Digital ethnography as a flat methodology: comparing hybrid and online media research

Dr John Postill, Digital Ethnography Research Centre, RMIT University, Melbourne.

Coffee will be served. 


In this talk I draw from two decades practising digital ethnography in the UK, Malaysia, Indonesia, Spain, and Australia to assess the strengths and limitations of this approach for the study of media, with social movement research as my example. I start with a critical overview of digital ethnography as an open-ended, fuzzy, and often misunderstood approach to qualitative research. I then focus on two projects of mine separated by a decade: a hybrid (online/offline) study of Spain’s indignados movement in the early 2010s and an ongoing online study of the anti-woke movement. I argue for the versatility of digital ethnography as a ‘flat methodology’ that does not privilege any prior method. This agnosticism gives media students and scholars a license to do ‘whatever works’ – as long as they can overcome the epistemic and institutional anxieties that often accompany this ‘messy’ way of doing things.