Finding alternative voices in the blogosphere using autobiographical ethnography and virtual ethnography in a study on African Caribbean Bloggers

This source preferred by Deborah Gabriel

Authors: Gabriel, D.

Start date: 17 November 2012

In this study, the researcher’s own experience of blogging prior to and throughout the course of the doctoral research project is recognised as an important source of experiential learning in terms of understanding aspects of blogging practice not easily detected through questionnaires and interviews. Meanings are derived through direct engagement in the process of creating, publishing and maintaining a blog; through interactions with other bloggers and reflection on those experiences. Christine Hine (2000) developed virtual ethnography as a tool for conducting research involving interaction with research participants through electronic means of communication. This method is of particular relevance to research on blogging where participating within the blogosphere can help to deepen understanding and produce more enriched research. Stuart Hannabuss (2000) coined the term ‘autobiographical ethnography’ to describe the performative process in which the researcher is not merely the author, but is also an actor in the research process who seeks to derive meaning by reflecting on the experience of conducting research. This paper highlights how autobiographical ethnography and virtual ethnography have been used to contextualise the experience of the researcher as a long-term blogger, to make transparent the process of gathering research data and to demonstrate how these research methods informed the research process. It also reflects critically on some of the challenges these methods posed, such as the complex layers of maintaining dual roles within the research process which poses ethical issues; the issue of subjectivity, the limitations of the data and how these have been addressed.

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