Week 3 Blog: Social Research with New Media Technologies

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This article by Murthy (2008) focuses on ethnography and the reluctance of academics to utilise the internet and technological methods of research to gather information and data for analysis.  I agree with Murthy’s conclusion that a combination of digital research methods and traditional, physical ethnography is necessary to achieve a balanced, comprehensive study.

Murthy’s article links with the Warschauer and Grimes (2007) article as it explores how the affordances of Web 2.0, specifically online questionnaires, digital video, social networking sites and blogs, provide amazing potential for ethnographers.  Murthy indicates that offline questionnaires were an ‘extremely costly and labour intensive affair’ (2008, pg 842); however, Web 2.0 allows researchers to easily construct polls and analyse associated data, and users to complete these polls without difficulty. Social networking websites give researchers greater access to suitable respondents and the ability to ‘invisibly observe the social interactions of page members’ (Murthy 2008, pg 845).  Blogs provide a platform for researchers and respondents to engage in communication, and digital video allows researchers to gather video data and to upload and embed videos into their blogs.

The potential that these technologies provide social researchers is great; however, I agree with Murthy that they should be used with caution.  Ethical issues such as lurking (2008, pg 840) and the use of the words of Internet users without their permission (2008, pg 845) must be addressed. In addition, the Internet does not represent an accurate stratification of society – a divide exists due to differences in internet accessibility, disabilities, language barriers and age (2008, pg 848).  This further strengthens the notion that digital and physical ethnography used simultaneously would result in more meaningful social research.

– Katie Challita 3663620

References:

Murthy, Dhiraj 2008, ‘Digital Ethnography: An Examination of the Use of New Technologies for Social Research’, Sociology, vol 42, no 5, pp.837-855.

Warschauer, Mark and Grimes, Douglas (2007) ‘Audience, Authorship and Artefact: The Emergent Semiotics of Web 2.0,’ Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, vol 27, pp. 1-23)

Imaged sourced from http://www.axiom-mr.com/online-surveys/