Private messages from the field: Confessions on digital ethnography and its discomforts
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This special issue collects the confessions of five digital ethnographers laying bare their methodological failures, disciplinary posturing, and ethical dilemmas. The articles are meant to serve as a counseling stations for fellow researchers who are approaching digital media ethnographically. On the one hand, this issue’s contributors acknowledge the rich variety of methodological articulations reflected in the lexicon of “buzzword ethnography”. On the other, they evidence how doing ethnographic research about, on, and through digital media is most often a messy, personal, highly contextual enterprise fraught with anxieties and discomforts. Through the four “private messages from the field” collected in this issue, we acknowledge the messiness, open-endedness and coarseness of ethnographic research in-the-making. In order to do this, and as a precise editorial choice made in order to sidestep the lexical turf wars and branding exercises of ‘how to’ methodological literature, we propose to recuperate two forms of ethnographic writing: Confessional ethnography (Van Maanen 2011) and self-reflection about the dilemmas of ethnographic work (Fine 1993). Laying bare our fieldwork failures, confessing our troubling epistemological choices and sharing our ways of coping with these issues becomes a precious occasion to remind ourselves of how much digital media, and the ways of researching them, are constantly in the making.
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