Sunday, February 26, 2012

shifting ground decisions

Dear Ms. Baym and Ms. Markham

Your article on the new obstacles ethnographers face in researching the internet was a topic that I have only recently started to consider. As a graduating Senior in College, I am currently taking a course that requires the students to do ethnographic research involving the internet, and so I therefore empathized very deeply with a lot of the issues that you raised.

Something I also appreciated was your thoughts on how ethnographers should regard historical methods and works that don't necessarily translate cleanly into the world wide web. I agree wholeheartedly that even though some of these methods may initially only seem applicable in face-to-face environments, that they deserve to be regarded nonetheless due to the fact that they may help in other unforeseen ways. The field of ethnography, as in all fields of research is an ever unfinished tapestry in which people build upon the past, and just because things change or appear to be obsolete does not mean they suddenly have absolutely nothing to contribute. This is a recipe for disaster, ignorance, and a way of repeating mistakes from the past rather than learning from them.

I also found it interesting when you mentioned that the current plight of internet research is that, even when looking to contemporaries, or other ethnographers, it is currently a messy collection of experimentally good and bad methods of research. It seems especially difficult to identify the "flagship" articles or ethnographers who really have conducted some effective methods. However, as mentioned earlier, there is something to be learned even from the poorer research if only to learn and see what methods don't work. Trial and error seems to be the current method, and a working knowledge of the field of ethnography as well as the current internet ethnographers, is more than necessary if one wishes to sew a particularly brilliant patch onto the figurative tapestry.


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