4/3: Virtual Ethnography 1

Please post a question as a reply below.




  1. On page 45, the authors explain that the presence of an ethnographer rarely causes a change in the culture. Even though the ethnographer may not change the culture the culture can change the ethnographer. Can a study be compromised if the ethnographer changes and adapts throughout the study?

  2. I guess my question is in response to Hayley and also its own question.
    When it comes to research, our culture seems to have the idea that objective research is the best way to conduct a study. We expect for the researcher to be removed from the study not inserting their opinion or viewpoints but only giving us facts. Does The idea of an ethnography, or going into a community and becoming a participant observer challenge this ideal Form of research, that values objectivity over subjectivity?

  3. The book starts off stating that “virtual worlds are places of imagination that encompass practices of play, performance, creativity, and ritual” (Boellstroff 1) It then goes to describe a virtual world as a place in which “they draw upon physical world cultures in multiple ways yet at the same time create possibilities for the emergence of new cultures and practice” (Boellstorff 1). Based off these descriptions of a virtual world I would think that social media would be considered a virtual world but on page 7 it says they are excluded. It states they are excluded because of the lack of worldness and embodiment. Do you agree with this reasoning?

  4. Ethnography seems like a difficult type of research. Boellstorff et. al. say, “An obvious yet profound insight of ethnographic research is that in the end, everything is connected to everything else” (52). Obviously it is the ethnographers job to find specific things to focus on, but I’m wondering how this research remains unbiased?

    As with all research, the topic is something that the researcher is interested in, but because everything in ethnography is connected I feel that it is easy to miss important aspects of whatever you are looking at. To gloss over the negatives and focus on the postives.

  5. I am a bit confused on what classifies as a virtual world. Would it be possible to study the rhetoric used when people are playing online games. Not necessarily the language they use in the game, but the actual words spoken that go unheard to other gamers?

  6. On page 17, the authors talk about the idea of being a “native” ethnographer. Ethnographers have become increasingly diverse, branching out to women, people of color, non-Westerners, etc.. It was originally thought that their diversity may cause discrepancies in their research because they may be able to relate better to their subjects. I do not understand this idea because whether or not someone relates to their subject relays entirely on who the subject is. Wouldn’t it then not matter who the ethnographer was but rather who they are studying?

  7. How is the claim that quantitative research is more valid than ethnography undermined through the notion of subjectivity? I ask this because how we conceptualize and operationalize variables in surveys or content analyses is all through a subjective lens.

  8. What role does the ethnographer play in their study? I am a bit confused on subjectivity in research, kinda like what Emma is asking. Won’t an ethnographer be more inclined to focus on certain observations because there could be answers they were already looking for or already expected? I feel like that makes the researcher a participant observer, which has affect on how they interpret what they see.

  9. In tom Boellstorff’s “Ethnography and Virtual Worlds”, he discusses about the definition of ethnography and the different approaches that the authors took in their specific researches. On page 54, the author writes “the core method of participant observation allows the investigator to alter ethnographic research midstream in a manner difficult with many methodologies, including survey and experimental approaches” (Boellstorff, p. 54). My question is why would the ethnographer would want to alter the participation observation? Would this alteration affect the whole research?

  10. In Ethnography and Virtual Worlds, the author describes the two functions that ethnographers can have when immersing themselves in the cultures they are studding these include outsider (etic) and insider (emit). The author states, “We conduct research not just to mine data from informants, but to learn about their theoretical and pragmatic insights.” (pg 16) How might being an insider and outsider play a role in the research process? What is the most important part of the research? Does it matter that those that in the inside might not approve of the research that is being done from the outside?

  11. like everyone else I have a similar question. What role does the ethnographer have to play in their study? how hands on is their research, and does it help to be already a part of that culture, or community to get a better understanding? does it make more sense to not have a biased?

  12. Boellstorff states that, “in regard to interviewing, we emphasize that interviews can be fruitful online or offline: people can lie or tell the truth in either context…We must take seriously the social reality of virtual environments and not treat avatars as inauthentic, valid only if always corroborated with interaction in the physical world. While physical world friends and family make up a portion of an informant’s virtual world interlocutors, many informants also have rich, meaningful, and enduring social interactions with people they never met”(94). This quote made me think of Boellstroff earlier point that a virtual world is a place where partipants, “draw upon physical world cultures in multiple ways yet at the same time create possibilities for the emergence of new cultures and practice” (1). As people draw upon aspects of their own culture in reality to form a new culture in virtual worlds, do you think they might do the same for relationships? And if you agree, do you think that Boellstorff’s belief that interviews do not need to take place outside the virtual world is effective? Do you think you can fully examined a person in the virtual world, without observing that person’s life, culture and relationships in the physical world?

  13. How can one truly become an ethnographer of a virtual world? As virtual worlds are made up by the creators and the players, wouldn’t this not cause a biased outcome? We can’t really know what is happening on and off the screen and if the players characters reflecting the player or not.

  14. Boellstorff and colleagues state that, “If we conflate ‘science’ with ‘experiments,’ we distort the scientific record and oversimplify scientific practice” (33). While I agree with this statement I am uncertain of what type of science ethnography is practicing. Culture can not exactly be experimented on, but can be observed so when studies of ethnography are being preformed can they be considered naturalistic experiments or maybe even a study of correlation?

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