Digital Ethnography: An Examination of the Use of New Technologies for Social Research

Murthy, Dhiraj

The rise of digital technologies has the potential to open new directions in ethnography. Despite the ubiquity of these technologies, their infiltration into popular sociological research methods is still limited compared to the insatiable uptake of online scholarly research portals. This article argues that social researchers cannot afford to continue this trend. Building upon pioneering work in `digital ethnography', I critically examine the possibilities and problems of four new technologies — online questionnaires, digital video, social networking websites, and blogs — and their potential impacts on the research relationship. The article concludes that a balanced combination of physical and digital ethnography not only gives researchers a larger and more exciting array of methods, but also enables them to demarginalize the voice of respondents. However, access to these technologies remains stratified by class, race, and gender of both researchers and respondents.