelines for this type of research faces the same problems of offline research, which involves the massive diversity of human social experiences, and makes it rather complicated to elaborate a methodology that could be employed widely in different online contexts.
In this paper I address two general aspects of virtual ethnography and its application in anthropology/other social sciences. As such, the first section focuses on theoretical views of nethnography and its implications, while the second includes an example derived from a study incorporating a) the use of the Internet as a means for data collection and b) the study of relations formed and maintained on the Internet. The methods and techniques I discuss in this paper incorporate my experience using the Internet to make contact, to communicate with informants, and to gather data. I will describe the potential usefulness of email, chat, and website analysis as ethnographic tools as well as problems associated with these in terms of access, reliability, and participant observation.

Keywords: Virtual Ethnography, Nethnography, Internet Communication, Virtual Community, Chilean Migrants

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp.291-302. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 669.302KB).

Dr. Sandra Lopez-Rocha

Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK

As a socio-cultural anthropologist, researcher, and language instructor Dr. Sandra López-Rocha’s training and experience includes interdisciplinary studies, ethnographic research and instructional systems design, derived from her first PhD work at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Her ethnographic work over the years involved the study of Egyptian, American, Latin American (Chilean and El Salvadorians in particular), and English cultures. Her research focus has been centered on diasporic communities (i.e., movement, adaptation, identity, and community making) and cross-cultural communication (nonverbal communication, culture shock and acculturation, and linguistic change). Further research interests include urban anthropology, linguistic and psychological anthropology, as well as nethnography/anthropology of the cyberspace. Dr. López-Rocha completed her second PhD at the University of Bristol in the area of social anthropology.

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