About Virtual Ethnography

In Kevin’s paper, he mentioned that virtual ethnography had became an increasing methodology for online interaction. He also pointed out the common conflicts of virtual ethnography as:

  • Reconciliation of space and time in a virtual field site
  • Negotiation of identity and authenticity in digital interactions
  • Management of ethical dilemmas encountered in online field study

I agree with these conflicts are the most typical. Especially the ethical part. Actually, since my research interest is social computing, I’m quite interested in studying human behaviors on social media. That’s why I want to study if social media will affect the social ability of human beings. Or, for certain people, social media is just like another virtual society, and they have gradually formed another different forms of communication or social style, namely, online communities. One concrete form of data could be online text-based data as the paper said: message board. However, ethics is a big deal in my research.  Just like I said in my last blog, I planned to use experiments for my study. However, take into consideration for many factors, it cannot be conducted currently. Though it is not possible right now,  I need to anyway consider the problem: ethics for my future research. We need to take ethics into consideration as long as we involve ethnography in our research. For online ethnography, it links to identification and authenticity. Just like Kevin mentioned in the paper, specific usernames could be easily traced back to real space identity. Therefore, when conducting ethnography,  participants’ personal info should be well protected.

Enlightened by Kevin, I need to take into account the asyncronized time into account. As he stated in the paper, due to the robust storage capability of current advanced technology, message board could achieve asyncronized conversation by archiving past phrases, and different timeline for different people. This variable should be controlled in my future experiment. Additionally, lurker is an interesting group of people in social media. I’m also interested in studying social media lurkers. These ideas I will definitely study in the future.