#Ethnography: Trends, Traverses and Traditions

Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR), University of Amsterdam

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Ethical Dimensions and (Social) Media: Who has access, when, where and why?

Ruth Wodak & Johann Unger

Analyzing social media poses new challenges for critical qualitative and ethnographic research: access to data has become almost trivial in technical and practical terms, and the digital nature of much of this data chelps analysis in manifold ways; but at the same time current social media practices disrupt pre-digital understandings of how identity is constructed in and through texts. Texts such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter messages are personalized and simultaneously widely accessible, so how can researchers determine to what extent these texts are intended to be public or private, or somewhere on the spectrum between the two? And can we use traditional forms of arriving at informed consent, which have been contested even in pre-digital ethnography?

These questions have great relevance beyond academia too, as debates about hacking or investigative journalism have recently illustrated. Thus, researchers have to establish new ethical norms and new methodologies of research. In the keynote, we will discuss various cases which point to the blurring of boundaries between public and private, between open access and ownership, between investigative journalism and the backstage of politics, and consider the implications of these for ethnographic, critical research in digitally augmented societies.

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