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 researchers spent 24 hours taking a research “snapshot” of a Facebook group dedicated to the history of Melbourne, Australia. Seeking to explore social media-driven “amateur memory practices,” the researchers were able to determine that the group could be seen as an example of network sociality. In contrast to community, network sociality does not represent belonging to a group. In network sociality social relations are not based on mutual experience or common history, but primarily on an exchange of data. The researchers further hypothesize that the combined posts and interactions have created an anthropological place. The research done on Lost Melbourne is useful for evaluating other Facebook groups and perhaps other online spaces in which historical artifacts are shared.
Anthropoligist Bonnie Nardi gives readers a firsthand account of World of Warcraft in this book. Nardi spent three years participating in and studying the massively multiplayer online role-playing game: learning gameplay, leveling her character, joining guilds, and advancing through the game in tandem with other players. Nardi also conducted a number of in-person and online interviews, including including a month spent in China studying players who access WoW in internet cafes. This book is an engaging look at gaming culture that addresses gender and addiction, while also debunking the myth of the stereotypical gamer.
Nardi, B. (2010). My Life as a Night Elf Priest: An Anthropological Account of World of Warcraft. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
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.