From reading the Carter article about her research on virtual ethnography in Cybercity, it was made clear that virtual ethnography and real life ethnography are very similar. To research this cyber world, Carter spent years getting comfortable and learning the “ins and outs” of Cybercity. Carter was able to gather a larger number of responses to her questions, the more she embedded herself into the lifestyle. What she did question though and what other researchers have questioned about virtual ethnography — how do you know if a person is being authentic? Authenticity and truthfulness seems to be two big issues that ethnographers face when conducting research. Though some may say that the virtual world is more difficult to determine whether someone is conducting themselves in a “genuine” manner, Carter said, “determining truth may be no more problematic in online research than in offline research, and that my own experience is not unusual” (152).” I have to agree with Carter, because even in face-to-face communication, people are always editing themselves depending on the situation. What really is authenticity? How you act in front of your parents is probably different then how you act in front of your friends. So in an online and offline situation, you are always editing yourself to “fit in” with the crowd you surround yourself with.

I feel that virtual and online worlds are the same in that the way you conduct and represent yourself with people in a certain space will make someone more or less comfortable to trust and open up to you. Carter found that the more time she spent in the virtual community, the more people trusted her and would have conversations with her and open up about their life on Cybercity. From visiting this place everyday over a long period of time, she expanded her pool to research. Going to Miami Beach for our first field trip in Second Life was interesting and I can see how people are unlikely to trust outsiders. I stood out in my biker clothing on the beach and when I tried to make conversation with two people there, they completely ignored me. They probably didn’t feel comfortable talking to me because they knew I was an “outsider” to this community.

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I think it is overall difficult to explore and online community for a short period of time and accept people’s word over what they are saying to be true. I think a long term study of a certain community will help build trust so people feel more comfortable talking honestly. Building trust online takes more time then in face-to-face communication, but I think the end result of answers will still be the same.

 

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