In the search to break down the use of technology in research I came across this interesting piece by Dhiraj Murthy:

Digital Ethnography: An Examination of the Use of New Technologies for Social Research.

Murthy explains that technological advances have deepened ethnographic research at every turn, from recording devices and digital cameras, to large scale internet-driven questionnaires, and the ethnographers would be wise to embrace social media in their research to create a more detail picture of the story they wish to tell the reader.

 “balanced combination of physical and digital ethnography not only gives researchers a larger and more exciting array of methods to tell social stories, but also enables them to demarginalize the voice of respondents in these accounts.” 

Her examination of using blogs and social media websites for research purposes is interesting as we consider using these concepts in our program – how will our student’s use of blogs and social media change our understanding of our class culture and what voices will we hear that may not have been available otherwise?

Murthy’s article has relevance to me as I re-evaluated a study I found last week on harassment. This study was mentioned in a previous post – but want to come back and analyze it with a deeper dive.

“Apparently Being a Self-Obsessed C**t Is Now Academically Lauded”: Experiencing Twitter Trolling of Autoethnographers

This study, authored by Elaine Campbell (an award-wining researcher and law lecturer), involves the use of social media as the data for investigating.  This is digital auto/ethnography.  Her investigation and reporting on the levels of harassment would not have been possible without social media.  It was documented, organized, contained, and available at any point for examination – this would not have been possible had it just been some jerk yelling at her on the street.

After reading Murthy’s outline of how these digital advances affect research, I wonder how much deeper Campbell could have gone to suss out the “trolls” that attacked her.  How would her investigation have changed if she interacted with her attackers or created an avatar and joined in?  I can’t help but wonder if she would be able to moderate their harassment through understanding using a different voice.  As this method of display and resistance may only fuel them further (assuming she publicly displayed this study for the same trolls to see), collecting data on the number of tweets or how each troll account reacted to this new study would be interesting.

While quantitative data would have added to the readers sense of the problem of harassment, doing a quantitative study wasn’t the point of Campbell’s investigation.   Autoethnography may have been the best way to resonate with the reader in this case, as harassment is a very personal and emotive topic – as Campbell states:   “If we do not write about trolling, then it—and our story—remains hidden.

But it would have been interesting to consider adding a quantitative element to this investigation – I would have liked to see data regarding the number of tweets per troll; if the timing of the tweets had a trend; the number of trolls who consistently attacked her; data on the themes of other tweets written by the troll accounts.

 All of this made possible by digital advances…and jerks.


PHOTO: “computer-head” by Emecedé Graphics is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0