As our research subjects increasingly live their social lives on and through virtual platforms, how can ethnographers incorporate digital methods into our research? On this episode we speak with Dr. Marta-Marika Urbanik, Assistant Professor at the University of Alberta, who has written extensively about integrating social media ethnography into her research on Toronto street gangs, including a fascinating article in Qualitative Sociology with Robert A. Roks entitled “GangstaLife: Fusing Urban Ethnography with Netnography in Gang Studies”. Marta explains how she began engaging in digital ethnography after seeing the importance of social media to her participants’ lives and rivalries. She also talks about the choices digital ethnographers make between silently observing as if through a “One Way Mirror” or openly participating and sharing their own lives through the “Glass Window” approach. She describes some of the dilemmas and issues she faced by sharing her personal social media with participants. Finally, she discusses some of the ethical issues raised by digital ethnography, including the question of what constitutes informed consent.
Alex Diamond is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Texas, Austin. Sneha Annavarapu is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Chicago. Dr. Sneha Annavarapu is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Chicago.