An integrative review on online ethnography methods: differentiating theoretical bases, potentialities and limitations



Linha de Pesquisa
Tomada de Decisão, Comportamento e Ética

Thaysa Nascimento, Maribel Carvalho Suarez, Roberta Dias Campos


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Qualitative Market Research, v. 25, n. 4, pp. 492-510. Abstract Purpose: As a result of the advancement of the online environment, several methodological proposals emerged to establish procedures for digital qualitative research. While the various online ethnography methods overlap, they are not equivalent in terms of their theoretical bases, procedures and goals. The purpose of this article is to add clarity to their main differences, depicting specificities, potentialities and limitations of each method. Design/methodology/approach: This conceptual article results from an integrative literature review that brought together studies that proposed, debated or used qualitative research methods in the digital environment. The research focused on the primary indexed journals publishing cultural studies in the past 20 years. Findings: The literature review highlights four methods – virtual ethnography, digital ethnography, netnography and the post-application programming interface ethnography. The integrative literature review adds clarity depicting the main premises and procedures of each method. The present analysis positions the different methods considering two dimensions: the focus on the boundaries of the group/culture investigated, and the focus on the platform agency, affordances and specific dynamics. Originality/value: The article proposes a comparative framework outlining points of convergence and divergence to create a reference for researchers on topics of significance while designing and conducting a research study in a digital environment. This conceptual organization highlights and supports qualitative researchers on their methodological challenges.

Keywords: Qualitative research, Online ethnography, Virtual ethnography, Digital ethnography, Netnography, Post-API ethnography, Integrative literature review.

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