During my studies as a Communication major, I have come into contact with several different kinds of research, but my favorite form of research is qualitative. I especially learn a lot from discourse analysis and ethnography. However, when this concept is applied to the Internet, traditional ways of viewing it go out the window. Completely immersing yourself in an online culture would literally mean spending days, weeks, or even months in that environment. Our field trips give us a short version of ethnography but there is a lot we can’t experience. In the Baym & Markham article, they stress four transformations that they dealt with in their research that played large rolls in changing ethnography research from face to face to over the internet. Media convergence, mediated identities, redefinitions of social boundaries and the transcendence of geographical boundaries are all discussed as having diverse effects on ethnographic research on the internet. Media convergence show difficulties because researchers have trouble defining one phenomenon because they are all combined with other phenomena in other types of media. Since we already discussed mediated identities in class, it is clear that this can bring about difficulties in defining identity. The “saturated self” as it is referred to can show many different sides at any given time, taking information from multiple different media. Redefinitions of social boundaries are something that is shown through how different we act in Second Life than we do in the physical world. Researchers tend to make similar comparisons between online and face to face communication but reality seems to be a place in between online and offline. Privacy here is a phenomenon that would most like have dynamic difference depending on which media was investigates. This could create potential problems depending on what specifically researchers are looking for when they do ethnographic research. Transcendence of geographical boundaries are interesting and are a unique form of convergence and can present cultural and economic barriers. Maintaining ethical standards mean taking all of these things into consideration when doing research and allowing for time to understand all the difference between traditional ethnography and online ethnography.

Image Image borrowed from http://www.learnlogic.net/design/science-of-the-everyday/

In the Carter article, the specific methods for gathering ethnographic data give us an idea of how to get the best kind of information when we go on our fieldtrips. Besides actually immersing ourselves into the given location on Second Life, we can form questions for questionnaires and evaluate truthfulness and authenticity. Being a part of the ways that people come together over the internet will help us understand its culture.

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