Whatever works: digital ethnography as a flat methodology

On Zoom and in person in the Seminar Room at the OII, 1 St Giles

Abstract: In this talk I draw from twenty years practising digital ethnography in the UK, Malaysia, Indonesia, Spain and Australia to appraise this methodology, with social movement research as the focus. I start with a brief overview of digital ethnography as a fuzzy, free-spirited form of qualitative research. I then compare two projects of mine separated by a decade: a hybrid (online/offline) study of Spain’s indignados movement in the early 2010s and a recently completed online ‘lurking’ study of the anti-woke movement. I argue for the versatility of digital ethnography as a ‘flat methodology’ that need not elevate any one method, not even participant observation. This agnosticism gives researchers a license to do ‘whatever works’ – if they can overcome, that is, the epistemological and institutional anxieties that often go with this seemingly anarchic way of doing things.

Speaker bio: John Postill (PhD Anth, UCL) is an anthropologist who specialises in the study of media, culture and sociopolitical change. At present he teaches at the School of Media and Communication, RMIT University, Melbourne. To date he has carried out fieldwork in Malaysia, Indonesia, Spain and (online) in the Anglosphere. He is the author of numerous publications, including Media and Nation Building (2006), Localizing the Internet (2011), The Rise of Nerd Politics (2018) and The Anthropology of Digital Practices (in press), and coauthor of Digital Ethnography (2015). He is currently writing a book on the globalisation of the online culture wars and a novel titled The School.

Oxford Digital Ethnography Group (OxDEG) seminar, Michaelmas 2023

Mondays of Weeks 2, 4, 6 and 8, 3.30-5pm, online (hybrid in Week 4)

Convened by David Zeitlyn, William Kelly, Rebecca Eynon, Lily Rodell

Learn more and book on the OII website.