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.
Cyborg anthropologist Amber Case explains how humans are already cyborgs—that by virtue of using computers and mobile devices, we have external brains. Case argues that all tool use is a modification of self, designed to help humans do things better. However, Case points out that we are now experiencing not modification of physical self, but of mental self. She also points out that we now have “second selfs” that exist online and can be interacted with, even when we are not present. This TED Talk is thought provoking in that it reminds the viewer that time away from technology is an important part of being able to use the tools now available to present an authentic digital self.
Rybas and Gajjala explore online identity on social networks, including ways of identifying one’s race, gender, and sexuality in the creating of online personas; however the author’s primarily focus on comparing and contrasting the experiences of online ethnographers compared to “traditional” ethnographers. This paper is interesting because it posits that digital ethnographers always consume and create artifacts during research: typing oneself into existence.
This article examines the research involving an online community of English language teachers, known as Webheads in Action (WiA). This article provides an inside look not at the community, but at the ways the researchers examined and participated in the community. The article describes the ways the research team experienced netnography in opposition to traditional ethnography. It includes ways of defining the field, fieldnotes and data gathering, dynamics of interviewing, and the importance of having the expertise in multiple online technologies. This article is useful for any beginning netnographer who is looking for practical advice before beginning online research.
The documentary Second Skin lets players of various role-playing games (RPGs) tell their stories in their own words. While the director presents plenty of evidence–both anecdotal and qualitative–to demonstrate that gamers come from a wide range of backgrounds, most of the story Second Skin tells does come from “stereotypical” gamers. Included are couples who met while playing online and a discussion of addiction among gamers. Anyone interested in online gaming will likely find this film interesting, but it won’t shed light on what a viewer likely already knows.