While noting the wide variety of digital technologies already in use, Hsu challenges ethnographers to go further. She describes how she uses webscraping to gather data, reveal limitations of software, and gain further information about online communities. Hsu believes the exploration of digital data gathering needs more development. In this article she provides an overview of software methods, mapping, and “seeing textures” in data. Hsu has practical examples of ways ethnographers can use technology—if they are willing to learn some new skills. Her use of mapping and geo-tagging is particularly helpful, since few online communities are confined to a limited geographic area.
The author conducts an interview with pioneering ethnographer Christine Hine. Hine discusses her theory of the E3 internet: embedded, embodied, and everyday. She also points out the challenges of researchers attempting to quantify experieneces on the web and proposes that new research strategies are needed for studying online communities and the internet as a whole. At the time of this interview, Hine was interested in following connections across sites rather than concentrating on a single online location. In true Hine form, multiple readings will likely be required to understand everything she says.
In this interview, danah boyd talks about the issues that prompted her to present her ethnographic findings to the tech community at SXSW. During her research, boyd discovered a disconnect between the way sites and apps were being created and the way they were being used. She says there is a disconnect between knowing data can be gathered from users and understanding how to interpret it. boyd also discusses her background and her plans to launch the Data & Society Research Institute. While this interview is a few years old, the issues boyd talks about are more important now than ever. She also reveals a surprise research tool.
This digital ethnography explores whether a social network on the dark web can overcomeㅡor avoidㅡthe constraints and affordances of traditional social networks. Gehl’s hypothesis is that power and freedom will be the same no matter where the site is; but hat the Dark Web Social Network (DWSN) is affected by both what we know about traditional networks and by public perception of the dark web. In this essay, Gehl describes the unusual technological challenges in exploring the dark web, the ethical challenges it presented, and the ways in which he protected the anonymity of his research subjects. Gehl’s research shows that being willing to stretch your knowledge of technology–and letting go of preconceived ideas–can lead you to areas of the web that are not possible for the average user.
Gehl, R. W. (2014). Power/Freedom On The Dark Web: A Digital Ethnography Of The Dark Web Social Network. New Media & Society, 1-17. doi:10.1177/1461444814554900
Cyborg anthropologist Amber Case has published this dictionary of terms she finds integral to those working in the emerging field of digital ethnography. Readers will find a range of definitions, but also the wealth of resources Case used to compile the list. While playfully illustrated, the dictionary is a good starting point for anyone interested in digital ethnography: researchers, scholars, designers, and more.
Case, A. (2015). An Illustrated Dictionary of Cyborg Anthropology. Portland: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.