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
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.
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.