12 December 2012

On Digital Ethnography: mapping as a mode of data discovery

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While digital ethnography is an established field within ethnography, we don’t often hear of ethnographers building digital tools to conduct their fieldwork. Wendy Hsu wants to change that.

In the first of her four-part guest post series on Tricia Wang’s Ethnography Matters, she showed how ethnographers can use software, and even build their own software, to explore online communities.

Part 2 of of Wendy’s Digital Ethnography series focuses on the processing and interpreting part. In fascinating detail, Wendy discusses mapping as a mode of discovery. We learn how using a customized spatial “algorithm that balances point density and readability” can reveal patterns that inform the physical spread of musicians’ fans and friends globally. Geo-location data clarified her qualitative data.

In her next post she will talk about how we can discern patterns and discover new knowledge as take our data into other sensory dimensions such as the sonic. She will also formulate some thoughts regarding the issues around big data (or small data) from the perspective of ethnography.

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