Christine Hine on virtual ethnography’s E3 Internet

Hine, ethnographer-extraordinaire.

Ethnography Matters

christine_hine_thumbnailChristine Hine is an early pioneer of virtual ethnography and has been at the forefront of movements towards redefining ethnography for the digital age. She is currently a Reader at the University of Surrey’s Sociology Department.

Editor’s note: In this post for our Being a student ethnographer series, I talked to Christine Hine about her forthcoming book, ‘Ethnography for the Internet: Embedded, Embodied and Everyday’ due out next year. In this interview, Christine talks about the current phase in virtual ethnographic practice, about what are her latest research interests, and about a framework that she believes can help ethnographers understand how to adapt their practice to suit multi-modal communication environments. 

HF: What do you think are the key challenges that ethnographers face in trying to study the Internet today?

CH: Robinson and Schulz, in their 2009 paper, describe evolving forms of ethnographic practice in response to the Internet…

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10 thoughts on “Christine Hine on virtual ethnography’s E3 Internet

  1. takes me back to psychology research methods classes where after they explain all of the known distortions/cog-biases that make self-reports terribly unreliable they than employ them over and over as their main source of data on peoples’ lives outside of their labs…


  2. same here; but I fear they are being raised sort of like the old “perception versus reality” binary. I guess it worked for Marx … 150 years ago.


  3. I am left to assume that it is tagline (and not throughline). Although, as you noted, it would be phantastic to learn that she would “strike through” a lame phrase like “how do people perceive their own internet use” and instead underscore “what actually happens”


  4. Second, “finding out what people think they’re up to when they’re using the Internet” (almost like a perception/reality divide) is definitely not the same as “finding how the Internet makes sense to people” … but Hines says that ethnography is the tool that will help her learn how the internet makes sense of people, by which, I think she means, ways in which internet protocols, tools, etc. register, prompt, record, channel, etc. human behaviors (or, as she says, people). I think the divide, thus, that she is presenting is “here is what you think you’re doing” and “here is what happens on the technical side” … although, I have a sneaking feeling that I am wrong about that in some important way.


  5. Hines says: “The strapline for what I’m trying to do in much of my research work is “finding out what people think they’re up to when they’re using the Internet”. Ethnography is a really powerful tool for finding how the Internet makes sense to people, as long as we’re willing to adapt and to open it up to all the different dimensions of “making sense”, wherever they might occur.”


  6. I don’t know what a “strapline” is in this context but it seems to me that “finding out what people think they’re up to when they’re using the Internet” is clearly not the same as “finding how the Internet makes sense to people”, is she equating the two or drawing a distinction, any English (not American) speakers of English in the house?


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