Has anyone here encountered the dilemma of how to conduct online/virtual ethnography?

I'm researching several online communities (discussion forums) and am basing my paper on both participatory observation (active and passive activity on the forums) and interviews.


My problem is that my professor doesn't have any experience with online ethnography, and dislikes the idea of purely text-based chat interviews and "disembodied" virtual observations. I'm trying to get some of the interviews done in skype too, but am experiencing technical difficulties (I've yet to find good recording software) and some of the interviewees just prefer text.

Now, what I've gotten from the text interviews so-far is pretty great, but I do prefer to also have more professional background and opinions to back my case.


I've also read Turkle's wonderful "Life on the Screen" and Markham's "LIFE online", but I wonder if you could recommend newer, more up-to-date sources which discuss these issues? Something like "The Anthropology of Online Communities" (Wilson & Peterson, 2002), which is great at covering theoretics, but unfortunately doesn't specifically discuss methodology...




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Hi Ariel,


My final dissertation for the degree of Social and Cultural Anthropology was also an online ethnography, in a text based virtual environment.

In terms of bibliography you could look up at Christine Hine's Virtual Ethnography (2000) or, more recent, from Boellstorff, Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human (2008).


Hope this was any help!



Thanks Sara!




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