Netnography, virtual ethnography, online ethnography, remote ethnography, digital ethnography?

On a list-server I belong to (anthro-design) I read the following question: Much like word association. . . When you hear the following what are your first thoughts? Netnography, virtual ethnography, online ethnography, remote ethnography, digital ethnography.

I suppose I'm jaded, but mucking about with this exercise gives me gas. We don't need more hyphenated ethnographies. But the idea of doing ethnography in and on and around the Interwebs is interesting. Dr. Wesch's work or Tom Bellanstorff's new book, Coming of Age in Second Life, (SL) come to mind. So I will chill out. For a second.

Jerry Lombardi, an anthropologist who knows what he is about, wrote this in response to the post on the list-serve:
"What a fun idea. Here are mine: Netnography -- meaningless and also terrifically awkward, on a par with "webinar" :-) . We can see how the English language has fallen since someone coined "docudrama" and "Manwich".

Virtual Ethnography -- too slippery because it's impossible to know, without additional specification, what the modifier "virtual" is modifying -- the means, the setting, or the result.
Online Ethnography -- research on activities and interactions that occur exclusively or almost exclusively on computer channels, like Second Life.
Remote Ethnography -- using computer channels as the main or exclusive way to gather data, with the participants in self-documentation mode at least some of the time.
Digital Ethnography -- meaningless, because unlike a phrase such as 'digital photography' it fails to specify what's digital and why the digitality matters.

Then, I added a few to his list. Inter alia, they were:

Dream Ethnography: in which you do your ethnographic work while sleeping.

... and my personal favorite, Ethanography: in which you go to a fieldsite anywhere in the world, find the nearest bar, and order up plenty of the local ethanol product (in Chile, I'd try the Pisco), and spend your field time drinking and eating whatever bar-food is to be had. Then you go home and write up an ethanography.

I'm kidding (sort of). Here's the pont: People who study the web have a RL (real life) or two. They rely on their RL to generate new understandings (and practices) about SL.

Both domains inform one another, since we all have a foot (or toe or arm or body or avatar) in each one. Keeping it real reminds us that you have to buy the flipping computer first: that's what Dragon is doing, in the photo, after he quit the crappy job he had in Shanghai and bought a laptop to help him design his new business, a real one. He never, ever, answers my email. I'll give him a real phone call (on Skype. . . hmmmm).


See Robert Kozinets' response to this blog entry: The Netnography Debates

1 comentario:

Robert Kozinets dijo...

This is an interesting topic that I'd like to comment on. What's in a name? Well, nothing much, really. A name is just a way of designating something so that everyone knows what you are talking about. In this case, the name should tell people exactly what procedures you have been following to conduct your research. I had one big battle to fight in order to get netnography recognized as a distinct technique in marketing research. After a few years, most people now agree netnography is procedurally distinct from ethnography. And after about 7 articles in the area, people now understand the exact differences and procedures for netnography. But is that true of virtual ethnography, online ethnography, digital ethnography, webnography, and all the other neologisms. Or are they just neologisms? If there are real concrete differences, I'd like someone to point them out to me, and maybe we can co-author an article together on the topic, because I think it would be very worthwhile to do so. If not, then the labels are useless. What matters is what they signify.