Online Research in the Age of Covid-19
Updated: Feb 11, 2021
THE OVERALL AIM OF THIS WORKSHOP IS TO EXPLORE AND DISCUSS THE CONSEQUENCES OF FORCEDLY RESORTING TO ONLINE FORMS AND METHODS OF DOING ETHNOGRAPHY. WE SHALL OF COURSE DISCUSS ONLINE ETHNOGRAPHIC METHODS IN GENERAL, BUT THE FOCUS WILL BE ON POSSIBLE ALTERNATIVES AND ITS CONSEQUENCES. THE SEMINAR WAS REQUESTED BY A NUMBER OF EARLY STAGE RESEARCHERS. THIS INFORMATION SHEET IS BASED ON THEIR SUGGESTIONS. THE COORDINATING TEAM HAS INVITED FOUR EXPERTS TO GIVE A SHORT INTRODUCTION, FOLLOWED BY TWO Q&A AND DISCUSSION SESSIONS.
MIDA Coordinating Team
Dr. Jens Heibach (German Institute for Global and Area Studies)
Prof. Dr. Thijl Sunier (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)
Prof. Dr. Gerard Wiegers (University of Amsterdam)
Professor Annette Markham is co-director of the Digital Ethnography Research Center, at the RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia. She is also professor (on leave) of Information Studies & Digital Design, at Aarhus University, Denmark. She is well known for her work on innovative methodologies and ethics for digital research.
Dr. Marleen de Witte is an anthropologist who conducted research among Pentecostals in Ghana and Ghanaian people in the Netherlands, in particular about the use of modern media. She also conducted interdisciplinary research among Afro-Dutch youth in Amsterdam about how Afro-aesthetics are appropriated or contested in everyday practices of self-styling.
Dr. Martijn de Koning is an anthropologist and an expert on Salafism. He has done extensive research on Muslim youth in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe in which the use of digital social media was not only a research tool, but also a focus for research. Currently he is working on Islamophobia and the racialisation of Muslims.
Muhammad Khamaiseh is a journalist and media researcher. He holds an MA in Media and Cultural Studies, BA in Journalism, and works as an editor at the Department of Media Initiatives at the Al Jazeera Media Institute. He has written several studies analyzing media coverage and its ethics. He is also the general supervisor of the Al Jazeera Fellowship Program, which specializes in producing research on journalism. He is a member of the editorial team of the ‘Al Jazeera Journalism Review’, and the editor of ‘Al Jazeera Stories’ platform.
Although the seminar has a practical aim in the first place, we will also focus on more fundamental issues regarding epistemology and method. Each of the four experts will bring in their specific knowledge and experience. There are three broad themes to be addressed:
1. Practical challenges in the age of COVID-19
Locating the field
How to define the field in an online context?
How to define a research group/population if they are not homogeneous by traditional categories (e.g., nationality)
Accessing the field
How to present yourself in an online environment?
The “question” of the researcher's personal profile on social media: is it advisable to create a professional account separated from the personal one? What implications does this have on online field research?
How to access the field and find informants in an online context?
COVID-19 situation: How to build a trust-based relationship if it is impossible to have offline contact with interlocutors?
Collecting/ storing/ protecting data
What are the techniques to collect and process data online? How do they differ from offline ethnography?
How computer engineering and computational analysis can be implied in the data collection process?
How to store/record data from observations online: what formats (screenshots/ video/audio recordings and their ethical considerations) - is this different online?
2. Epistemological and methodological issues
Differences between “online” and “offline”
Is this dichotomy ontologically pertinent and methodologically useful?
The “Online vs offline” controversy
What is the “field” online and can a comparison with the offline field be epistemologically pertinent?
Is it still relevant to talk about immersion in the field when it comes to the online sphere?
Can we define online ethnography as “multi-sited” (Marcus, 1995)?
What is multi-sited ethnography vs patchwork ethnography?
What does it mean to do “participant observation” online?
Is it possible to transfer this practice to online ethnography?
Can classical ethnographic techniques be transferred from the offline to the online sphere?
3. Ethical considerations
Reflection on the ethical aspects of doing anthropology online beyond informed consent: how to conduct online ethnography ethically?
Dealing ethically with the platform-related privacy settings. How to collectively and inclusively settle the boundaries of privacy and private content in online platforms?
9:30 am Welcome & Introduction
9:45-10:45 Presentations (all four in a row, each max 15 min)
10:45-11:00 Short Break
11:00-12:00 Q&A I
12:00-1:00 pm Long Break
1:00-2:00 Q&A II