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Understanding Digital Ethnography

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By Colin Ramsden, October 2007.


From the Greek: Ethnos “foreigner:” graphos “writing.” Ethnography, “writing about others.”

"Ethnography gained popularity as a research methodology among the Victorian anthropologists who used it as an 'excuse for empire.' By adapting Darwin’s theory of biological evolution to culture it was held that all cultures evolved from a state of primitive barbarism into a civilised, technological state of being. Which is to say that the English empire was the pinnacle of achievement. Armed with this theory Victorian anthropologists went into the 'field' to study the natives who had not yet evolved in order to better understand the mechanism."

"Ethnography is an ambiguous term, representing both a process and a product. As a product an ethnography is usually a book." [Ref:1].

Digital Ethnography

Digital Ethnography at its simplest is merely the application of new digital media in support of documenting interactions among people and between people and technology. [Ref:2 & Ref:3].

As a product, a digital ethnography could be anything from a digital recording of audio, video, animation, still images (photographs) presented online or in electronic format.

For example

If you haven't thought about incorporating multimedia in your web presence or online communications lately, you really should take the time to view this YouTube video presentation on the topic of digital ethnography.

It demonstrates the evolution of written communication from pencil and paper to online emerging technologies structuring the second generation of the world wide web—known as 'Web 2'.


1. http://www.cf.ac.uk/socsi/hyper/ht99/Ethnography.html

2. http://www.cf.ac.uk/socsi/hyper/ht99/digital_ethnography.html

3. http://hci.ucsd.edu/dew/html/expl-de.htm 


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