Belorusova S. Yu. Сyberethnography: Methodology and Technology

S. Belorussova - Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera) of the Russian Academy of Sciences St. Petersburg, Russian Federation
ORCID: 0000-0002-2069-3452


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ASTRACT. The Internet revolution promised not only the possibility of acquiring a new augmented reality, but also the prospect of replacing the physical space with a virtual one. Since the early 1990s, ethnographers have joined studies of the online environment; they conducted research on the web, developed methods and approaches, and initiated schools and research trends. The vastness of the cyberspace has given great opportunities for the work of ethnographers, while at the same time giving rise to legitimate problems of conducting the cyber-field research, collecting and organizing information, and processing and presenting material. Whilst earlier the scope of an ethnographer’s tasks was limited by the territory, in cyber research the responsibility for building boundaries lies rather with the scholar — he himself sets the scale of his “field”, time and place, and subject and object of work. The article considers three approaches to the studies of identity in the cyber environment, i. e. “Virtual Ethnography” by С. Hine, “The Virtual World of Second Life” by T. Boellstorff, and the “Why We Post” project by D. Miller. Boellstorff studies the formation of virtual relationships outside of physical contact. Miller, on the contrary, conducts research on the basis of the created reality and considers Internet interaction as a complement to the existing communication practices. Hine tries to discover a new understanding of identity in the relationship between the online and the offline. Despite the differences in their techniques of conducting online research, the presented methods are not contradictory, but rather complementary to each other; in their entirety, they allow for a comprehensive study of the modifications of practical interaction in the Internet space. The virtual environment corresponds to the mobility, variability, adaptability, and continuity of the work, while defining the path, approach and technique of a research is in the hands of the ethnographer himself.


KEYWORDS: cyber-ethnography, virtuality, Internet research, T. Boellstorff, D. Miller, C. Hine, virtual identity, cyber field


DOI 10.31250/2618-8600-2021-3(13)-123-145
УДК 316.772:39



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