Human interaction with digital technologies has become so pervasive that attempts to look at contemporary culture without including our daily relationship with the digital often come up lacking. The sub-field of digital anthropology has taken up this challenge in an academic sense, and innumerable “think pieces” in the popular press have provided more public-facing explanations, but this leaves a palpable gap in between the two. In undergraduate digital anthropology courses I have taught over the past several years, my students and I have constantly been torn between well-researched and theorized but dense and jargon-laden articles on one hand and readable popular pieces without any basis in research or evidence on the other. This book hopes to bridge that divide, seeking to be approachable and useful but also theoretically and methodologically rigorous. The objective is to provide practical advice on the methods, concepts, and themes of digital ethnography, so that students can effectively conduct their own studies, whether in or out of the classroom. Further, as our interaction with digital technologies is not dependent on citizenship, race, gender identity, age, or ability, this book will seek out contributors from a diverse and international pool of researchers, students, and academic faculty.
But what is digital ethnography, exactly? In a very broad sense, it simply refers to the ethnographic engagement of humans’ interaction with digital technologies, but it can also point to studies that use digital technologies as tools for research or as platforms for final products. While the term has recently been taken up in business-speak by marketing departments, this book project specifically situates it as a methodology originally arising from the sub-field of digital anthropology. It is now engaged in new stages of exploration into questions about where it fits in the anthropological (and larger scholarly) canon. What is the scope and where are its boundaries? How does digital ethnographic engagement now inform science and technology studies, media studies, and communications, as well as more traditional anthropological study? As digital ethnography moves into the classroom, how can educators and anthropologists alike foster a continuation of its experimental nature while also defining terms, practices, and methods in a concrete way?
This edited volume is comprised of thematic chapters, short case studies, and even shorter micro-chapters that focus on specific concepts. It is written by a diverse mixture of established academics, early-career scholars, and doctoral students, from six continents (sorry Antarctica). The book will serve as a practical guide—for students, researchers new to the practice, and interested parties outside the academy—to understand not only the what of digital ethnography, but also (and more importantly) the how.
Practicing Digital Ethnography is under contract at Routledge, with an expended publish date in 2026.
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