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Ethnography is often employed for gathering empirical data on human societies/cultures. Data collection is often done through participant observation, interviews, questionnaires, and now in the digital era new sensor collecting devices.

Ethnographic studies are holistic, founded on the idea that humans are best understood in the fullest possible context, including: the place where they live, energy consumption, career, customs etc.

Virtual Ethnography & Netnography & Digital Ethnography

This refers to a number of related online research methods that adapt ethnography to the study of the communities and cultures created through computer-mediated social interaction. Prominent among these ethnographic approaches are “virtual ethnography”  and “netnography”.

  • Netnography

The term netnography has gained currency within the field of consumer research to refer to ethnographic research conducted on the Internet. In a netnography, data takes two forms: data that the researcher directly copies from the computer-mediated communications of online community members, and data that the researcher inscribes. Reflective fieldnotes, in which ethnographers record their observations, are a time-tested and recommended method in netnography.

  • Virtual Ethnography
Virtual ethnography involves using a different set of tools for the collection of data from a traditional ethnography. While an anthropological ethnography that occurs “in real life” is conducted to detail the experiences of people in specific cultural milieu, virtual ethnography can utilise a number of computer-based methods of data collection in order to collect the data that can be used in the construction of the ethnographic profile of a community.
  • Digital Ethnography

There has been considerable research on the social aspects of digital communication, online consumption, and the Web as a social phenomenon. Social scientists however, have paid less attention to the opportunities presented by digital technology for understanding the lives of users and consumers.

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