Ethnographic Approaches to New Media

I myself am not currently doing research on new media, but because I am an active user of new media I keep getting asked for links to contemporary research on the subject. The best place to start is E. Gabriella Coleman’s Annual Review article, “Ethnographic Approaches to New Media.”

This review surveys and divides the ethnographic corpus on digital media into three broad but overlapping categories: the cultural politics of digital media, the vernacular cultures of digital media, and the prosaics of digital media. Engaging these three categories of scholarship on digital media, I consider how ethnographers are exploring the complex relationships between the local practices and global implications of digital media, their materiality and politics, and their banal, as well as profound, presence in cultural life and modes of communication. I consider the way these media have become central to the articulation of cherished beliefs, ritual practices, and modes of being in the world; the fact that digital media culturally matters is undeniable but showing how, where, and why it matters is necessary to push against peculiarly narrow presumptions about the universality of digital experience.

Beyond that, there are also two excellent and up-to-date online bibliographies: Max Forte’s Cyberspace Ethnography, and danah boyd’s Bibliography of Research on Social Network SitesFeel free to post additional resources in the comments.