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