New ethnography? From a Zulu tribe to Facebook*

The so called netnogarfia, also known as virtual ethnography or digital ethnography is a recent technique that allows a research exercise of a specific social unit through different perspectives in the online world. This new way of discovering the world is part of the emerging approaches in research Social.

But, what differentiates digital ethnography from what we have all reviewed in the every day classroom known as traditional ethnography. According to an article published in the journal Media, Culture & Society in 2011:

“Traditional ethnography has been characterized by considering face-to-face interaction as the most appropriate” (Hine, 2011).

Research teams move physically to stay for a certain period interacting constantly with participants, however this interaction can increase the pre-configured problems of research, that is, there may be a problem of analytical subjectivity, but it happens differently in this new approach since it changes the individual’s own idea and is exchanged for the concept of user, this is the first difference.

As a second point we have that the fundamental basis where digital ethnography is developed (at least of the last decade) is the internet, but do we understand what the internet is? No, and it is not important for digital ethnography, since as a cultural artifact we all have an idea of ​​what it is, and ‘in the end’ for what it has served us, and that is important, it establishes our relationships with people who are around us, for example the anonymity in many web pages allows greater freedom when expressing themselves, leaving aside the “politically correct discourse”, makes us write something closer to what we really think, we know that only It is possible using the internet.

Finally, an important issue is the ethics of research, although it has tried to follow the guidelines of traditional ethnography:

“If our identities in cyberspace are extensions of our offline identities, the same ethical considerations should be guaranteed as in the world offline “(Hesse-Biber, 2011)

However, this approach confronts several considerations, for example the consent of the participants to obtain their personal data that in traditional ethnography would represent important information for the investigation, later the anonymity of the participants, poses new challenges for ethical codes of ethnographic practices, which will have to be regulated by the American Anthropological Association, it is important to constantly review publications about this topic or our research may be considered as an electronic eavesdropping or eavesdropping, we surely do not want that to happen.


Hine, C. (2011). Towards ethnography of television on the internet: A mobile strategy for exploring mundane interpretive activities. Media, Culture & Society, 33(4), 567–582.

Hesse-Biberm S.N. (2011),  The Handbook of Emergent Technologies in Social Research, Oxford University Press.


Jessica Mireles Estrada, twitter: @Jessica_Mirest
Luis Enrique Morales Flores