New avenues for sociological inquiry: Evolving forms of ethnographic practice

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SAGE Publications


This work examines evolving forms of ethnographic practice generated in response to advances in mediated communication. It chronicles phases in the transformation of offline ethnography, beginning with pioneering virtual ethnographies concerned with identity work and deception. Subsequently, analysis illuminates cyberethnographic redefinitions of traditional methodological concerns including fieldwork, participant observation, and text as data. It concludes with an examination of current cyberethnographic practice.The work closes with the argument that the methodological adaptations made by ethnographers indicate the increasing salience of mediated communication in the social world. The research sheds light not only on issues connected to methodology but invites larger methodological and ethical questions that will grow ever more pressing as the information revolution continues to unfold. We suggest that just as ethnographic practice continues to benefit from its encounter with mediated communication, so will other forms of sociological practice be enriched from engagement with new media.