Written by four leading ethnographers of virtual worlds, this book examines human interaction in online spaces–both game and non-game. Readers are able to get a sense of digital ethnography from beginning questions, through data collection and analysis, to published results. It includes practical advice for dealing with ethical issues. The authors include case studies from World of Warcraft, Second Life, Everquest, and others. This is an excellent introduction to ethnography for anyone who wants to learn more about it or get started with their own research.
Boellstorff, T., Nardi, N., Pearce, C., & Taylor, T.L. (2012). Ethnography And Virtual Worlds: a Handbook of Method. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
In this book, author Christine Hine describes the ways the internet has become a part of human life: instead of being a technological phenomenon, it’s simply a tool that makes it possible to work, socialize, and navigate the world. Hine further lays out the challenges ethnographers face in studying online communities and in using digital tools. The book includes strategies for collecting data and participating in online communities and contains case studies from Hine’s own research. While not the easiest book to read, it is the text that many other books and articles cite. Hine is considered one of the preeminent digital ethnographers of her generation.
Hine, C. (2015). Ethnography for the Internet: Embedded, embodied and everyday. London: Bloomsbury.
Part two of a series on whether ethnographers can use software as part of their research, Wendy Hsu gives a resounding yes. In this blog post, Hsu describes how she uses mapping and geo-location to clarify her data. Hsu moves away from data collected as text and focuses on spatial, geographical, and positional data as part of her research into fan distribution of a music group. Hsu uses a combination of APIs and open source software to make sense of her data. This post is somewhat dated, using Myspace as the example website, but still provides relevant information, particularly in light of the increasing use of geo-tagging and geo-fencing across desktop sites and mobile apps.
Robert Kozinets coined the term netnography to mean “qualitative method devised specifically to investigate the consumer behavior of cultures and communities present on the Internet.” This interview with Kozinets reveals his thoughts on traditional v. internet anthropology and ways the internet has changed during his twenty years of online research. He also discusses what he considers the two keys to netnography: finding interesting and relevant data among what already exists and paying attention to one’s role in the process. Kozinets has interesting thoughts on search engines, such as a suggestion for tagged audiovisual materials in results.