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Netnography: Doing Ethnographic Research Online

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2nd Edition
Robert V Kozinets
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2nd Edition
Robert V Kozinets
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Table of Contents
Acknowledgments vii
About the Author xi
1 Introduction 1
2 Networked Sociality 23
3 Researching Networked Sociality 53
4 Netnography Redefined 79
5 Planning and Preparation 101
6 Ethics 127
7 Data Collection 161
8 Researcher Participation in Data Collection and Creation 177
9 Data Analysis and Interpretation 197
10 Representation 233
11 Humanist Netnography 263
References 279
Index 297
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This book was a labor of love. And there are a lot of other people who love what
they do and love why they do it that I want to thank. Ideas continue to grow, like
children do, and even to sprout off and find their way to play with siblings and
cousins in sister fields. It is immensely gratifying to see that and so, to you, the
Reader, I offer my deep and genuine thanks for taking a chance on this book. I
want to thank you first, because you are the Future of Netnography, if you choose
to read and use and believe in this book.
At Oxford I met Katie Metzler, who ably took over from Patrick Brindle as the
Managing Editor at Sage for this book. Thank you, Katie, for your patience, insights
and support for my vision of this book. It would have been easy to do the same
old thing again, but you understood that was not what netnography required.
The staff and hired professionals at Sage have been very helpful, including Lily
Mehrbod, Ian Antcliff, Chstistine Bitten and Sally Ransom. Among academics,
Maria Xenitidou and Nigel Gilbert were among the first to notice my netno-
graphic work in the UK, and opened the doors to participate and have a presence
at the ESRC in Oxford. Andrew Bengry-Howell reached out to me from across the
Atlantic after that, and along with Rose Wiles, Graham Crow and Melanie Nind
shared ideas and contributed to the development of netnography.
My supervisor, Steve Arnold at Queen’s, who is now retired, was an amazingly
influential force on my thinking and early scholarship. He encouraged me to
go deep into the Internet and technology, and while he was using sophisticated
models to analyse Wal-Mart’s entry into the Canadian market, we semiotically
analysed their flyer advertising and institutional positioning. Eileen Fischer, who
was there for me when I was a PhD student, has been a tirelessly perfect colleague
in every way. John Sherry in Chicago, as my Kellogg mentor, but increasingly
always in his writings, along with Brian Sternthal, Dawn Iacobucci, Alice Tybout,
Greg Carpenter, Angela Lee, Hiroko Osaka, Phil Kotler, and other colleagues were
very supportive of the early netnography ideas,. Henry Jenkins contributed so
much at the beginning and was such an influence through his scholarship. Craig
Thompson, Doug Holt, Eric Arnould and Russ Belk have always been incredibly
helpful to me and helped me to find options and lifelines of various sorts, to
pull myself to shore, and to them I must add Morris Holbrook and Sidney Levy’s
unwavering support, even during my most difficult career phases.
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Ingeborg Kleppe from NHH in Bergen, Norway was one of the earliest colleagues
to start building coursework on a foundation of teaching netnography to under-
graduate and graduate students as part of their explorations of the social and
psychological realities of the social media experience today, and to bring me over
to Bergen to train European scholars in netnography and social media; workshops
from which a number of terrific new researchers, like Mina Askit, Carol Kelleher,
Wolfgang Kotowski and Andrew Whalley, have emerged. Andrea Hemetsberger
was early on board in Innsbruck, as well as Kristine de Valck in Holland. Galit
Nimrod was a pioneer in Israel who invited me to conduct a netnography work-
shop there. Shortly after that, Maribel Suarez and Leticia Casotti in Rio de Janeiro
co-created the first of two Brazilian netnography workshops. Debora Figueredo,
Bernardo Figueredo and Tatiana Tosi have long been ceaseless supporters of net-
nography in Brazil, and on the web. Pablo Sanchez Kohn was an early social media
active adopter in South America. Andreina Mandelli has fostered netnography
education in Italy. Annouk Lievens in Antwerp organized the first Belgian net-
nography workshop. This is just the academic work – industry work will come
in another format. I am certain to leave out far too many people, although in
industry Patti Sunderland, Rita Denny, Patrick Thoburn, Sean Moffitt and Darryl
Silva stand out.
My colleagues in the field of marketing and consumer research have been tre-
mendously supportive and collegial through the years. I feel truly blessed to be
working in a field with scholars that have so much intelligence, heart and soul. It
has been wonderful to see a global network of fellow scholars like Beth Hirschman,
Jonathan Schroeder, Stephen Brown, Pauline Maclaran, Miriam Caterall, Margaret
Hogg, Ed McQuarrie, Simone Pettigrew, Jennifer Sandlin, Hope Schau, Susan
Beckman, Al Muniz, Michelle Nelson, Roy Langer, Cele Otnes, Bernard Cova,
Veronique Cova, Janice Denegri Knott, Douglas Brownlie, Avi Shankar, Robin
Canniford and Paul Hewer become early adopting co-authors or authors, or mid
and late adopters.
There are many new friends in these pages whose works I have enjoyed and am
enjoying, people publishing from outside my immediate field who I have not met
yet, some of whom I lightly chastise, most of whom I gesture at with great respect;
too many individual authors to thank here, but I thank them in the pages of this
book, and I hope that those of us working together in this virtual area will soon
have a chance to meet in person.
Nothing puts people to sleep like an old person. So netnography MUST continue
to benefit from energy infusions by gaining the attention of new young scholars
and continuing netnographic efforts and developments from top-of-their-game
and near-top-of-their-game scholars such as Markus Giesler, Joonas Rokka, Daiane
Scaraboto, Sarah Wilner, Marie-Agnes Parmentier, Pierre-Yann Dolbec, Johann
Füller, Hans Muhlbacher, Henri Weijo, Joel Hietenan, Handan Vicdan, Ece Ilhan,
Richard Kedzior, Fathima Saleem, Mariam Sudyam, Luciana Walthers and Luciana
Velloso. With every passing month, with every conference, brilliant new scholars
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acknowledgments ix
enter the field and develop, and keep the field evolving. As well, Master’s stu-
dents of all kinds, as well as PhD’s in all programmes from around the world are
beginning to tell me the tales of their netnographies. The netnography Word is
spreading. With this edition, netnography will become its own clear set of prac-
tices. MSc students, MBA students, MA students, MFA students. It is for all of us I
write this book.
My Schulich colleagues are endless sources of assistance and inspiration, color-
ing everything I do. Peter Darke, Theo Noseworthy, Marshall Rice, Don Thompson,
Joe Fayt, Ashley Konson, Steve Pulver, Alan Middleton, Aleem Visram, Roz Lin-
Allen, Mark Silver, Kelly Parke, Peter Zak, Bruno Moynie and Jessica Langer enrich
my intellectual life, and life in general. Sheila Sinclair and Vilda Palmer, and also
Maria Rizutto, keep me on track in so many ways.
To Ulli, my constant sounding board and long-distance confidant throughout
the writing of this book: I adore you beyond words.
My mother and father, Anne and Michael Kozinets, and my sister and brother-in-
law, Jennifer and David Rosen, relentlessly supported me through the redefinition
of self that occurred since the last edition was published.
Aaron, Cameron and Brooke: everything I do is for the three of you. You are the
lights of my life.
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About the Author
Robert V. Kozinets is widely recognized as the inventor of netnography, and a
social media marketing and research authority. He has authored and co-authored
over 150 pieces of research, and hundreds more Tweets (@kozinets) and blog posts
(, usually about the intersection of technology, media, brands, meth-
ods, institutions and social groups. This includes four books – three of them Sage
Method books. Currently, Kozinets is Associate Editor of the Journal of Consumer
Research and the Journal of Retailing, an Academic Trustee of the Marketing Science
Institute, and is the Industry seat on the Board of Directors of the Association
for Consumer Research. On the industry side, he has extensive speaking, training
and consulting experience with a range of global companies and organizations,
including HSBC, TD Banking and Financial Group, American Express, Merck,
Sony, Nissan, eBay, Campbell Soup and L’Oréal. He is Professor of Marketing
at York University’s Schulich School of Business, where he is also Chair of the
Marketing department.
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The world with all its riches, life with its astounding achievements, man with the
constant prodigy of his inventive powers, all are organically integrated in one single
growth and one historical process, and all share the same upward progress towards an
era of fulfillment – Tielhard de Chardin, The Divine Milieu (1957: 15)
Billions of individuals joined into networks partake in a complex world that not
only reflects and reveals their lived experiences but is also, itself, a unique social
phenomenon. Netnography can help you to understand that world. It can help
you understand the various contexts that make it possible, the new social forms
it advances, and the old forms it replaces. There are many challenges you will
encounter when undertaking to research the world of online social interaction.
This book offers solutions.
Netnography: Redefined uses social science methods to present a new approach
to conducting ethical and thorough ethnographic research that combines archi-
val and online communications work, participation and observation, with new
forms of digital and network data collection, analysis and research representation.
With this edition, I continue my focus on the practical workbench level, focusing
on how netnography comes together as specific sets of research practices, but I
amplify, specify and extend the overall approaches in light of the rise of social
media, critiques of community and culture, the various tensions between the net-
worked individuals, the proliferation of online ethnographic methods, and the
maturation and spread of netnography. Netnography: Redefined is a discontinuous
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break from the past, a second edition that develops a radical new stance in the
service of clearly differentiating the approach. In order to accomplish this, an
introductory overview chapter is required. First it overviews the changing and
always contested terrain of ethnographic inquiry. Secondly, it surveys the nature
of online social experience and interaction: the phenomenon we wish to study.
• How can we understand human to human and human to machine interactions and
experiences? What is the cultural and social phenomenon manifesting as social media,
and how does it relate to concepts we already know such as networks, communities
and culture?
• What are the research practices that guide, inform and structure netnography? How do
historical precedent, extant theory and adaptive reasoning support them? How do the
applications of these practices lead to cultural understanding?
As we outline and examine notions of online sociality and grapple with some of
its vexing and important issues, it becomes apparent that simply opening a mobile
phone and typing in some search terms is not, in itself, netnography. Netnography
is, instead, specific sets of research positions and accompanying practices embedded
in historical trajectories, webs of theoretical constructs, and networks of scholarship
and citation; it is a particular performance of cultural research followed by specific
kinds of representation of understanding. Thus, as a methodological primer, and
not simply a book on method, this book must traverse and map some craggily shift-
ing terrain, namely, the evolving, novel and challenging developments surrounding
ethnography, technology research and social media.
In the former edition of the book, social media and online communities were
still a bit of a novelty. Currently, with Facebook’s active monthly users numbering
over 1.3 billion, and social media and the Internet already widely recognized for
changing politics, business and social life, there is little to be gained in belabour-
ing the point that the study of social media is widespread, important and worthy
of research attention.1 However, because of its timing, the former book misses
much that is currently of operational interest to ethnographic Internet research-
ers, such as direct applications of netnography to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
and Pinterest, and examples of successful tactics for doing so.
Applications and publications that use netnography are burgeoning across fields
as diverse as Geography, Sociology, Media Studies, Travel and Tourism, Sexuality
and Gender Research, Nursing, Addiction Research, Game Studies and Education.
In the field of library and information studies, for example, Sally Burford and Sora
Park used netnography to study how mobile tablet devices and their apps change
young adults’ access to information (Burford and Park, 2014). In the field of food
sociology, Cronin and colleagues (2014) used netnography to examine discussions
of overconsumption of food and alcohol and to then illustrate and develop a the-
ory of their ‘carnivalesque’ qualities. Contributing to the language studies field,
Sultana and colleagues (2014) used a netnography of Facebook groups to study
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the use of the ‘linguistic, social and cultural practices’ of young Bangladeshi and
Mongolian adults. In economic geography, Grabher and Ibert (2014) used their
netnographic study of online hybrid professional–hobbyist communities to con-
clude that the physical ‘distance’ in these communities should not be considered
a deficiency, but rather an asset that helped them to collaboratively learn in ways
different from face-to-face learning.
Across academic fields, netnography has been found immensely useful to
reveal interaction styles, personal narratives, communal exchanges, online rules,
practices, and rituals, discursive styles, innovative forms of collaboration and
organization, and manifestations of creativity. This book captures the waves of
exciting new social media research appearing across almost every academic field
since the publication of that first edition. At the time of the last book, most of
which was written in early 2009, there were few examples of the diverse forms that
netnography was beginning to take, and the book contained very little systematic
discussion of the various methodological and operational choices made by eth-
nographers seeking to use online archives and Internet communications as their
main field site. This is remedied by the book’s current edition.
University of Amsterdam professor Richard Rogers (2009) traces the trajectory of
Internet research and attempts to distinguish between digital and virtual methods,
largely concluding that appropriate or superior digital methods should be native
to the digital environment, and use such affordances as crowdsourcing and social
network analysis, rather than trying to adapt extant ‘offline’ techniques to the dig-
ital environment ‘online’ (see also Caliandro, 2014; Marres, 2012; Wesch, 2009).
The idea that blind application of extant techniques to online social interactions
will not work has been a founding principle of netnography, which explicitly seeks
intelligent adaptation. However, intelligent adaptation means considering all
options and not simply throwing out past approaches because they have already
been done. Even in revolutionary times, and perhaps especially in revolution-
ary times, history and continuity are important to the making of wise decisions.
In this edition, netnography remains rooted to core ethnographic principles of
participant-observations while also seeking to selectively and systematically
incorporate digital approaches such as social network analysis, data science and
analytics, visualization methods, social media research presence and videography.
The current edition of this book seeks to provide a text that:
• Engages with, describes and illustrates netnography that uses the different social
media sites and forms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and others
• Offers various up-to-date examples of successfully conducted and published netnog-
raphies across a variety of academic fields, including Library and Information Studies,
Education, Nursing, Media and Cultural Studies, Anthropology, Sociology, Game Studies,
Tourism and Travel, Urban Studies and Geography
• Grapples with sophisticated anthropological critiques of ethnography and provides sug-
gestions for an evolution of its approach
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• Develops and promotes a nuanced view of the online social interaction that is aligned
with current cultural and social theory
• Gives particulars regarding the different choices of netnographic form and focus,
including other forms of online ethnography, that are available to researchers
Research is, at root, a set of practices. Boil a flask over a burner. Inject a substance
into a vein. Write up a study with many impressive equations, tables and statisti-
cal analyses. Read a paper at a conference. Each recognized, legitimate particular
form of research has clear affiliations, roots and sets of practices. If we do not
know the affiliations, roots and sets of practices that govern a significantly differ-
ent research approach, then we leave it up to individual authors to, so to speak,
‘reinvent the method’ every time they use it, and to claim (or have claimed for
them) a uniqueness of their findings making them difficult to generalize because
of their lack of specification. Uniform adherence to a standard set of practices sim-
plifies communications, or at least helps to aggregate common knowledge so that
the wheel of method turns smoothly even as it is – inevitably – being reinvented.
A set of postings on my blog debated the necessity of a separate term for ethno -
graphy conducted online. The debate benefitted from the insights of a number of
commenters, especially those of Jerry Lombardi, an applied anthropologist with
considerable marketing research experience. Although Jerry initially questioned
the need for yet another neologism, eventually he wrote that:
the worlds of research and intellectual innovation are strewn with neologisms that
might’ve sounded odd or wrong when brand-new: cybernetics, psycholinguistics, soft-
ware. So yes, new mappings of reality sometimes call for new names, and sometimes
the names take a while to settle in.
We must consider, then, whether online sociality is different enough from its embod-
ied variants to warrant a ‘new mapping of reality’. Is online ethnography – whether
we call it by this more generic term or by more specific terms such as virtual ethnog-
raphy, digital ethnography, web ethnography, mobile ethnography, smartphone eth-
nography, or ICT ethnography – actually, significantly, different from other methods
or from anthropology conducted face-to-face? In practice, the proliferating set of
terms and practices is itself evidence that new adaptations are needed to differentiate
online ethnography from its face-to-face predecessor.
In fact, online access to vast amounts of archived social interactions along-
side live access to the human beings posting it entirely changes the practice of
ethnography and, in fact, all of the social sciences. Into this vast and evolving
ecosystem of social and individual data and captured and emergent communica-
tions, netnography is positioned somewhere between the vast searchlights of big
data analysis and the close readings of discourse analysis. At times, it is more like
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a treasure hunt for rare marine species than a standard fishing trip or an activity
like trawling the sea. Actual netnographic data itself can be rich or very thin, pro-
tected or given freely. It can be produced by a person or by a group, or co-produced
with machines, software agents and bots. It can be generated through interactions
between a real person and a researcher, or be sitting in digital archives. It can be
highly interactive, like a conversation. Or it can be more like reading the diary of
an individual. It can be polished like a corporately created production, or raw and
crude, full of obscenities and spelling errors.
In addition, netnographic researchers are not dealing merely with words, but
with images, drawings, photography, sound files, edited audiovisual presentations,
website creations and other digital artifacts. Netnography provides participative
guidelines, including an advocacy of the research web-page, the inclusion of
Skype interviews, and in-person participative fieldwork, in order to migrate the
refined perceptivity of ethnography to online media. With methodological rigour,
care and humility, netnography becomes a dance of possibilities for human under-
standing in social technological interaction. It requires interpretation of human
communications under realistic contexts, in situ, in native conditions of interac-
tion, when those human communications are shaped by new technologies.
When an approach is significantly different from existing approaches, it gains a
new name and becomes, in effect, a discipline, field or school in itself. There are
very few, if any, specific, procedural guidelines to take a researcher through the
steps necessary to conduct and present an ethnography using social media data,
attending to the scrupulous preservation of a humanist perspective on online
interaction.2 With its first presentation in 1996, netnography is certainly one of
the first. With this book, I aim to make it the most lucid, defensible, differentiated
and supportable.
Consider the system of academic research and publication. When undertaking
a research project in an academic setting, such as research funded with grants, or
masters or PhD dissertations, it is customary for the researcher to provide propos-
als for the research that reference commonly accepted procedures and standards.
Further, institutional review board or human subjects research review committees
must be informed of research approaches and their utilization of reputably ethical
methods. On the publication side, which is what makes the academic world go
round, it greatly helps to have clear standards and statements so that editors and
reviewers will know what to look for in the evaluation of such research. If the
method is reputable, then the reviewers and editors can concentrate on the utility
and novelty of the theoretical findings.
These are the multiple roles played by methodological standards in the con-
duct of normal science: they assist with evaluation at the proposal, ethics review
and publication evaluation stages. Standards and procedures are set and, as terms
regarding them fall into common usage, these standards make evaluation and
understanding clearer. Social scientists build an approach that, while maintaining
the inherent flexibility and adaptability of ethnography, also has a similar sense
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of procedural tradition and standards of quality. Although experimentation and
critique is welcome and useful, the consistency of ‘methodological rigour’ benefits
scholarship, providing clarity, better theory-construction, minimizing heedless
replication and, in the end, generating greater recognition and increased opportu-
nities for all scholars working in the area.3
For an interesting overview and assessment of netnography and its adoption as
a methodological innovation in the social science, I recommend Bengry-Howell
et al.’s (2011) NCRM Hub research report (see also Xenotidou and Gilbert, 2009;
Wiles et al., 2013). In particular, I draw on one poignant critique of netnography
contained in Wiles et al. (2013: 27; see also, among others, related critiques by
Caliandro, 2014; Rokka, 2010; Weijo et al., 2014): ‘What I can’t see from where I’m
standing is a very distinctive perspective that makes netnography different from
Hine’s virtual ethnography or different from the kind of work that lots of people
are doing …’ This is an important critique, and I believe that it emanates from two
aspects of my past writing. First, the fact that the social media field has grown,
and online or digital ethnography methods have proliferated, including virtual
ethnography. Second, that netnography has been cast more at a ‘workbench’ and
‘how-to’ level which insufficiently discussed and developed its epistemology. With
the next section of this chapter, I seek to begin to ameliorate this deficiency by
discussing recent discussion and developments in anthropology and considering
how they must impact and alter the conception and practice of netnography.
What exactly does netnography study? Traditionally, anthropologists and sociolo-
gists studied culture and community. Thus, these constructs would seem the most
worthwhile foci for netnographic investigations. Indeed, my writing on netnogra-
phy has consistently focused on constructs of online community and online cul-
ture, or ‘cyberculture’ (e.g., Kozinets, 1997, 1998, 2002a, 2010). However, with this
edition that focus changes. Culture and community have become increasingly
unstable concepts in anthropology. They are particularly unstable, as we shall see
in this chapter, when used to reference online social phenomena. To develop a
more subtle sophisticated foundation to guide netnographic practice, we begin
with the nuances of destabilized (online) culture and community. Summarizing
historical notions of online culture and community, this section problematizes
these two concepts prior to a more in-depth examination of the core concepts of
culture and community in the section following.
How did notions of community and culture appear historically in relation to
computer and networked computing? In the 1950s, when the main image of a com-
puter was a centralized corporate or government mainframe, many descriptions of
computers compared them to giant brains. Later, as computers became smaller
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and more ‘personal’, entered people’s homes, and were connected together into
networks, the guiding metaphor for this construction was ‘the information super-
highway’. The term dates to at least 1988 and, if former American Vice-President Al
Gore is to be believed, to 1979. In an intriguing book on the archetypes, myths and
metaphors of the early Internet, Mark Stefik (1996) presents four then-prevalent
metaphors of the information superhighway:
1. Online Library: a repository for publishing and storing collective knowledge, a form of
communal or collective memory
2. Digital Communications Medium: a place for email and, eventually, many other forms of
3. Electronic Marketplace: a location for transactions of goods and services, including digi-
tal commerce, digital money and digital property
4. Digital World: a gateway to new experiences, including new social settings, virtual and
augmented reality, telepresence and ubiquitous computing
Even in this early work, positioned in the same year I introduced netnography
to the scientific community, we can clearly distinguish the different communi-
cative modalities and possibilities offered by the Internet. There is a discernible
‘Tale of the Internet’ that proceeds through the four stages as follows. Early in its
development, during the ‘Dark Age’ of computing, the creaky early computer peer
network period that has sometimes been called ‘Web 1.0’ was born. With Web 1.0,
the online experience was often (but not always) more like the reading of a book
than the sharing of a conversation. Hence, the online library metaphor is still a
powerful one. With major web-pages, online archives, and a vast majority of social
media ‘participants’ simply reading or ‘lurking’ we could argue that the Internet
retains much of this ‘read-only’ quality. Indeed, much of the big data stream now
is rather unintentional: the never-really-random clicks and searches of everyone’s
everyday life. To be human today is to make approximately one hundred and sev-
enteen discrete choices on our devices every day – more or less.
The plot thickens as we are slyly told that the Internet has evolved some-
how. It has become much more than this. Some time around 2004 or maybe
2003 the so-called ‘Web 2.0’ revolution began to occur. The Internet forever
after became based upon a backbone of software that increasingly enabled and
empowered people to use the technology to interconnect in seemingly grass-
roots ways. This enabled a type of online consumer choice, one that was driven
in a person-to-person manner. All sorts of new styles and modes of interconnec-
tion blossomed as a result, including ones which facilitated new relationships
(think eHarmony and online dating, TripAdvisor and hotel recommendations)
as well as ones which helped manage existing and older relationships (think
social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn for existing personal and
business contacts).
Of course, relationship-management notions have been a part of Internet and
World Wide Web lore almost since its inception. Interconnection between people
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in a decentralized manner was the idea of Arpanet in the first place, and certainly a
part of the Web that had long been emphasized by Tim Berners-Lee (the Web’s cre-
ator), David Weinberger (co-author of the Cluetrain Manifesto), John Perry Barlow,
the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other thoughtful Internet influentials and
organizations. In fact, I used the Compuserve and Prodigy networks in the late
1980s and self-organizing groups such as fan and creative writing communities
were easy to find. These networks allowed you to make contact with new people
who shared your interests, and to start new groups at will. Even at that time, one
did not need to know computer programming to join a group or start one. All one
needed was to learn a few easy commands.
Whether we call the resulting sites social media, communications forums, mar-
ketplaces or virtual worlds, the guiding metaphor and concept for quite some time
has been the community. The use of the term seems likely to have originated in
1978, when a husband and wife team, computer scientist and programmer Murray
Turof and sociologist Roxanne Starr Hiltz, wrote one of the earliest books about how
people were beginning to use computer networks (or ‘computer conferencing’) to
socialize, congregate and organize. Published 12 years before both the invention
of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee, The Network Nation (Hiltz and Turoff
1978) clearly predicted a world where social media were commonplace, and even
ubiquitous. Clearly, the web was social from its beginnings.
As the Internet grew through the 1980s and early 1990s, a prevalent form
of communication was the so-called ‘community’ forum, usually manifest as
an interest or location-based bulletin board that assembled multiple attributed
textual posts, and contained different, but centrally related, topical threads and
active discussions. It was in this era of the community forum that Internet pio-
neer Howard Rheingold (1993: 5) continued the work of Hiltz and Turoff (1978),
defining virtual communities as ‘social aggregations that emerge from the net
when enough people carry on … public discussions long enough, with sufficient
human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace’. Based on
his observations of online interest-based forums, support groups and role-play-
ing games, Rheingold noted that people in online communities ‘exchange
pleasantries and argue, engage in intellectual discourse, conduct commerce,
exchange knowledge, share emotional support, make plans, brainstorm, gossip,
feud, fall in love, find friends and lose them, play games, flirt, create a little high
art and a lot of idle talk’ (1993: 3). And Rheingold was right. People in those
forums did indeed seem to be enjoying the support and camaraderie we usu-
ally associate with in-the-flesh communities like neighbourhoods and religious
groupings. However, the types of emotional depth and interconnection were
not evenly distributed. His book depicts a range of forms and depths of human
social interconnection. The use of the word community is highly significant.
For as soon as we use this word, we find its critiques. Some of those critiques are
now so substantial that they force a significant redefinition and reconfiguration
of netnography.
01_Kozinets_Ch-01.indd 8 3/11/2015 6:15:38 PM
Culture, Community and its Critics
Contested and Shifting Notions
How are we to understand notions of community and culture in the context of
netnographic research practice? In the field of anthropology, the questioning of
the underlying notions of stable community and culture which begun strongly
and in earnest in the crisis of representation in the 1980s (see, for example, Clifford
and Marcus, 1986), continues. Vered Amit and Nigel Rapport’s (2002) The Trouble
with Community interrogates ‘the ethnographic enterprise and its ethnographic
subjects’ when they are ‘no longer fixed conveniently in singular places’ (Amit
and Rapport, 2002: 1). As they explain, the notion of collectivity or community
has long served as an anchor for sociological and anthropological research. Where
location is unspecific, as in transnational or multi-sited cultures, then collective
identities, including nation, ethnicity, occupation or political movement have
been conveniently invoked.
Poet, novelist and anthropologist Michael Jackson (1998: 166) relates his
encounter with self-styled Australian historian Frank Ropert whose dismissive and
ridiculous accounts of Aborigine history were intended to demonstrate how they
had ‘lost their tradition culture’. However, Jackson (ibid.,) uses the incident to
demonstrate how the notion of culture is ‘frequently invoked as an essentialized
and divisive notion … [which] militates against the recognition of the humanity
we share, and the human rights to which we have a common entitlement.’ The
meaning of aboriginal culture and aboriginal identity is no more uniform, mono-
lithic, fixed or stable in time than that of, say, British identity. It would be absurd
to say that British people had ‘lost their traditional culture’ because they did not
speak, believe and behave the same as British people did 400 years ago on that
same territory. The salience, for example, of my status as a Canadian, a professor,
a Game of Thrones fan is not a constant, permanent, nor a central aspect of many
of my social dealings in person, but one which shifts and is fluid. This is even less
the case when I am projecting my identity through the misty, ever-shifting image-
ethers of the Internet. Yet, like Frank Ropert, some scholars still seek cultural and
communal constancy even as many of the processes they study – of dislocation,
displacement, alienation, plurality, hybridization, disjunction, compartmentaliza-
tion, escape and transgression – continually toss its possibility into doubt. We
must be cautious not to assume as fixed and permanent those identities and inter-
connections we observe in temporary, perhaps even transitional, form.
Similar critiques can and should be levelled at ‘mechanistic, social-structural
notions of culture and society as organically functioning and evolving wholes’
(Amit and Rapport, 2002: 108). Michael Jackson (1998: 16) reminds us
That which we designate ‘culture’ … is simply the repertoire of psychic patterns and
possibilities that generally have been implemented, foregrounded, or given legitimacy
in a particular place at a particular point in time. But human culture, like consciousness
01_Kozinets_Ch-01.indd 9 3/11/2015 6:15:38 PM
itself, rests on a shadowy and dissolving floe of blue ice, and this subliminal, habitual,
repressed, unexpressed, and silent mass shapes and reshapes, stabilizes and destabi-
lized the visible surface forms.
We should not underestimate the fluidity and instability of the human social
realm. Culture adapts quickly to technologies and becomes technoculture perhaps
because it is always in liquid motion, transforming and transformative. When
studying online interaction, we surely wish to identify clear cultural categories
such as nationalities, ethnicities, localisms, religiosities and occupational iden-
tities. However, we must strive to view them less as solid states of being than
as liquid interactional elements that individual members bring to life as mental
meanings. Rather than manifesting steadfast conditions of constancy, stability,
functionality, reliability, timelessness, emergence and boundary, the processes at
work in this post-structural and post-functionalist conception of culture are more
about multiplicity, contradiction, randomness and unpredictability. Such a con-
ception reminds us that there are degrees to which individuals choose their cul-
tural identifications and opt to act as its standard-bearers and members. Cultures,
on the other hand, do not own or have rights over their individuals or members.
Joonas Rokka (2010), building on his work with Johanna Moisander (Rokka and
Moisander, 2009), conceptualizes online communities as new ‘translocal sites of
the social … i.e. not global or local but as contexts which are both transnational
and local’ (Rokka, 2010: 382) and calls for more analytic attention from netno-
graphies, particularly by paying close attention to ‘cultural practices’. With radical,
but translocally resonant, implications for Durkheimian sociology and our under-
standing and use of the concept, practice-based analyses such as the one Rokka
(2010) recommends can help us to move further in the direction of realizing the
extents and ways in which culture is adopted rather than ascribed.
Society and culture can no longer be conceptualized in fundamentalist fashion.
The realist tellings of ethnographic tales are outdated (Van Maanen, 1988). No lon-
ger can cultures be represented as reified, holistic, discrete, internally integrated
and ontologically secure things-in-themselves. Instead, they must be portrayed
fluid processes, liquid Baumanite identities (Bauman, 2003), Appadurian transna-
tional flows of complex translocal scapes (Appadurai, 1990). They are animated,
borne, maintained, mutated, dispersed and transformed by individual conscious-
nesses. Although cultures and communities may be represented by members as
homogenous, monolithic, and thus a priori this is, as Benedict Anderson (1983)
reminds us, only an ‘imagining’. It is idiom.
Interacting human beings are neither gigantic social machines nor vast evolving
organisms, but symbolic constructions that assume different patterned forms depend-
ing upon which method we choose to use to study them. Cultures and communities
are ‘worlds of meaning’ that exist purely because of their continued adoption and use
‘in the minds of their members’ (Cohen, 1985: 82). Individuals, with all their multi-
plicity, heterogeneity and unpredictability, come before cultures and communities,
01_Kozinets_Ch-01.indd 10 3/11/2015 6:15:38 PM
ontologically and morally. The traditions, customs, rituals, values and institutions
of cultural communities all depend upon ‘the contractual adherence of interact-
ing individuals’ for their continuation, meaningfulness, maintenance and value.
Adopting this perspective, we might see that any given cultural community exists as
an ‘assemblage of individual life-projects and trajectories in momentary construction
of common ground’ (Amit and Rapport, 2002: 111). This more fluid perspective on
online culture and community leads almost effortlessly to the notion of consocial
identity and interaction.
Consocial Identities and Interactions
Rather than the tight bonds of community, an important form of contact guiding
human relations in contemporary society seems to be consociation. We can think
of consociation as a commonplace, largely instrumental, and often incidental form
of association, one that we often take for granted because it has become so natural.
It revolves around incidents, events, activities, places, rituals, acts, circumstances
and people. For example, we might socialize with the people we are sitting next to
at a play or a concert, because the context creates conditions for this type of tem-
porary, bounded, yet affable relationship. We are consocial with most of the people
we work with, with other students, with other conference or trade show or festival
goers, with many of our neighbours, with our parent’s friends and their kids, with
the parents of children at our children’s schools, and so on (see Dyck, 2002). Some
may become close friends, of course. Some may join with us in groups of lasting
relations. These close relationships and lasting relationships are not consocial, but
social. But in many cases, as with neighbours and workmates, we see these people
repeatedly but are unlikely to feel that they are close or important to us in a way
that extends very far beyond the place- or event-based and ephemeral relationship.
Although these relationships can be important and meaningful in the moment,
they are entirely contingent upon our continued involvement in a particular asso-
ciation or activity. When we get up from our seats at the play, we may say good-
bye, but we do not exchange phone numbers. When we change jobs or move, the
friendly relationship with the co-worker or neighbour dissolves. Perhaps it only
appears through Facebook. It remains dormant until an occasion occurs when we
again need the person for one reason or another.
The ties that bind consociality are thus friendly, but not particularly strong.
Consociality is conceptualized ‘first and foremost by reference to what is held in
common by members rather than in oppositional categories between insiders and
outsiders’ (Amit and Rapport, 2002: 59). Consociality is about ‘what we share’, a
contextual fellowship, rather than ‘who we are’, an ascribed identity boundary
such as race, religion, ethnicity or gender. The two forms are distinct and, even
though one can shade or lead into the other, we should be careful not to system-
atically confound them. Applied to online social spaces, we might use this notion
01_Kozinets_Ch-01.indd 11 3/11/2015 6:15:38 PM
of consociality to wonder if the widely used terms ‘online community’ and ‘virtual
community’ are, indeed, strong examples of this conflation of ascribed and achieved
communal identity. Simply because one registers as a ‘member’ and then posts to an
online group, seeking a particular kind of interaction, does this then mean that one
becomes a ‘member’ of that ‘community’ online? Not, it seems, in any way similar
to that of communities such as those based upon race, religion, ethnicity or gender.
A Netnographic View of Ascribed Culture and Community
In summary, this critique of culture and community suggests that collective enti-
ties such as community and culture are considerably less stable than some prior
theory makes them out to be. Instead of more fixed and permanent communal
identifications, more consocial forms of contact may occur, perhaps prevalently.
Consociality eschews notions of inside-outside boundaries in favour of an empha-
sis on what is shared between people. Similarly, in a world of flowing cultural
scapes transfigured by translocal qualities (Appadurai, 1990), cultural categories
such as religion and ethnicity must be considered to be more fluid, multiple and
unpredictable than ever before. In fact, this liquidity of culture and interaction
may be one of the most defining elements of our time. Hastened by technol-
ogy and the exigencies of capitalism, dividing and connecting people from each
other, people are liberated from ascribed culture and community. As Sasha Baron
Cohen’s ridiculous comic figure of Ali G suggests, being black is now a matter of
individual choice. It appears that this freedom to choose even such hardwired
identities as race and gender is even more flexible on the Internet.
Relatedly, and drawing on Paul Ricoeur (1996), Amit and Rapport (2002: 116)
suggest that we reconceptualize ethnography as a setting for responsibly recon-
structing, representing and recounting entangled individual stories. We would do
this by a ‘respectful exchange of life narratives’, a ‘genuine labour of “narrative
hospitality”’ in which we write ‘existential narratives – rich in subjectivities and
interpersonal relations’ (Amit and Rapport. 2002: 116). The outcome would be
ethnography – and netnography – that portrays individuals who are free to choose
a range of identities and subject positions doing just that. Emphasizing agentic
identity over social structure, Amit and Rapport (2002: 117) counsel us to write
about these individuals as free to believe in, adopt, evangelize, disbelieve in, func-
tion ironically within, and drop all sorts of communal, cultural and consocial
identities and relationships.
What are the research implications of this view of culture and community as
achieved, rather than ascribed? In the first place, it becomes incumbent upon
netnographers and all other cultural researchers to analyse attachment to a com-
munity or adherence to cultural norms as, at least to some extent, a matter of
individual choice rather than necessity or duty. The existence of communities,
online or otherwise, should be treated analytically as an expression of an ongoing
01_Kozinets_Ch-01.indd 12 3/11/2015 6:15:38 PM
negotiation between individuals. Online cultural and community identities are
adopted by people, sometimes temporarily, and often to varying extents. Can it be
entirely acceptable to assume that someone who posts on YouTube is also partak-
ing in YouTube ‘culture’ or is a member of the YouTube ‘community’ and shares
some sense of common ‘identity’? To do so stretches the limits not only of the
terms, but also strains the credibility of the netnographer. We can see the practice
of YouTube posting as significant, surely. We can analyse the content of the post-
ing, its relation with other posts, attendant ‘minding’ behaviour such as tagging,
offering keywords, linking and replying to others’ YouTube comments and posts.
But it would be questionable to assume that this set of behaviours says anything
more about the poster’s lasting identity or loyalties unless we found further evi-
dence of this in connected research.
Relatedly, anthropologist Roy Wagner (2001) charts an ‘anthropology of the
subject’ that uses the holographic worldview and perspectives of Melanesians to
explore the relationship between the part and whole, intersubjective relationships
in general and the anthropological and ethnographic endeavour as a whole. Among
his core ideas are that anthropologists do not learn from culture members, but teach
themselves to these members, that meaning is ‘an insidious mental contagion’ and
that ‘artificial reality is nearer to life than life itself’ (Wagner, 2001: xiii–xiv). We
will pick up a number of these important themes as we traverse the methodological
development and upgrading of netnography in Chapters 2 and 3.
In a relevant article, Henri Weijo and colleagues (2014) note that my methodo-
logical development of netnography has had to increasingly acknowledge the
fragmentation, proliferation and delocalization of online communities. They find
a situated individualism and delocalized performances that benefit from a netno-
graphic attention to introspection and re-emphasize the importance of researcher
participation and reflexivity. These comments are astutely on target. With a more
firm sense of what we are observing when we observe online social experience, we
can then proceed to a more macroscopic view of Internet use and online social
behaviour, beginning with global figures.
Behold the Online Human
Almost 3 billion people around the world currently crank the handle daily on
some kind of Internet box in their homes, whether via a laptop, desktop, or mobile
device.4 In 1995, that number was less than 15 million. This is, without a doubt,
the single most important, rapid change in communications, learning and inter-
connection in human history. It is leading to some of the most tribal and primitive
acts in our history, alongside some of the most utopian and militarily advanced.
The Internet’s interpersonal interconnections are an amplification of everything,
a self-and-other reflecting reflection that ramifies through the rapid infiltration of
the world into boxes in everyone’s homes, purses, cases and pockets.
01_Kozinets_Ch-01.indd 13 3/11/2015 6:15:38 PM
As Table 1.1 shows, as of 2014, over 68% of the population in Europe, over 67%
of Oceania, and almost 85% of North Americans are home Internet users. In Asia,
there are over 1.2 billion users. Although about 60% of the world’s population
do not have home Internet access, this number is skewed by the large numbers
of people in Africa and Asia without such access, many of whom are likely to not
currently have infrastructure that can support such activity. Yet, for much of the
world, the Internet and social media have fully arrived. Excluding (for calculation
purposes only) the almost five billion people in Africa and Asia, the total number
of people in the Middle East, Latin America, North America, Oceania and Europe
combined who are not connected to the Internet sinks to only 37%. Yet it is also
important to remember that Asian users currently account for almost half of all
Internet users worldwide, about 49%. And although the number of non-English
websites is spreading rapidly, with Chinese, Spanish and Japanese the three next
most commonly used tongues, about 55% of the most visited websites across the
entire Internet still use the English language.
The Pew Internet Report, which surveys United States’ citizens about their
Internet usage, has repeatedly found Internet use to be strongly correlated with
age, education attainment and household income. Although only 15% of United
States’ adults do not use the Internet or email, it is clear that those who use the
Internet tend to be younger, more educated, and to have higher household income
Table 1.1
The Internet Big Picture
World Internet Users and Population Stats
December 31, 2013
World Regions
(2014 Est.)
Internet Users
Dec. 31, 2000
Internet Users
Latest Data
(% Population)
Users %
of Table
Africa 1,125,721,038 4,514,400 240,146,482 21.3% 5,219.6% 8.6%
Asia 3,996,408,007 114,304,000 1,265,143,702 31.7% 1,006.8% 45.1%
Europe 825,802,657 105,096,093 566,261,317 68.6% 438.8% 20.2%
Middle East 231,062,860 3,284,800 103,829,614 44.9% 3,060.9% 3.7%
North America 353,860,227 108,096,800 300,287,577 84.9% 177.8% 10.7%
Latin America/
612,279,181 18,068,919 302,006,016 49.3% 1,571.4% 10.8%
Oceania/Australia 36,724,649 7,620,480 24,804,226 6 7. 5 % 225.5% 0.9%
WORLD TOTAL 7,181,858,619 360,985,492 2,802,478,934 39.0% 676. 3 % 100.0%
NOTES: (1) Internet Usage and World Population Statistics are for December 31, 2013. (2) CLICK on each world region name for
detailed regional usage information. (3) Demographic (Population) numbers are based on data from the US Census Bureau and
local census agencies. (4) Internet usage information comes from data published by Nielsen Online, by the International
Telecommunications Union, by GfK, local ICT Regulators and other reliable sources. (5) For definitions, disclaimers, navigation
help and methodology, please refer to the Site Surfing Guide. (6) Information in this site may be cited, giving the due credit to Copyright 2001–2014, Miniwatts Marketing Group. All rights reserved worldwide.
01_Kozinets_Ch-01.indd 14 3/11/2015 6:15:38 PM
than those who do not. These user characteristics seem to be global. Technologies
such as laptops are still expensive beyond reach for many worldwide; similarly,
computers and their operating systems require literacy and can be found difficult
to operate. Hence it is rather unsurprising that countries with lower income lev-
els have less Internet usage. However, this fact is partially offset by the effect of
mobile phones with Internet access. Younger people worldwide are turning to the
Internet and to social media. Nonetheless, netnographers should be attuned to the
contextual clues surrounding technology usage, which help us to more appropri-
ately conceptualize the various uses and users of Internet connection.
The power to connect is an authentic social power. As well as enabling and empow-
ering, it threatens and disrupts. In recent history, we have seen multiple instances
of connective technologies fomenting revolutionary ideas that have turned into
political action. Consider the Twitter-based organization in Libya and a YouTubed
beating to death of its former leader in 2011. These are incredible social media
outcomes, regardless of their cause. Breaking news stories around the world have
revealed just how extensively all of our social media communications are moni-
tored by intelligence agencies around the world, in particular the National Security
Agency in the United States.5 In terms of state censorship, Saudi Arabia and China
still censor Internet content heavily, including social media.6 Other countries, such
as Russia and India censor selectively. The censorship situation is in flux in a num-
ber of other countries, including Turkey and Australia. These social situations are
particularly sensitive in the Middle East, with its so-called social media led ‘Twitter
revolutions’. A country such as Turkey provides an excellent example of the simulta-
neous fragility and political power of open and democratic social media access, with
waves of support and suppression of social media Internet tools and platforms and
apps constantly ebbing and waxing. Hence, netnographers must also be attuned to
the legislative, state surveillance, and regulatory context limiting or facilitating both
the use of social media and its users’ self-surveillance and self-censorship.
Social Media as Social Life
Already in 2006 a survey found that 52% of American online community mem-
bers went on to meet other online community members in the flesh (The Digital
Future Report, 2008). In 2008, that number went up to 56% (ibid.). By 2010, the
question and its answer had become meaningless because almost everyone on
Facebook meets some of their closest Facebook friends every single day. This is
the way of social media and the Internet. It has gone from anomaly and nerdy
pastimes to mainstream with lightning-like rapidity. Past research must be con-
stantly questioned in the light of the present. Current research must be constantly
reviewed in light of the past.
Similarly, the questions asked in 2008 about people’s sentiments towards ‘their
online communities’ seem dated already. How should we interpret the figure of 55%
01_Kozinets_Ch-01.indd 15 3/11/2015 6:15:38 PM
who declare their devotion to online communities, professing that they feel every
bit as strongly about their online communities as they do about their real-world
communities (ibid.)? In an age of social media, where, for example, I am socially
and consocially linked to my children and cousins, workmates and spouse, closest
friends and parents on Facebook, does such a comparison have any meaning? Of
course, the fact that this was 2008, and these were almost certainly blogs and forums
that were being compared to immediate social, religious and neighbourhood-based
relationships is rather revealing. Coming from a time before the major social media
sites hopelessly conflated physical and virtual social connections, this research
finding speaks to the depth of involvement and connection imparted by Internet
connection. Although Facebook makes efficient increasingly global relationships, it
can often be an intensely local experience.
Now, we move to the effects of Internet communications among existing relation-
ships: a most interesting thing if we consider that most Internet-mediated interactions
are conducted with people we know well, good friends, or are related to, or married
to, or are otherwise joined into some sort of close relationship. As of 2014, 67% of
American Internet users credit their online communication with family and friends
with generally strengthening those relationships; only 18% say social media generally
weakens those relationships (Fox and Rainie, 2014). That rather overwhelming differ-
ence point to how deeply people in America, at least, feel that online communications
have strengthened their existing social ties rather than weakened them. Interestingly
enough, there are no significant demographic differences tied to users’ feelings about
the impact of online communication on relationships (ibid). Equal proportions of
online men and women, young and old, rich and poor, highly educated and less well
educated, veterans and relative newbies say by 3-to-1 or better that online communi-
cation is a relationship enhancer, rather than a relationship detractor.
As of 2013, a full 73% of online American adults use a social networking site
of some kind, with Facebook clearly dominant at 71%, followed by LinkedIn,
Pinterest, and then Twitter (Duggan and Smith, 2013). The site has become a
part of many people’s daily routines as well, with 63% of Facebook users visiting
the site at least once a day, and 40% doing so multiple times throughout the
day. Facebook and other major sites have both mainstream and specific element
or areas containing particular interest and identity groups. These reports chart
the qualitative shift in social media consumption – a term preferable to online
community membership in many ways. As more Americans have adopted social
media – and Facebook in particular – it has become inevitably more mainstream,
more demographically representative.
Although Facebook is a mainstream site, appealing to a wide demographic
cross-section, this is not the case with other sites, which are more stratified and
either appeal or cater to specific groups’ needs. For instance, a Pinterest user is
four times more likely to be a woman than a man (ibid.). LinkedIn appeals much
more to college graduates and members of higher income households. Twitter
and Instagram user bases tend to overlap, and to skew to younger adults, urban
01_Kozinets_Ch-01.indd 16 3/11/2015 6:15:39 PM
dwellers and non-whites (ibid.). As well, a plethora of other sites cater to all sort
of local, identity, activity and interest-based tastes and social configuration. An
entire ecosystem of other ‘targeted’ sites and online meeting places has also devel-
oped. Netnographers have unprecedented choice, unprecedented opportunities. In
addition to the more professionally oriented LinkedIn, consider the relationship-
facilitating Tinder and Couple, and the more urban hipster oriented Foursquare. As
well, we still have over 170 million blogs, a vast and literally uncounted space of
many hundred of thousand or even millions of forums, wikis and blogs.
We must also not forget visual and audiovisual sites such as YouTube, with a
billion users per month watching a mind blowing 6 billion hours of video (40% of
them accessing the site from mobile devices). Instagram, owned by Facebook, has
200 million active monthly users as of 2014 – as many as Facebook did in 2009 and
only about 50 million less than Twitter has in 2014. By the time you read this on
paper, or in an ebook, there is little doubt that these numbers will be significantly
higher: the growth rates are incredible. What they mean, what we are doing with
them, and what we do with them as a civilization – one with challenges running
the gamut from ideological and religious wars mutating with Internet interconnec-
tion and tribal instincts, to virulent diseases increasingly spreading, to inequality,
hardship, poverty, ignorance, climate change and inhumanity – building that
understanding is the purpose of netnography.
The social media space is complex and varied, with sites that range from the
social to the informational, specific sites for specific purposes and interest, and
specific sites targeted to the needs of specific people, and also targeted to specific
needs. In netnography, we must be aware of this landscape as we seek to match
our research interests to available sites, procedures we will pick up and develop
in Chapter 7 on the quest for data. More people are connecting through more
sites in more ways for more purposes than ever before. Chatting and checking
in with others about one’s day or about the news, or before or after a purchase,
a doctor’s visit, a parenting decision, a political rally, or a television show is
becoming second nature. For many people around the world, online sociality
is a part of their overall social behaviour, even their everyday social behaviour.
It is already familiar, mundane, taken-for-granted. Normal. Natural. The latest
technologies, it seems, have become natural, even ‘human nature’.
Through social media, we can learn about this phenomenon, of technological
adoptions and adaptation. Though their media shall ye know them: from posts
and updates, Twitter poetry, YouTubery, and of course blogs, we can learn about
real concerns, real meanings, real causes, real feelings. We can learn new words,
new terms, new techniques, new products, new answers, new ideas. We will
encounter genuine concerns, genuine needs, genuine people. As I wrote in 1998,
‘These social groups have a “real” existence for their participants, and thus have
consequential effects on many aspects of behaviour’ (Kozinets, 1998: 366). Online
social experiences have real consequences for social image, social identity. In fact,
they can ‘amplify’ causation in social connection: they are interconnection. Even
01_Kozinets_Ch-01.indd 17 3/11/2015 6:15:39 PM
before you can have communication in this same point-to-point manner, you
have to have that interconnection to make it all possible.
This book is arranged as a series of logical steps to lead you from a conceptual
understanding of netnography and theories about online social interaction and
experience to learning the specific research practices, codes of behaviour, episte-
mological and theoretical orientations, representational styles and different forms
of netnography. The book positions netnography within different approaches
used by social scientists. It provides tools, framework and many examples. Finally,
it explains and illustrates the four essential kinds of netnography: symbolic, digi-
tal, auto and humanist. The way that this journey unfolds in chapter structure is
detailed in the remainder of this chapter.
The opening chapter of this book will explain the function and need for netno-
graphy, for a redefined, fully updated, and upgraded version of netnography, and
for the book as a whole. Chapter 1 will begin the reformulation of netnography
by incorporating anthropological critiques of culture and communities, and then
by exploring notions of networks, socialities and consocialities. An overview will
follow of some soon-to-be-outdated statistics that nonetheless provide a current
snapshot and benchmark for the future and against the past.
In Chapter 2, we will examine online social interaction and experience that trans-
ports us from cultural conceptions to archetypes of network structure, prefiguring
the more synthetic and hybridizing forms of the latter part of this book. On the
cultural side, Chapter 2 first discusses technoculture, ethnographic approaches, soci-
ality and the cultural-communal debate. It conceptualizes four ideal types of online
social experience and relates them to a variety of extant social media sites, which are
also contexts for our research. Next, the chapter moves into more social structural
types of social media understandings. It offers up some social network analysis and
provides six quantitatively generalizable archetypes of network structure: polarized
and tight crowds, brand and community clusters, broadcast and support networks.
The chapter will then extend this to a full discussion and incorporation of net-
worked individualism that concludes with its 12 principles. As it fades to give way to
Chapter 3, Chapter 2 will begin to circle around some preliminary thoughts about
the human, the social, the story and the plenitude.
Chapter 3 will delve into different methods considered complementary with
netnography. It will begin by taking a big picture look at the choice of method.
Netnography is about obtaining cultural understandings of human experience from
online social interaction and content, and representing them as a form of research.
Complementary methods include survey data and findings, interviews and journal
methods, and social network analyses. We will find in this chapter that, compared
to traditional ethnography, netnography has six essential differences: alteration,
01_Kozinets_Ch-01.indd 18 3/11/2015 6:15:39 PM
access, archiving, analysis, ethics and colonization. The chapter explores the impli-
cations of these six differences to the research practices of netnography before
turning to one of the most key chapters in the book.
Chapter 4 will redefine netnography as a specific set of related data collection
and creation, analysis, interpretive, ethical and representational research practices,
where a significant amount of the data collected and participant-observational
research conducted originates in and manifests through the data shared freely on
the Internet, including the myriad of mobile applications. Its emphasis on signifi-
cant amounts of Internet data will differentiate netnography from approaches such
as digital ethnography or digital anthropology that are more general in orientation
and can include more traditional ethnographies. The chapter will then proceed to a
discussion of the rich insights of Hine’s virtual ethnography, the roles of materiality
in digital anthropology, the creeping mundaneness of technologies and storytell-
ing. The chapter then will provide an overview of the state of netnography today,
examining the growth and development of netnography as an interdisciplinary
research field. From this, a portrait of the spectrum of netnographies resolves. Key
elements of this portrait are its voyeurism, quest for intimacy and engagement.
The chapter concludes with a new 12-step process for netnography: introspection,
investigation, information, interview, inspection, interaction, immersion, index-
ing, interpretation, iteration, instantiation and integration.
Chapter 5 will begin to get you ready to conduct a netnography. The chapter opens
with a reminder that our state of readiness is not always as prepared as it might be
and that many types of decision and research practices may be needed before we
can initiate our data collection. Researcher introspection begins the netnographic
journey, and several exercises lead you to one on social introspection. Next, the
axiology of netnography will be explained and detailed as a guiding principle. The
heart of the chapter will help you formulate a research focus as well as research
questions that can be answered using a netnographic approach. Netnographies of
online social interaction and experience tend to focus on sites, topics and people.
In the next chapter, you will be given a general overview and set of spe-
cific guidelines for the ethical conduct of netnography. The netnographer has
choices when it comes to research practices, and being informed about Internet
Research ethics procedures and accepted human subjects research protocols is
important to netnographic undertakings in academic settings. This chapter fol-
lows a model of territorialism and spatial metaphor in online social relations.
Public versus private debates will be reframed in less spatial terms as being about
how we treat people’s digital doubles in our research. Informed consent will be
discussed as well as the general principle of doing no harm with our research.
The chapter will then proceed from these ideas and principles to offer guide-
lines for ethical netnographic practice: stating your name, being honest, using
your existing social media profiles, following personal branding principles to
represent yourself, asking permission when needed, worrying about terms of
service when necessary, gaining clear consent for interviews, citing and giving
01_Kozinets_Ch-01.indd 19 3/11/2015 6:15:39 PM
credit, and proposed procedures for concealing and fabricating. In summary,
Chapter 6 will provide you with the up-to-date foundations and specific guide-
lines for the ethical conduct of netnography.
Chapter 7 will treat a central practice within netnography, data collection. In
netnography, data are found in archives, co-created and produced. This chapter
elaborates the various important choices in data ‘collection’. What are data? How
should we ‘collect’, co-produce, find and produce them in netnography? This
chapter will provide the guidelines for searching for, finding, filtering, selecting
and saving data. It will provide the criteria you need to decide which sites to
search in depth, and which data to collect and curate. It concludes by providing
fundamentals behind the actual workbench level of capturing, collecting and stor-
ing data from archives and online social interactions and experiences.
Under the guiding injunction to participate in online social experience,
Chapter 8 will continue the discussion about data collection. This chapter will
discuss the creation of interactive and produced netnographic data from online
social interaction and other participation. It will provide detail and illustrated
examples to guide researchers interested in using the recommended netno-
graphic practice of a research web-page. A section will follow this on the use
of interviews in netnography. Next, the chapter considers the production of
reflective data, often called fieldnotes. Reflective data is reconceptualized as an
ethnographic affordance and guidelines given for its conduct. As with the prior
chapter, technical advice and examples will be provided throughout.
In the next chapter, we will explore the essence of netnographic data analysis
and interpretation through hermeneutics and deep readings. Chapter 9 deploys
the word ‘interpenetration’ and the metaphor of the collage to discuss the ways
that analysis and interpretation may cohere and conjoin. It provides and describes
seven analytic movements: decoding, remembering, abstracting, competition,
iterating, imagining and connecting. Next, the chapter discusses hermeneutic
interpretation as well as holons and holarchic systems and relates them to the
analytic and interpretive needs of netnographers working in complex social media
spaces. A detailed example from Facebook coverage of a new story about an Ebola
outbreak follows. Data is displayed and interpreted. The final section provides
the nuts and bolts of three types of data analysis and interpretation: manual,
semi-automatic and using algorithmic software. The use of CAQDAS in digital
netnography is discussed. In closing, the chapter offers some thoughts about the
unique elements of netnographic data that might guide its analysis.
Anthropology has been at the centre of issues of scientific representation since
the Crisis of Representation in the 1980s. Chapter 10 will open with a history les-
son focusing on ethnographic representation. It will then provide the four ideal
types of netnographic representation: symbolic, digital, auto and humanist. These
forms constitute an approach to the ethnography of online interaction and expe-
rience that ranges from the reflective, subjective and personal to the statistical,
expansive and descriptive. The choice of final research product form determines
01_Kozinets_Ch-01.indd 20 3/11/2015 6:15:39 PM
choices about data collection and analysis. Symbolic, digital and auto netnogra-
phies are explained in this chapter.
In Chapter 11, we explore the final of the four types of netnography: human-
ist netnography. Humanist netnography takes netnography’s representational
challenge to the highest level. Humanist netnographers focus on human interac-
tions and experiences with and through technology in the contemporary, global,
corporate-run and government surveilled landscape. They seek resonance, verisi-
militude and polyphony in their representations, and embrace multiple methods.
Inspired by developments in the digital humanities, netnographers producing a
humanist netnography will seek a widening audience to share and collaboratively
build ideas that work for positive change in the world. This chapter overviews the
vision and standards for humanist netnography and provides one possible exam-
ple of the kind of work it seeks to inspire.
In the social media era, scientific representation in netnography is a public,
deliberate and ethically charged act of self-presentation that is closely related to
academic goals of successful scholarship and career advancement. With this intro-
duction to the book now complete, we will turn to an examination of some of the
theories and conceptions that guide our understanding of online social interac-
tions and experiences.
Technology use becomes more invisible and natural to us with each passing day, the
Internet and mobile becoming indispensible. This book considers social and machine
interaction from a human perspective, discussing the implications of online social
interaction and experience in the context of conducting and representing academic
ethnography. In this chapter, we overviewed anthropological critiques of the notions
of cultures and communities, and learned about the need for a redefined and updated
version of netnography. The reformulation of netnography began through explora-
tion of notions of networks, socialities and consocialities. We also began to examine
the field sites of ethnographic interaction, overviewing research and statistics that
provide a current snapshot of online social experiences. Finally, we learned about the
structure of this book and its approach to netnography.
Amit, Vered and Nigel Rapport (2002) The Trouble with Community: Anthropological
Reflections on Movement, Identity and Collectivity. London: Pluto.
Duggan, Maeve and Aaron Smith (2013) ‘Social Media Update 2013’, Pew Internet &
American Life Project, 30 December. Available at: http://www.pewinternet.
org/2013/12/30/social-media-update-2013/ (accessed 15 October 2014).
Wesch, Michael (2009) ‘YouTube and you: Experience of self-awareness in the context
collapse of the recording webcams’, Explorations in Media Ecology, 8(2): 19–34.
01_Kozinets_Ch-01.indd 21 3/11/2015 6:15:39 PM
1. In the first chapter of the last edition of the book, which I wrote in early 2009, I
thought I might be overstating when I wrote there are at least 100 million, and
perhaps as many as a billion people around the world who participate in online
communities as a regular, ongoing part of their social experience. But now there is
no doubt that social media touches numbers far greater than this through ubiquitous
mobile technologies. At last count, there were 6.9 billion mobile phone subscriptions
worldwide, for a world population of 7.1 billion people. These subscriptions
potentially connect billions to the Internet, and social media sites. I feel more assured
that I am not hyperbolizing this time when I write that, although currently not quite
there, social media has the near-term potential to be ubiquitous.
2. I herein ritually bow in respect to important and useful books such as Hine’s (2000)
Virtual Ethnography, Boellerstorff et al.’s (2012) Ethnography and Virtual Worlds, Horst
and Miller’s (2012) Digital Anthropology or Underberg and Zorn’s (2013) Digital
Ethnography. In fact, all of these books have usefully influenced and guided my own
thinking about netnography. My statement is intended to point out that, although
these books may offer theoretical overviews, general advice, examples and case
studies, they tend to be focused on particular field sites (e.g., virtual worlds, such as
Second Life), or particular approaches (e.g., eliciting and collecting online storytelling
narratives). They are examples of different forms or sites of netnography, sometimes,
in some ways. With this edition, new practices like introspection and personal
academic branding exercises are intended to clearly differentiate the method.
Netnography remains pragmatic and workbench-level explication of an approach, and
as it branches out and extends far beyond what physical ethnography could ever do, it
also maintains a strong electromagnetic current of connection with the anthropological
and sociological ethnographic past. Thus far. With this edition, I also hope that it
benefits from increasingly conceptual sophistication and cross-disciplinarity.
3. Some scholars have suggested adaptations, for instance, of netnography’s ethical
standards. Some other scholars have opted to use those adaptations, and cited the
adaptive work. I present as many diverse viewpoints as I can in this book, while still
oh-so-gently suggesting particular standards and practices as netnography, or, more
accurately, as ‘appropriately netnographic.’
4. We have barely begun to count television screen and videogame consoles, although
clearly they must at some point be included.
5. NSA surveillance is empowered by the fact that so much data flow through the
Internet. Also, because the American intelligence agencies were able to collaborate so
closely with so many social media companies, such as Facebook, Apple, Skype, eBay
and Google, there should be little doubt that this surveillance by state intelligence
agencies is both widespread and global. We can and should get into debates about
whether this is a good or a bad thing, as we are a free society and this is a key matter
pertaining to both our safety and our freedom. We should always listen to both sides,
but proceed as true social scientists with evidence and with viable, peer-reviewed
research. The Internet is a far more effective and insidious surveillance tool than even
George Orwell’s hideous telescreens: we should know as much as we can about this
side of it as well as the side that advances our knowledge and reveals our humanity.
6. Yet I find it interesting to note that Saudi Arabia also has the most avid YouTube users,
with 90 million views of the online video channel per day.
01_Kozinets_Ch-01.indd 22 3/11/2015 6:15:39 PM
Networked Sociality
Almost four decades before Facebook and Twitter, the Canadian media theorist
Marshall McLuhan predicted that the ‘cool’, participative and inclusive ‘electric
media’ would ‘retribalize’ human society into a collectivist utopia (see, for example,
McLuhan, 1970). McLuhan considered individualizing to be a negative societal
trend, initiated by the rise of the phonetic alphabet, which we might consider an
early social media invention. To McLuhan, privacy, nationalism and individual-
ism were negative outcomes of various technologies that would eventually become
things of the past. Electronic retribalization would rectify these problems, as lone
and isolated human beings would become part of a vast collectivity that synchro-
nized their minds and nervous systems through integrative interactive technologies.
Throughout history and into the present, many seers and theorists have pre-
dicted this technologically mediated ‘coming together’. These predictions often
have a mystical iridescence to them that connects them to thinkers such as
Catholic philosopher-priest Tielhard de Chardin whose quote opens the former
chapter. Predictions abound that intermingle utopia, apocalypse and the Godlike
achievement of a world consciousness Supermind.1 ‘For Tielhard … technologies
are not simply human tools, but vessels of the expanding noosphere, the body
and nervous system of a world consciousness striving to be’ (Davis, 1998: 296).
Kevin Kelly, Mark Pesce, Jennifer Cobb Kreisberg and Pierre Lévy are but a few
of the influential contemporary scholars and writers adopting this notion that
02_Kozinets_Ch-02.indd 23 3/11/2015 6:15:44 PM
technology will assist human evolution towards some sort of a positively utopian
collective mind. Are the dense, in-the-moment interconnections of our mobile
phones, Twitter and Facebook mutating our species into a de-individualized col-
lective? Are social media inexorably transmuting us into a hive-species?
Reading the work of these authors, we feel the leaden gravity of their technolog-
ical determinism, the impression that technology is acting to shape our evolution
as a species. However, this is certainly not the only framing we can place on the rise
of Internet technology to its near-ubiquitous current status. Other scholars have
assumed a technocultural view. At an early stage of the Internet’s development,
cultural theorists Constance Penley and Andrew Ross described technocultural
views as follows:
Technologies are not repressively foisted upon passive populations, any more than
the power to realize their repressive potential is in the hands of a conspiring few. They
are developed at any one time and place in accord with a complex set of existing rules
or rational procedures, institutional histories, technical possibilities, and, last, but not
least, popular desires. (Penley and Ross, 1991: xiv)
The insight that technology does not determine human social behaviours, but
that technologies and human beings are co-determining, co-constructive agents
is a crucially important one to anthropologists who study science and technol-
ogy. With our ideas and actions, we choose technologies, we adapt them, and
we shape them, just as technologies alter our practices, behaviours, lifestyles and
ways of being. As E. Gabriella Coleman (2010: 488) writes in her review of digital
ethnographies in anthropology, wherever people communicate and deploy these
there will be circulations, reimaginings, magnifications, deletions, translations, revi-
sionings, and remakings of a range of cultural representations, experiences, and iden-
tities, but the precise ways that these dynamics unfold can never be fully anticipated
in advance.
Our actions cannot ever entirely control the technologies that we use. There are
always unintended side effects (such as global warming resulting from mass global
industrialization). The way that technology and human cultures interact is a com-
plex dance, an interweaving and intertwining of actants.
Technologies of every type constantly shape and reshape our bodies, our
places, our institutions and our social identities. Simultaneously, technologies
are endlessly shaped to our needs. Understanding this transformative intercon-
nection makes us accountable for particular and general contexts – specific times
and places, distinctive rules or rational procedures, institutional histories, tech-
nical possibilities, practical and popular uses, as well as fears, hope, ambitions,
ideologies and dreams. A thorough understanding of these concepts requires
ethnography of both online and technology-enabled physical spaces, such as
02_Kozinets_Ch-02.indd 24 3/11/2015 6:15:44 PM
homes and workplaces, and even human bodies in interaction and motion.
Fields including anthropology, sociology, education, communications, health
and addiction, food studies, media studies, management, geography and sex-
uality research have begun to use netnography to study and unpack the rich
significance of new, technologically mediated social behaviours as they are pre-
sented through online communication.
For anthropologists, there is a growing corpus of ‘ethnographic approaches to
digital media’ scholarship that Coleman (2010) divides into broad and overlapping
categories. Considering ethnographies of ‘digital media’ to include ethnographies
related to ‘a wide range of nonanalog technologies, including cell phones, the
Internet, and software applications …’, Coleman (2010: 488) surveys the following
three areas:
1. Cultural Politics: ethnographies concerning ‘how cultural identities, representations,
and imaginaries’ are ‘remade, subverted, communicated and circulated through indi-
vidual and collective engagement with digital technologies.’ Included in this category
are ‘digital ontologies’ that look at a cultural group’s digital productions as a map
of their ‘overall structure of priorities and issues’ (Srinivasan, 2006: 510); examina-
tions of how online social experiences relate with topics of identity, ethnicity and
race (e.g., Nakamura, 2007); studies of the digital divide (e.g., Ito et al., 2005); and
studies about how technologies such as smartphones help to extend sociality and kin
networks (Horst and Miller, 2006).
2. Vernacular Cultures: ethnographies examining different phenomena, genres, and groups
‘whose logic is organized significantly around, although not necessarily determined by,
selected properties of digital media’. Included in this category are ethnographies of
software hackers and developers (e.g., Coleman, 2009), digital activism (e.g., Sreberny
and Khiabany, 2010), government surveillance (e.g., Morozov, 2009), ‘informational
capitalism’ studies of technology workers (e.g., Biao, 2007) and technology’s toxic
after-effects (e.g., Maxwell and Miller, 2008), and linkages between digital media and
language, ideologies, change, informality, virtuosity, revitalization, play and morality
(e.g., Jones and Schieffelin, 2009).
3. Prosaics: ethnographies which look at ‘how digital media feed into, reflect, and shape
other kinds of social practices’ and in so doing illuminate ‘how the use and production
of digital media have become integrated into everyday cultural, linguistic, and economic
life’. This category uncovers people’s lived experiences with digital media; the condi-
tions under which they are made, altered and deployed; their genres; and their material
and ideological functioning. For example, it includes studies of digital journalists (Boyer,
2010), digital piracy (e.g., Larkin, 2008), digital media influences on perception and
awareness (e.g., Wesch, 2009), affect and addiction (e.g., Chan, 2008), how various
places and spaces sustain virtual technologies and spaces (e.g., Fuller and Narasimhan,
2007), and how digital technologies magnify the speed, spread and exploitation poten-
tial of contemporary capitalism around the world (e.g., Schull, 2010).
Considered as a body of work, these studies cover a wide swath of contemporary
human engagement with technology. Although some of this work is recognizably
netnographic, such as Daniels’ (2009) study of racism online, much of it expands
02_Kozinets_Ch-02.indd 25 3/11/2015 6:15:44 PM
the scope of investigation to consider the human experiences with technology
as broadly as possible. Online and offline engagements with the gamut of digital
media have become their focal point. Netnography, as we shall discuss in upcoming
chapters, is different from digital anthropology in that it has as its core the analysis
of data collected through participant-observation over the Internet, including the
use of laptops, tablets, mobiles and their various applications. However, netno-
graphic investigations should engage with the relevant findings of digital anthro-
pology in order to strengthen our comprehension of the larger networks in which
all online social experiences are embedded. This chapter seeks to open and broaden
netnography’s focus, while also overviewing and providing essential theoretical
background to serve as its base.
Media Have Never Not Been Social
Researchers have been curious and interested in the effect of technological media-
tion on communications since the radically disruptive introduction of the tel-
egraph and, later, the telephone. So, almost from the beginning of the Internet
in the early 1970s, scholars had been studying its effects on social relations in
various ways. Alongside the important and insightful observational work of Hiltz
and Turoff (1978), early work on online social interaction was based on social psy-
chological theory and experimental tests. This was early media theory: it studied
the medium and media of communication. Some of this work hypothesized that,
considered as media, online media were too ‘thin’, or social-cue impoverished, to
serve as a foundation for meaningful social activity (e.g., Daft and Lengel, 1986).
Because online social experiences miss the immediacy of voice inflection, accents,
facial expressions, directions of gaze, gaze-meeting, posture, body language and
movement, and touching, it was theorized to be reduced, and its relationships
shallower and less satisfying (e.g., Dubrovsky et al., 1991; Short et al., 1976; Sproull
and Kiesler, 1986; Walther, 1992, 1995).
The early Internet environment was mistrusted and viewed as a social environ-
ment with leery suspicion and cynicism. It was not a social place, but a context
that created task-oriented, ‘impersonal’, ‘inflammatory’, ‘cold’ and ‘unsociable’
interactions (Kiesler et al., 1984, 1985; Rice and Rogers, 1984; Rice and Love,
1987; Sproull and Kiesler, 1986; Walther, 1992: 58–9). When these suppositions
were tested in laboratories or in workplaces under highly controlled scientific
conditions – contexts that also may have helped spawn a task-oriented and coldly
unsociable environment for social interactions – they were borne out to levels of
statistical significance.
Related to this was another set of theories that posited a ‘status equalization
effect’. Hierarchy was the name of this game. How, they asked, could authority
be maintained in the anonymous and chaotic social space of online communi-
cation? It was hypothesized that if you could not tell who was your boss or your
02_Kozinets_Ch-02.indd 26 3/11/2015 6:15:44 PM
boss’s boss or your underling then this, added to the technologically induced
anonymity, would result in a reduction of social differences. Across the barriers of
class and gender and age, people would simply communicate in an uninhibited
way without the need to dominate. People would also be more individualistic,
more self-absorbed and narcissistic – favouring a culture of me, myself and I
(Dubrovsky et al., 1991; Sproull and Kiesler, 1986). Many of these behaviours
were already observable in online interactions, such as ‘flaming’, or insults, little
discursive wars, with rude, crude, hostile, aggressive and outright cruel language
of the Internet, as well as the use of profanities. WTF? Scientists came to the
world of online social interaction with ideas that technology-based interactions
undermined, even subverted, the existing social structure.
And this may be where Victor Turner’s notion of communitas comes in. For
Turner believed, in common with many of the other anthropologists we have
already discussed in these pages, that there was something to be gained by dis-
tancing his terminology from the more popular term ‘community’; he expressly
rejected its connotation as a geographical proximity ‘area of common liv-
ing’ (Turner, 1969: 96). Instead communitas is a deeply human connection.
Communitas is ‘an essential and generic human bond, without which there would
be no society’ (Turner, 1969: 97). Communitas is a sense of being equal with your
comrades, having kin, being a member of a group, and perhaps into that inter-
nalized sense of membership as connection, a way to fulfil needs for belonging,
affiliation, acceptance and love. Turner saw communitas as linked with limin-
ality, with the grey nether, in-between regions, between social positions in a
rite of passage, as a force of anti-structure, disorder, disruption and chaos. These
transformative forces become absorbed by, or at least alternate with, forces of
social order, of structure, of the ‘hierarchical system of politico-legal-economic
positions’ (Turner, 1969: 96), worlds of authority, elders, rules, laws, traditions,
values, shamings, feeling inferior, status, feeling superior, punishments, condi-
tioning, enforcement and sometimes brutal acts of ‘religious’ ‘education’. This is
communitas and hierarchy, structure and anti-structure, chaos and order, played
out on a human cultural scale.
Keep Turner’s ideas in mind. For as soon as work emerged which empirically
examined how people were actually using technologies, these early but no less
social media (and is there ever a time when media had not been social?), we
found that people were able to ‘develop an ability to express missing nonverbal
cues in written form’ (Rice and Love, 1987: 89). Symbols, emoticons, avatars,
moving gif files, intentional misspellings, corrections and capitalization – all
are examples of the successful human struggle to overcome the limitations of
allegedly ‘thin’ media (Danet, 2001; Sherblom, 1988: 44; Walther, 1992, 1995).
So the lived world of people, when we peered into it using data from actual
users out there, rather than simulated users in a lab began to demonstrate the
emergence of personally enriching social worlds, well before the clever avatars
of Second Life, the photo albums of Facebook, and the detailed professional
02_Kozinets_Ch-02.indd 27 3/11/2015 6:15:44 PM
profile pages of LinkedIn. ‘The characterizations of CMC [computer-mediated
communications] born from experiments on groups seem contradictory to the
findings of CMC in field studies’ concluded Walther (1992: 53). Social cues and
thin media did not hold up outside of the one-off experiments in the lab. The
reality of online social experience was not thin, but thick. It was social, long-
term, complex, processual and evolving. It showed human beings adopting to
technological limitations on their social experience, and developing adaptations
that enhanced it, sometimes in novel ways.
Initial concerns that Internet use might corrode groups, families and commu-
nity life are asserted and contradicted in pendulum fashion, with rather significant
minorities holding, in surveys, that this is true for them (Fox and Rainie, 2014).
On the other hand, surveys as early as the year 2000 – the Dark Ages before blog-
ging and social media as we know it – revealed that people believed the Internet
enabled them to keep in touch more effectively with their friends and family, and
even to extend their social networks. The fact that people positively viewed email,
bulletin boards, and the few other affordances of the age validates the immense
value simply of the power to connect with others and share communications with
them, even if it was primarily written text. Communitas. We hunger for it. We
strive for it. We flock to it.2
We value social capital as well. As a result of their study of the impact of online
communities on social capital and involvement in local communities, Kavanaugh
and Patterson (2001: 507) suggested that ‘the longer people are on the Internet,
the more likely they are to use the Internet to engage in social-capital-building
activities’. We can see some of these larger social capital building processes high-
lighted in more focused studies of smaller communities. Park and colleagues
(2009) surveyed over 2600 Texan students and found significant, positive, but
relatively small relationships between their Facebook use and their life satisfac-
tion, social trust, civic engagement and political participation. Mathwick and
colleagues (2008) studied a software forum’s peer-to-peer problem-solving com-
munity and found norms of voluntarism, reciprocity and social trust underlying
the community’s employment of social capital. Working in a German venture
capital context, Vasileiadou and Missler-Behr (2011) find different forms of social
and relational capital being effectively deployed in a variety of virtual social inter-
actions. Although the findings suggest small positive correlations between social
capital and social media use, Park et al. (2009) warn us that social networks are not
panaceas for the generational disengagement from civic duty decried by Robert
Putnam (2000) among others. Yet, somehow, viewed over time and combined
with survey results, the weight of evidence seems to tip us towards the notion that
people’s social lives are enhanced by online contact more than they are detracted.
Ethnographic and naturalistic observations of people’s interweaving of Internet
communications with their social behaviours have been critically important to our
accurate understanding. Examining how people actually deploy communications
technologies in their own social worlds over the long term, as they increasingly
02_Kozinets_Ch-02.indd 28 3/11/2015 6:15:44 PM
use them to spin webs that meaningfully interconnect, turns out to be quite differ-
ent from what people were doing in short-term situations with the technologies in
laboratory situations. Like large stones dropped into lake water, when information
and communications technology is cast into the world, it ripples outward, mani-
fests in many ways, begetting different forms of sociality that continue to spread
outwards in their influence. There are definite patternings in these forms. Effective
netnography contains theory that is aware of these subtle and complex arrange-
ments. We now continue to discuss additional arrangements and configurations
in this world of online sociality.
Burning Man is a countercultural grassroots happening that grew out of the
Cacophany Society in San Francis, becoming first an event and then an internation-
ally recognized super-event. In the early days of the Burning Man Project, as it is
often called by its organizers, event co-founder Larry Harvey used to compare the
event to the Internet. The comparison evokes the social media and pre-corporate
colonization-like aspects of the early Internet. Like the Internet, it is built up of many
individual, decentralized parties. Like the Internet, Burning Man is uncensored and
authentic. Like the Internet, Burning Man is hypertextual and intertextual – it con-
nects to many other things: art, design, science, high technology, spirituality, dance,
primitivism, utopianism, polytheism, polyamory, Marxism, the survivalist move-
ment, and almost any other social group of gathering containing a whiff of social
movement about it. Like Burning Man, the motivation for participation includes
interest in social change, enacted through involvement in these major collective
projects. And through this involvement, we also hope to learn from and commune
with an interesting diverse group of other people who are currently unknown to us,
but who come in a similar spirit of giving. Communitas. We hunger for it, online
and deep down in our bodies. We go out in the desert looking for it. And because it
is so hard to find, it is also so precious.
A great sacred quality somehow seems to descend in the miraculously com-
monplace selfless acts occurring during Burning Man, such as the first moment
someone you have never seen before, someone costumed up like a weird clown
just for fun to make you smile, runs up to you while you are parched and dry in
the 107 degree Black Rock desert heat and hands you a cool blue popsicle. The
process channels ancient and sacred communitas, almost as a palpable force. Yet
we might wonder if acts of communitas may be the hardest to transfer over to
Internet exchanges. For being at Burning Man is absolutely not the Internet.
‘Abstractions appear as hostile to live contact’ wrote Victor Turner in The Ritual
Process (Turner, 1969: 141). The person who would try to do good to another person
‘must do it in Minute Particulars; General Good is the plea of the Hypocrite and the
02_Kozinets_Ch-02.indd 29 3/11/2015 6:15:44 PM
Scoundrel’ said William Blake (Maclagan and Russell, 1907). It may be that some
physical quality inheres in direct, embodied, human contact that we do not want to
surrender, for to surrender this ‘immediatism’, as Sufi philosopher Hakim Bey (1994)
calls it, this embodiment of human being as contact between embodied human
being, is to surrender something vital and essential about our humanness. Perhaps,
also, there is some quality immanent in the gift itself. It may be that communitas
inheres in the generous and selfless act of sharing, whether online or in person.
Perhaps it is the gift which breaks us out of the confining and isolating bonds of
individuality and selfishness that we tend to associate with modern society and its
capitalist marketplaces. Perhaps the gift frees us to emerge into the wider world of
creativity and contribution that we still link with communal and social ideals.
The futurist Marina Gorbis sees exactly the same sort of tension between the
social and the commercial enacted in the world of social media. She envisions a
future that she calls the ‘socialstructured’ world ‘as a way to build a better future
by de-institutionalizing production, infusing social ties and human connected-
ness into our economic life, [and] in the process redefining established paradigms
of work, productivity, and value’ (Gorbis, 2013: 208). She draws upon a long tradi-
tion of theorists, from Ferdinand Tonnies to Lewis Hyde, who have separated the
social logics of belonging, togetherness and sharing from those of marketplaces
and transactions.
Although most scholars recognize communities as extremely diverse, a certain type
of community has often been held up as an ideal. This communal ideal can be char-
acterized as a group of people living in close proximity with mutual social relations
characterized by caring and sharing. Tönnies ([1887] 1957) evoked this ideal in his
notion of ‘Gemeinschaft,’ … The origin of this caring, sharing communal ideal is in
the deep trust and interdependence of family relations. Markets are different. The
ideal market is seen as more of what Tönnies (1957) termed a ‘Gesellschaft’ type of
phenomenon; it provides more formal, contractual, socially distanced relations. These
relations are transactions-based and occur for the purpose of exchange (Weber [1922]
1978; Williamson 1975). In market transactions, the object is to increase one’s advan-
tage, to get more than one gives. To simplify the contrast, ideal communities are about
caring about and sharing with insiders while ideal markets are about transacting with
outsiders. Although both involve power relations and although they are interrelated or
embedded in one another (see, e.g., Biggart 1989; Frenzen and Davis 1990; Granovetter
1985), marketplace exchanges focus more than communal exchanges on monetizing
the exchange value of goods and services, and extracting excess value, or profits, from
transactions. Throughout human history, markets have generally been constrained to
particular places, times, and roles, and largely kept conceptually distinct from other
important social institutions, such as home and family. With the rise of industrializa-
tion and postindustrialization, however, the influence of the market has increasingly
encroached upon times, spaces, and roles previously reserved for communal relations.
As the self-interested logics of the market have filtered into communal relations, they
have been accused of increasingly undermining the realization of the caring, sharing,
communal ideal. (Kozinets, 2002b: 21–22)
02_Kozinets_Ch-02.indd 30 3/11/2015 6:15:44 PM
Along with a number of other scholars, Gorbis (2013: 3–6) believes that social
media are creating a new kind of network or relationship-driven economy, where
individuals join forces in order to create and share knowledge, services and even
products that existing institutions such as corporations, governments and edu-
cational establishments are unable or unwilling to provide. According to Gorbis,
these technologies are helping individuals create groupings around interests, iden-
tities and shared personal challenges. Socialstructuring is a process of moving away
from the depersonalized world of ‘institutional production’ – Big Business, Big
Government, and Big Education – into a new economy of social connection and
social rewards (ibid.: 3). She sees the new social media technologies as enabling
people to coexist simultaneously in both market and social economies and links
this idea to philosopher Lewis Hyde’s notion of ‘the Commerce of the Creative
Spirit’ (ibid.: 202–203).
In The Gift, Hyde (1979) recounts how the inspiration of the artist is widely
perceived to be a gift, and, for this inspiration to be maintained, the artist feel
the desire, the need, and even the compulsion to make the work and then offer
it to an audience at little or no profit: ‘The gift must stay in motion … So long
as the gift is not withheld, the creative spirit will remain a stranger to the eco-
nomics of scarcity … [whether it is] salmon, forest birds, poetry, symphonies,
or Kula shells … to bestow one of our creations is the surest way to invoke the
next’. Hyde counsels us to give our gifts away, and perpetuate the magic circle of
community. Yet, although all cultures and all artists have felt the tension between
the moral economy of gift exchange and the transactional pressures of the mar-
ketplace, there have been some unique aspects to modern capitalism. Hyde finds,
for instance, the exploitation of the arts in modern capitalism to be ‘without
precedent’ and their ‘high finance’ approach to create a commodification that
diminishes creativity and turns arts into industry.
Drawing on Hyde’s work, media scholars and theorists Henry Jenkins, Sam
Ford, and Josh Green also link their ideas about media creation to British historian
E.P. Thompson’s (1971) notion of the ‘moral economy’. Their book, Spreadable
Media (2013), sensitively and adroitly traces the many complications arising from
corporate, group, and individual negotiation of the hybrid gift-commercial space
of social media. They chastise those who rhetorically embrace an ‘architecture
of participation’ online. This stance can naively gloss over the conflict, choices
and compromises that are often required of participants. Zwick et al. (2008), as
well as Cova and Dalli (2009) also provide critical views of the social media econ-
omy of free and exploited labour, casting them as a political form of Foucauldian
govern-mentality, a self-disciplinarily fueled pathway to creating docile, duped
and compliantly creative consumers (see also Andrew Keen’s 2007 The Cult of the
Amateur). Wise from their long engagement with media fan communities, Jenkins
et al. (2013: 55) certainly do not go this far. They do, however, caution that ‘it’s
crucial not to diminish the many noncommercial logics governing the engaged
participation of audience online’ (Jenkins et al., 2013: 55). Their advice is more
02_Kozinets_Ch-02.indd 31 3/11/2015 6:15:44 PM
about how not to kill, and how to resist theorizing the premature death of the
collective geese that keep laying social media’s golden eggs.
In netnographic research my co-authors and I conducted on how word of mouth
marketing was spread by bloggers in a mobile phone giveaway campaign, we iden-
tified in the patterns of word of mouth marketing-receiving blogger narratives the
clear presence of a similar type of communal-commercial tension (Kozinets et al.,
2010). In such social media-based marketing ‘the consumer is required to be a type of
consumer–marketer hybrid [and thus] the traditional social contract that maintains
marketplace relationships at a distance from communities is violated, creating great
tension’ (2010: 83). This tension remains dormant in some contexts, but blooms
into explicitness in other. A process of translations occurs as a result of the tension.
Marketing messages are altered to become more believable, relevant and palatable
to the community. As the marketplace interrupted the social experiences of social
media users, participants felt compelled to translate and transform ‘persuasion
oriented, market-generated, sales objective-oriented “hype” [into] relevant, useful,
communally desirable social information that builds individual reputations and
group relationships’ (ibid.).
A precautionary note is sounded by Campbell (2005) in his examination of
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) online communities. He depicts
gay Internet portals openly courting the gay community online with promises of
inclusion and an authentic communal experience. However, they also simultane-
ously reposition gays and lesbians in a commercial panopticon that places them
under corporate surveillance. He wonders if ‘all commercial portals purporting
to serve politically marginalized groups beg the question of whether there can
be a harmonious balance between the interests of community and the drives of
commerce’ (2005: 678; see also Campbell, 2004; Campbell and Carlson, 2002).
These are central themes, of import to our understanding as corporate actors like
the publicly traded Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter corporations’ attempts to
further their own interests by increasingly influencing and monetizing people’s
online social experiences.
On the other hand, Jenkins et al. (2013) describe the many ways that DIY and fan
labour is self aware, taking pleasure, gaining capital and esteem and finding many
sources of value from the economic outputs that they are contributing towards in
social media. Seeing such labour as ‘engaged’ and even gift-like rather that exploited
recognizes that participants ‘are pursuing their own interests, connected to and
informed by those decisions made by others within their social networks’ (Jenkins
et al., 2013: 60). Scholars who continue to see the media participant, including the
‘engaged’ and creative social media participant, as a passive or exploited dupe must
confront the evidence that, at least for some people and in some circumstances,
such participation provides a panoply of benefits, although these benefits may not
include the strictly economic exchanges of the market economy.
Gorbis sees social media as the antidote, the bridge between the two worlds
of the social and the commercial. Indeed, Gorbis’ ideas are very closely related
02_Kozinets_Ch-02.indd 32 3/11/2015 6:15:45 PM
to those of Yochai Benkler, Henry Jenkins and Manuel Castells, although she
fails to cite any of them. Yale University law professor Benkler (2006: 117) for
instance finds that ‘sharing is everywhere in the advanced economies’ and that
studies on social capital, trust and the social provisioning of public goods ‘point
to an emerging understanding of social production and exchange as an alterna-
tive to markets and firms’. As examples, he gives SETI and Slashdot. Benkler’s
conclusion is optimistic, arguing that the new network economy of social media
provides us with an opportunity to alter the way that ‘we create and exchange
information, knowledge, a culture. By doing so, we can make the twenty-first
century one that offers individuals greater autonomy, political communities
greater democracy, and societies greater opportunities for cultural self-reflection
and human connection … [possibly resulting in] a true transformation toward
more liberal and egalitarian societies’ (Benkler, 2006: 473).
We can postulate a world where the Maker Movement, The Internet of Things
and the proliferation of Artificial Intelligence, robots and bots take over much of
industrial production and traditional work, and the enormous economies of scope
and scale enable massive amounts of things and services to be produced and provi-
sioned by only a few people. The economics of the gathering, the Wikinomics that
Don Tapscott and colleagues research and write about (e.g., Moffitt and Dover,
2011; Tapscott and Williams, 2007), also lead to greater and greater efficiencies
of scale, and the scope of Chris Anderson’s (2008) ‘long tail’ economies provides
more diversity in the marketplace that ever before. Thus, as Gorbis, Hyde, Benkler
and these other authors advance, we may increasingly need to turn our collective
attention to questions of how the Commerce of creative spirit will play out for us
in science, government, media, education, arts, health, tourism, consumption, or
any other social domain.
We can conceptualize different types of online social experience partially by relat-
ing them to the type of site in which we find them. For instance, we might expect
a social networking site such as Facebook to provide a different type of online
social experience than that of a forum like 4Chan, a blog like Mashable, a tagging
service like Reddit, or a fan wiki like The Big Bang Theory. In the last edition of
this book, and based upon earlier work (Kozinets, 1998, 1999), I theorized a more
functional ‘ideal type’ typology of different forms of online sociality, which I now
revise and update as represented in Figure 2.1.
This updated typology presumed that the nature of online social relations varies
from the intensely personal and deeply meaningful – i.e., Gemeinschaft-like car-
ing and sharing communal forms – to those that are quite superficial, short-lasting
and relatively insignificant – and more Gessellschaft, market-and-transaction ori-
ented exchange. They can also vary from those that are oriented strictly around a
02_Kozinets_Ch-02.indd 33 3/11/2015 6:15:45 PM
particular activity, such as hydroponic tomato cultivation or discussing America’s
Got Talent, or a location or destination, such as TripAdvisor, to those in which a
unifying activity or interest is often completely irrelevant, such as on Facebook.
Although there seems to be a correlation between the type of online site and
the type of online social experience (for example, Facebook providing predomi-
nantly interpersonal rather than activity-based experiences), there is by no means
a perfect correlation. Any site, or type of site, can be used for any purpose. These
purposes and exchanges may vary over time even with the same individuals on
the same online site. Rather than to suggest any sort of simplistic determinism,
when we have found so much evidence to the contrary of such principles already
in the lived world of technocultural interaction, the intention of the classification
is to draw the netnographer’s attention to the type of social experience rather than
to propose any technologically overdetermining structural effects of a site, app,
or software form on social actors’ agency. The four proposed ideal types of online
social experience are mingling, bonding, sharing and organizing. I explain each
type of experience in turn.
An experience that one has online in interactions or information receptions
or exchanges that are socially weaker or only for business or necessity, such
as the proverbial person-clerk interaction at a retain checkout counter, might
Figure 2.1 Four ideal types of online social experience in sites
sports, pop
culture, stock
02_Kozinets_Ch-02.indd 34 3/11/2015 6:15:45 PM
be known as a mingling media enthusiasm. Twitter experiences can often be
like this, and Facebook or LinkedIn is like this when we meet new people or
have the opportunity to find or otherwise electronically experience other peo-
ple. Particular virtual worlds, chat-rooms, and certain gamespaces provide this
mingling social experience. They tend to satisfy people’s relatively superficial,
short-lived and weak tie ‘relational’ and ‘recreational’ need; they are consocial
more than communal experiences.
Online social experiences that can create strong social ties between members,
resulting in more meaningful or longer-lasting relationships, but where the par-
ticipants are not firmly or lastingly focused on a shared or unifying focal activity,
purpose, project or interest, might be termed hyving social experiences. Social net-
working sites such as Facebook, dating sites like OKCupid, communications apps
like WhatsApp or Tinder, and virtual worlds like Second Life can often provide this
type of online social experience and fulfil their members’ relational needs.
A third type of online social experience is online interaction for the express
purpose of sharing targeted information, news, stories, images, photos, jokes,
expertise, information and techniques about some particular activity or interest
which is the raison d’être of the interaction. These are sharing social expressions.
Many blogs like TMZ or the Huffington Post, wikis such as Wikia or Wiktionary,
newsgroups such as, website forums, social content rating and tagging
services like Digg or Reddit, photo and video-sharing communities like Instagram,
Vine or YouTube would all be loci of such sharings. They offer participants and
readers a bank of shared content, but not necessarily the promise of a deep engage-
ment in social relationships. The modes of interaction on these communities are
predominantly consocial and friendly, consisting of broadcast-to-person, shared,
rebroadcast or peer-to-peer based exchanges of content and information.
Finally, we have online social experiences that offer a chance to create social
ties between people as well as focusing on sharing information and intelli-
gence about some central, unifying interest, project, theme or activity. These
experiences I term organizational social enterprises. Although blogs, wikis, Social
networking sites (SNS) interest groups and other forms of online gatherings
certainly can and often are used as organizational social enterprises, I have seen
many more of these experiences grow from microblogs such as Twitter, meeting
sites such as or the group function of sites such as LinkedIn, web-
site forums, evolved zines such as Boing Boing, user-based creative communities
such as devoted websites and projects such as Star Trek Phase II (see Kozinets,
2007). A good example is provided by open source software experience in all
of its various manifestations, such as slashdot (Hemetsberger and Reinhardt,
2006). The mode of interaction in these gatherings is supportive, informational,
content-based and also can be relational. Our understanding of these different
social types can now be enhanced by a deeper understanding of the types of
social structures that pervade the Internet.
02_Kozinets_Ch-02.indd 35 3/11/2015 6:15:45 PM
Analysing Social Network Structures
An interesting and useful technique to incorporate into netnography for under-
standing these types of social relations is social network analysis. It is neither
necessary nor would it be desirable for all netnographers to adopt social network
analysis techniques in their studies. However, netnographers would be wise to
familiarize themselves, at least on a basic level, with social network analysis tech-
niques, procedures and general research findings. This is especially important for
the many scholars who are conducting what I will, in later chapters, refer to as
conducting Digital Netnographies. Although we will overview the technique in
more detail in the next chapter, a fundamental understanding of the technique is
useful for understanding some of the concepts and theory that this chapter will
proceed to present.3
Social network analysis is an analytical method that focuses on the structures
and patterns of relationships between and among social actors in a network
(Berkowitz, 1982; Wellman, 1988). In social network analysis, there are two main
units of analysis. The social actors we are interested in are called the ‘nodes’ and
the relation between them is called the ‘tie’. A network is composed of a set of
actors connected by a set of relational ties. The actors can be persons, teams, orga-
nizations, technologies, non-human actors like bots, ideas, messages, products,
cities or other concepts. Examples of ties would include sharing information, an
economic transaction, transfer of resources, shared associations or affiliations, sex-
ual relations, physical connections, sharing ideas or values, and so on (Wasserman
and Faust, 1994). A group of people who are connected by particular social rela-
tionships, such as family kinship, friendship, working together, a shared hobby or
common interest, or exchanging any sort of information, can be considered to be
a social network.
Social network analysis has its foundations in sociology, sociometrics and graph
theory, and in the structural–functionalist line of ‘Manchester anthropologists,
who built on both of these strands to investigate the structure of “community”
relations in tribal and village societies’ (Scott, 1991: 7). Social network analysis
thus deals in relational data and, although it is possible to quantify and statisti-
cally analyse these relations, network analysis also ‘consists of a body of qualitative
measures of network structure’ (Scott, 1991: 3). There is, thus, a very natural rela-
tionship between a structural approach to ethnography, or netnography, and the
approach of social network analysis.
Over the last 35 years, the social network analysis approach to research has
grown rapidly in sociology and communication studies, and has spread to a range
of other fields.
Social networking analysts seek to describe networks of relations as fully as possible,
tease out the prominent patterns in such networks, trace the flow of information (and
other resources) through them, and discover what effects these relations and net-
works have on people and organizations. (Garton et al., 1999: 75)
02_Kozinets_Ch-02.indd 36 3/11/2015 6:15:45 PM
Social network analysis is structural. Its unit of analysis is the relationship, and
what it finds interesting in relationships are their patterns. There is, therefore,
considerable overlap with certain kinds of netnography, which can be focused
upon relationships and the structured patterns of exchanges of things like
language, symbols, discourse, values, power, and other symbolic and mate-
rial resources. Social network analysts consider the various resources that are
exchanged in communications between people online, and these can include
communications which are textual, graphical, animated, audio, photographic
or audiovisual, and can include sharing information, discussing work-related
rumours, sharing advice, giving emotional support or providing companionship
(Haythornthwaite et al., 1995). Netnographers also consider those resources,
viewing them in and from various and overlapping contexts, which might
include as multiple and shared sources of significance and also as bearers of
interpersonal connection.
There are many opportunities for synergies between the structural analysis of
social networks and the more identity-, story-, discourse- and meaning-centred
analyses of netnography. Consider as a nuancing adjunct to the mingling, bonding,
sharing and organizing functional types of online social experience, the following
ways to think about the social structures present within the social media forms that
netnographers aim to understand and explain. We consider several important and
influential ideal types of online social experiences in the following section.
There are many ways to conceptualize the universe of social media forms in
order to gain a basic and simplified view of the many types of connection that
people have with one another online. Two essential and interrelated ways that
people connect with one another is socially and through topics. In social net-
work-based research that analysed the maps of thousands of different Twitter
conversations and their related social exchange patterns, a 2014 Pew Internet
report identifies six archetypal forms of network structure that emerged from
the way people shared topics and messages with one another: polarized crowds,
tight crowds, brand clusters, community clusters, broadcast networks and
support networks (Smith et al., 2014). These six distinctive structures are not
intended to be exhaustive. However, they inform us about the various forms
that online sociality can take, depending upon the topic of the conversation,
the type of the connections between individual actors in the network, the infor-
mation sources and other resources (for communication also leads to access)
that are used, the precise kinds of computer, corporate, transactional and social
networks that are involved, and the leaders of the conversation, the structure of
the conversation as well.
If possible, please change top sign to ‘People from neighbourhoods and loca-
tions where you have lived’
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In Figure 2.2, I use these structures to think about the way that individuals can
connect with one other. The centre of Figure 2.2 is a particular individual’s online
social network, which link them socially to friends, family and co-workers, many
of whom they already know personally, but also more distantly to organizations
and interest groups who they may not know in person. That is the blue central
circle, a core.
Relationships in these communities can assume different structures and shapes
depending upon the nature of these conversations and their different social expe-
riences. These experiences vary in their social and consocial characteristics. They
can be unified, fragmented, divided, polarized or clustered in their dispersion and
arrangement, as we visualize them. The network becomes its visualization, and
the visualization of networks can quickly be acted out on the human social stage,
when that stage is online.
Two are highly centralized, appearing with hub and spoke lines. In the first, the
lines go inwards, towards the broadcaster, for this is an audience model. It is the
structure that people assume when they are audiencing something. They do it in
groups, in couples and individually. Each is qualitatively different, of course, and
requires a human interpretation, but they are also all an audience. They are all shar-
ing information they see on the screen, treated with the voyeur’s gaze, the screen
gaze that my co authors and I (Kozinets et al., 2004) saw in ESPN Zone in retail
themed Mag Mile Chicago circa 2002. Online, think of a powerful broadcast net-
work like BBC World News. It is powerful, it has influence because it is being linked
Figure 2.2 Your personal social network core
People from neighbourhoods
and locations where you have lived
Facebook friends
Mass media
Linkedin contacts
Blogs and other
Narrowcast media
Online interest
Family & friends
02_Kozinets_Ch-02.indd 38 3/11/2015 6:15:45 PM
to by many individuals and groups, and then shared among them. They comment
on it, of course, in Twitter. Some have a lot of person-to person interaction, and
others do not. People can have many types of social connections as well as topical
connections, and at many times the two will interact. Twitter tends to simplify so
we can see the basic structures. In reality, with other media like Facebook, we will
likely see more complex hybrid forms of audience and network structure.
Figure 2.3 is a riff upon Smith et al. (2014), a reconceptualization that alters
names, labels and even definitions while seeking to portray some dimensional-
ization and classification. This Figure offers a typologization on the theoretical
ideal level of the complexity and diversity of interaction in the online universe of
social experience. We can look to connect to resources like information, service,
material connections, cultural resources, styles and identities for our identity proj-
ects, props for our life roles, brands to show where we belong. When we look for
resources we can either become an audience, or we can ask for help. These two
are collectively expressed, for they are common between individuals; they are the
Audience and Customer Support Network forms. The following points describe
these six forms trapped in two dimensions in Figure 2.3.
Resource Connections: Audience and Customer
Support Networks
Audience networks possess a distinctive structure based upon the re-broadcasting
of major news and media organizational information. The Twitter network forms
into an audience shape when it re-tweets breaking news stories and the output of
well-known media outlets and pundits. Most members of the Broadcast Network
audience are not really conducting conversations between one another, which is
why their level of intercommunication is low. But some are gathering through
their audiencing, there is no doubt of this either.
So they are more than a network, acting, instead, as conduits. They themselves
become like information distributors, intermediaries who bring the fresh news
from one high, and then distribute it to their immediate network, socially.
Instead of everyone buying a newspaper, or a specialty newsletter, or the various
information sources people used to use, or everyone watching television, these
people act as conduits and value-adding media re-broadcast channels. They
transfer, and probably sometimes translate, news and information from major
media outlets to their own more immediate and localized ones. The cynosure of
all ears and eyes is the retweeting re-broadcaster. Smaller subgroups of densely
connected people – which Pew’s people termed ‘subject groupies’ – hang out
repeatedly holding conversations with one another about the news.
Audiences can be very disconnected from one another. They link only to the hub news
source. Yet there are others, some who form discussion groups based on the news,
02_Kozinets_Ch-02.indd 39 3/11/2015 6:15:45 PM
The Audience Network Model
“the cynosure of all eyes”
“we aim to serve
The Customer Support Model
Topical Network
“united by mention”
Polarized lssue Network
“split down the middle”
Tight Social Network
“together we post”
The interest Group Alliance
“communications of interest”
Facebook friends
Mass media
LinkedIn contacts
Blogs and other
Narrowcast media
Online interest
Family & friends
People from neighbourhoods
and locations where you
have lived
Figure 2.3 Social types of networks
02_Kozinets_Ch-02.indd 40 3/11/2015 6:15:46 PM
Figure 2.4 The audience network model
“the cynosure of all eyes”
some who do this regularly. So there is no true ideal form, there are only tendencies.
And in this underdetermined tendency, the network assumes the shape we see in
Figure 2.4. The one central account, the one information resource distributor, which
is the agency like the BBC or, becomes the hub, and the many spokes are
audiences and individual audience members. They are all reaching in to contact
CNN or whoever the resource is, and to then share it with their networks.
Customer support networks are also surveillance networks, where one central
agent monitors and responds to the transmissions of network members. Customer
support networks are the product of so-called ‘social care’ customer service and
support exchanges; Yes, My Name is Robert may I help you? type calls. In this case,
it is the company calling the person. Hello, I overheard you complaining about
my company. Is there something bothering you about my company that I can
help you with? The shape that is assumed as customer complaints lodged against
major businesses become handled by corporate customer service representatives is
the one we see in Figure 2.5.
The contacts are outbound. The one hub connects outward to the individu-
als it is monitoring. This form becomes increasingly important as government,
businesses, and other groups such as non-profits and NGOs try to provide central-
ized services and support through social media and also to reach out very close
02_Kozinets_Ch-02.indd 41 3/11/2015 6:15:46 PM
and learn as much as possible about people, since data is so cheap about people
and easy to sort, and acting on it for fundraising, sales and volunteer networks is
incredibly important and fairly easy to do now with social media.
Connections of Interest: Topical and Polarized Issue Networks
Another important source of connection is the sharing of particular interests. If
I do not know you, and you do not know me, but we both use the same hashtag
#JohnOliverForPresident, then we share something. If we know each other only
through some topic, and that topic is very polarized, a type of us-versus-them
arrangement exists where your beliefs determine very quickly whether you will
feel comfortable on one side of this issue rather than the other. These connections
are both full of mutual interest, as we will explore in the following sections.
Topical network clusters is the shape assumed by a social network when a non-
interactive type of conversation occurs about the same topic, conducted by many
disconnected participants. This is the form assumed when established products
and services, such as Apple technology products, and media and sports celebrities
are discussed on Twitter. Examples would include Tweets about things such as a
goal in World Cup soccer, or the introduction of a new iPad by Apple. The larger
was the population discussing such a topic, the less likely that the participants
Figure 2.5 The customer support (and consumer surveillance) network
“we aim to serve
02_Kozinets_Ch-02.indd 42 3/11/2015 6:15:47 PM
were connecting to one another. This form stands in stark contrast to Muniz and
O’Guinns (2001) theorized notion of the ‘brand community’ that brings people
together through shared conversations about a brand. Instead, the participants in
brand clusters broadcast information about a topic without really connecting in a
communal way with one another. Often, this information is a simple re-broadcast
(in this case a retweet) of corporate or institutional information, advertising or pub-
licity. Unlike the participants in the tight or polarized crowd social form, they do
not have much in the way of a continuing conversation with one another.
Polarized issue networks are connected, tight, and unified together; however, they
are divided and partisan with one other large group (see Figure 2.7). They feature
two large and densely interconnected groups that have little connection flowing
between them. When topics were divisive and related to heated political subjects,
such as European EU-led immigration policies, the social network assumed this
form. As indicated by the slight interconnection between the groups, these groups
do not argue directly with one another. Even though they are talking about the
same topic, they ignore each other, like two large and independent continents, or
they reference them mockingly, or mock their hashtags. Generally, they point to
different web resources and use different hashtags. They build their own separate
sets of resources. In the Pew study, liberal groups in the United States tended to
link to mainstream media sources, while conservatives linked to a different set of
resources. We could think about parallels among Facebook groups, blogs or web-
sites. For example, conversations on the two-climate change websites
Figure 2.6 Topical cluster network
“united by mention”
02_Kozinets_Ch-02.indd 43 3/11/2015 6:15:47 PM
Figure 2.7 Polarized issue network
“split down the middle”
(the Union of Concerned Scientists) and also are likely to
contain polarized crowds. The form is almost built into the Internet in some cases.
Social Connections: Tight Social Networks and
Interest Group Alliances
Finally, we catch two of the most social of the social forms of online connection,
interaction and experience. When people want to interact with one another about
something they all feel strongly about, then we can say this is a tight network,
with lots of interconnections, almost impossibly close and interlinked. Another
way that this can happen, certainly not different or exclusive from tight social net-
works, but even possibly like a broadening out of that field, is that the group you
are in is people you know well, and that group is joined by others you don’t know
as well, and your group is linked to many other similar groups in many different
locations which you do not even know. But you all share resources and you have
opportunities to connect. We should be, in such cases, far more interested in the
hierarchies and power-interest-resource access related structures of these arrange-
ments. Rarely are they far from political and corporate interests and projects. Yet
their emancipatory power, and enablement of activism and alternative ideologies
is almost now without its sceptics.
Tight social networks are composed of the most highly interconnected peoplewith very few
isolated participants (see Figure 2.8). Tight crowds look much more like the traditional
02_Kozinets_Ch-02.indd 44 3/11/2015 6:15:47 PM
definition of ‘online communities’ than many of the other forms. They conduct
large and open conversations about similar topics, responding to one another in a
form that resembles the coherent threads of a newsgroup or forum. The ties between
people indicate mass and widespread practices of sharing and mutual support pro-
vision. Online versions of conferences, professional topics, hobbies, interests, media
and sports fan groups, and other subjects that attract large amounts of common
interest assume the form of the tight social network. It mimics in many ways family,
kinship and friend structures. A tight social network could also happen in particular
workplaces. Tight networks are tight networks, and it may be that different networks
have begun substituting for one another: work for religion, friends for family, hob-
bies for neighbourhoods, and so on.
Interest group alliance networks are more complex forms in which popular and widely
shared topics unite multiple smaller groups. Each of these groups forms around afew
social hubs. Each of these hubs has its own largely separate audience, set of influ-
encers and sources of information.They generally form for a little while when
people have interest in something, then they dissipate. Interest group alliance
networks have multiple centres of activity. They are not as unified as the tight
social network. However, a relatively small number of people are in those mul-
tiple centres, responsible for an inordinately disproportionate amount of social
media activity. The conversations surrounding major global news stories, such as
the recent coverage of the missing Air Malaysia flight 370 are the sort of interest
groups that arise, bubbling up from the underground, to last for a while, their
Figure 2.8 Tight social networks
“together we post”
02_Kozinets_Ch-02.indd 45 3/11/2015 6:15:47 PM
stories stoked by mainstream news and information outlets, national, local, global
and different interested communities, such as travellers, Chinese expatriates, engi-
neers, conspiracy theorists, and so on. Each of these groups has its own following,
which is long lasting but shifts from topic to topic. This network is a portrait of
that topic. Thus, revealing the multiplicity of conversations and viewpoints on a
single topic shared through social media, a collection of medium-sized groups will
manifest along with a fair number of isolates.
Several relevant patterns and ideas are present in this research to help us under-
stand our topics. For example, studying a single large online site dedicated to
climate change denial, such as Skeptical Science, may be sufficient in order to
illuminate the topic of climate change denial sites, their functions, processes,
structures and roles. Such a site would likely have much in common with interest
groups or tight social networks.
However, to understand the ideological ecosystem in which such a site operates,
you would likely need to broaden out to other sites or locations of information.
You then might find the site partaking in the polarized issue form. It could be that
the audience network model is being formed. Netnographers may need to shift
their discernment of online experiences from notions of communities to those of
particular network structures which govern repeat interactions that are topically,
temporally and locally based. Whether we should be studying one single site, sev-
eral interconnected site, one person as the centre for many site-lines, or a set of
many sites is another important research question. We will consider this question
of research questions much further in Chapter 5.
Figure 2.9 Interest group alliance network
“communications of interest”
02_Kozinets_Ch-02.indd 46 3/11/2015 6:15:48 PM
Studying the findings of social network analyses such as this one tells us a lot
about the structure we are dealing with. Knowing the structure is very helpful to
seeing the bigger picture. We, through these shapes and structures, see the contin-
ued, perhaps amplified, influence of major broadcast media. The continuing social
media significance of corporate actors such as advertisers, public relations people,
celebrity endorsers and customer service personnel is an indication about where
the true power centres of the network reside.
The findings underscore hierarchy. Online ‘influentials’ are a powerful force
given superpowers by the Internet. Everett Rogers identified the importance of
the offline variety of the influential market agent years ago. But now it is virtually
unlimited how many people one person can reach out towards.
Caroline Haythornthwaite (2005: 140) notes how technological change is merg-
ing with what she calls ‘social mechanisms’. Ongoing online social interactions
conducted in forms such as interest group clusters and polarized issue networks
can help turn strangers into friends. Trusting relationships, linked to strong social
ties, are relevant to understanding and planning the online provision of many
types of public information. Other uses include facilitating: peer exchanges such
as couchsurfing’s hospitality exchange service; economic exchanges such as eBay’s
trust-dependent online marketplace; social activism such as Greenpeace’s campaign
against Nestlé; and political campaign management, such as the much-studied
2008 social media for American President Barack Obama. Materializing within all
of these forms, and all of the structures we have just examined, is a predominant
tendency that our next section treats in some detail.
As we continue considering theory about the Internet’s impact on social group-
ings, we must consider the research findings of University of Toronto Professor
Barry Wellman. Wellman (2001: 2031) convincingly argues that ‘computer net-
works are inherently social networks’ and that, as computer networks proliferated,
we find ourselves in a network society that is ‘loosely bounded and sparsely knit’.
Wellman’s influential notions are based in his social network analyses of Internet
and computer network data. They parallel, detail, enrich and inform the under-
standing of core concepts of culture, community, individuals and participation
articulated above. Wellman, along with a range of colleagues, has been developing
the idea of ‘networked individualism’ since before most scholars had heard about
the Internet. His ideas have been adopted by other major Internet scholars such as
the influential Internet philosopher, Manuel Castells (1996). Castells articulated
further the potential for social media to enable and enhance people’s individual-
istic tendencies in the new society of technologically mediated networks that he
viewed as the new basic unit of human society (Castells, 1996).
According to Wellman’s co-authored book with noted Internet scholar and
researcher Lee Rainie (Rainie and Wellman, 2012: 11), networked individualism is
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a shift in people’s social lives ‘away from densely knit family, neighbourhood, and
group relationships toward more far-flung, less-tight, more diverse personal net-
works’. Coming as a result of the social network, Internet and mobile ‘revolutions’,
networked individualism means that ‘people function more as connected individu-
als and less as embedded group members’. Members of a family may now act more
like participants of multiple networks – only one of which is the family – than solely
or primarily as members of that family. Their home may no longer be mainly a place
where they congregate together as a family and pursue common family activities.
Instead it becomes more of a base for their individual networking with the outside
world, with each family member maintaining their own separate personal com-
puter, mobile phone, set of contacts, and so on. Wellman’s results and examples
illustrate a shift to the sort of more fluid, open and individual-centred conceptions
of culture and community espoused by anthropologists Amit and Rapport (2002)
and reviewed in Chapter 1 of this book.
From Rainie and Wellman (2012: 12–18) we can reiterate the following 12 prin-
ciples regarding networked individualism:
1. Networked individuals increasingly meet social, emotional and economic needs by tap-
ping into dispersed networks of diverse associates instead of relying on more intimate
connections with a relatively small number of core associates.
2. Networked individuals maintain partial membership in many networks or social groups
and rely less on permanent membership in established groups.
3. Technology is accelerating the trend toward networked individualism by accelerating
the growth, accessibility and diversification of these kinds of networks.
4. The Internet is the new neighbourhood, increasingly containing some of the networked
individual’s most important social contacts.
5. Networked individuals are empowered by the Internet to project their vision and voice
to extended audiences, and invite them to become a part of their social world.
6. The lines between communication, information and action have become increasingly
blurred as networked individuals use the Internet, mobile phones and social networks
to instantly get information and act upon it.
7. Networked individuals move easily between relationships and social settings to con-
struct their own complex identities, depending on their passion, beliefs, lifestyles,
professional associations, work interests, hobbies, media habits, subcultural inclina-
tions and other personal characteristics.
8. Less formal, more fluctuating and more specialized peer-to-peer relationships are
more easily sustained at work, and the benefits of hierarchical boss-subordinate rela-
tionships are less obvious.
9. Home and work are far more intertwined than in the past.
10. The public and private spheres of life are far more intertwined than in the past.
11. New expectations and realities are emerging regarding the transparency, availability
and privacy of people.
12. In this new era of less hierarchy, more information and looser relationships, there is
greater uncertainty than ever before about which information sources to believe and
who to trust.
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And yet, as with all matters human social, there is balance. Although extremely
helpful to recognize that the rise of the network society is enabling a form of net-
worked individualism, we also must attend to the many ways that people are also
using that technology to build new social forms. Our concluding section to this
chapter provides a brief overview that reorients us in this connective direction.
Technogenesis is the idea that human beings and our technologies coevolve
together. Paleoanthropologists have long accepted that human beings coevolve
with their tools, for example, bipedalism and more flexible opposable digitry
coevolved along with tool manufacture and transportation (Hayles, 2012: 10). As
we change our human, social and physical environment through technology, our
technological environment also changes us, selecting people who are more capa-
ble of succeeding within it. Netnography is intellectually emplaced within this
study of coevolving human-technology transformation and adaptation.
As more researchers conduct ethnographies of online social experiences, we
learn just how much – and how little – these phenomena are changing society.
Coleman’s (2010: 489) comments are pertinent in this regard: ‘The presumption
that digital technologies are the basis of planetary transformations is widespread,
but unfounded’. There is no question that these technologies and their online
social experiences have massive scale and global reach, and that global financial
capital, national intelligence agencies, and transnational corporations are deeply
involved in their production, maintenance and inner workings. Yet it is also easy to
overstate technology’s impact in, say, ‘producing a shared subjectivity or a wholly
new sensorium, still less a life world that might characterize a vast population’,
such as with the use of the term ‘digital native’ (Coleman, 2010: 490).
Online sociality and consociality reveal both the ‘modern’ and the ‘postmodern’
condition: the constant appearance of flux, movement, speed, change and progress.
We see this progress as technological change – a constant dynamic in our human
world. New hardware, new software, new abilities to communicate, entertain, inform,
broadcast, listen and learn. Our world has become one of never-ending adaptation,
ever-increasing rates of change. Our netnographic investigations, although clearly
cognizant of the reality that digital technologies ‘have cultivated new modes of com-
munication and selfhood; reorganized social perceptions and forms of self-awareness;
and established collective interests, institutions, and life project’ (ibid.), must also be
sceptical of claims of widespread change and the autonomous and overdetermining
power of technology and digital media. In some cases, as Miller and Slater (2000) dis-
covered, digital technologies facilitate social reproduction, reinforcing a tendency to
favour old and the comfortable views of self and culture over novel ones. Sometimes,
it may be that the forms of living change, but the ways of life remain the same.
Studies of online social experience reveal how our existing worlds of human
relationships, work relationships and structures of power are reinforced, extended,
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developed and changed. As technological systems change, human systems adapt,
and institutional arrangements shift. Netnography has helped reveal how rating
services, such as those of TripAdvisor, create a new accounting system online.
Social media networks are assemblages that become plugged into extant social
norms and systems that inspire trust and interpersonal connection; they can thus
rapidly assume a role in decision-making that was previously accorded to institu-
tional actors (Jeacle and Carter, 2011). Netnographies of social experiences online
inform us about alterations in our core notions of self – the heart of the psy-
chological atom. Lysloff (2003) is cautiously optimistic about the online social
experience’s expressionistic, exhibitionistic and existential impacts on our indi-
vidual lives as human beings. She relates online experience to the postmodern
notion of the fragmented, multiple self as well as to a Situationist sense of voice:
When we go online, the computer extends our identity into a virtual world of disem-
bodied presence, and at the same time, it also incites us to take on other identities. We
lurk in, or engage with, on-line lists and usenet groups that enable different versions
of ourselves to emerge dialogically. The computer, in this way, allows for a new kind of
performativity, an actualization of multiple and perhaps idealized selves through text
and image. (Lysloff, 2003: 255)
Online social experiences possess a paradoxical quality that simultaneously
liberates and constrains. They reveal tensions between powerful commercial
structures and the communal forms that they promote. They tell us about
the promotion of cultural transformation and the creation of change agents.
Investigations expand into activism, as social media for social change become a
matter increasingly on the transnational agenda. In their study of YouTube vid-
eos about the Israeli navy interception of the Gaza-bound flotilla, Sumiala and
Tikka (2013) find that:
YouTube served as a platform where various operators had the opportunity to construct
their meanings of reality and where the emphasis shifted from journalism-centered to
user-centered, from monological to plural, from media houses to grassroots-level citi-
zen journalists and/or activist groups, and from journalism of facts to journalism of
attachment and events (see also Boczkowski, 2004; Chouliaraki, 2010) … YouTube also
gave ordinary people the opportunity to tell their own story, to raise their own indi-
vidual voices, and to share their accounts of that reality on the same platform (p. 330).
As the following chapters will explore through multiple examples, the truth of
many netnographies lies in this notion of maintaining, even amplifying, the power
of the story. The way that stories intertwine with other stories in the process of peo-
ple interconnecting with one another through online social experiences is a thread
that runs through word of mouth to oral history and tradition to the study of folk-
lore. Folklorist Anders Gustavsson (2013) studied memorial sites on the Internet
for the deceased in Sweden and in Norway. He performs a culturally comparative
netnography that uses a collection of individuals’ online social expressions about
02_Kozinets_Ch-02.indd 50 3/11/2015 6:15:48 PM
life-after-death and any supernatural beliefs surrounding death to comparatively
analyse the two national cultures.
The messages posted on the websites are both shorter and less emotional in Norway
than in the case of their counterparts in Sweden, who observe more a diffuse, general
religiosity that reminds us of New Age modes of thought, in which individuals and the
brightness of a coming existence have a prominent position. In Sweden people tend
to regard what is new as being positive, to focus on cheerful events. Life’s darkest
moments can be given a brighter shape. In this respect, Norway can be seen as being
more realistic in its preservation of older traditions and in not merely rejecting life’s
darker sides without further discussion. (Gustavsson, 2013: 113–114)
Because of the interactions of social media and the Internet, so many aspects of
our life change – even the social experience of death. Manuel Castells (1996: 31)
wrote that the novel form of the technologically mediated network society is
‘fundamentally altering the way we are born, we live, we sleep, we produce, we
consume, we dream, we fight, or we die’. It is as if the force of evolution itself has
turned its full attention to the digital realm, more than happy to use technology
to run human social lives in fast forward and thereby reveal to us an endlessly
shifting new wardrobe of diverse social experiences. And whether those costumes
are comfortable or awkward, the changes to our way of being strong or weak, eas-
ily outnumbered by embodied experiences or at times absolutely overpowering
and intimidating, they require our careful study and critical attention.
In 1997, Grant McCracken wrote, in a creatively masterful gem called Plenitude
(1997: 17–18), that ‘Our diversity is the plenitude of society. What Plato found
astounding was the sheer number of plants and animals in the world. This book
is concerned with the sheer number and variety of social species’. McCracken
(1997: 18) could have been predicting the future of social media companies, types
of social experience, types of online experience, or types of interactions with people
mediated by technology, when he wrote:
It overflows even the most agile of our classificatory schemes. We may enjoy a moment’s
illusion that the world has been restored to order. And then we look around us. Everywhere
there is diversity, variety, heterogeneity. And we wonder: what set of categories can com-
prehend so many species of social life? What typology will embrace them all?
The Internet has increased social diversity, for it makes individualism, particularly
patterned individualism, incredibly easy to share, particularly in the current market-
driven milieu’s bottomless hunger for new styles, trends and change. These changes
and styles, and the structures and sites that form them, cry out for taxonomizing.
Historical thinking and analysis, comparison of taxonomic forms of human practice
and their evolution so vital to ethnography, have also thus far been largely absent
from netnographies (including my own), perhaps because the field and what it deals
with are still so very new. I would hope that upcoming studies, informed by this
book, would rectify this sin of omission.
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Our discursive dive into extant theory on online sociality has taken us from cul-
tural conceptions to archetypes of network structure. On the cultural side, we have
moved from technoculture to technogenesis, through ethnographic approaches,
sociality and cultural-communal hybridizations and divides. We conceptualize
four ideal types of online social experience and relate them to a variety of extant
social media sites, which are also contexts for our research. After this we move into
structural types of understandings of online interaction. We outline and overview
social network analysis in order to provide the six archetypes of network structure.
Finally, we close with a full discussion and incorporation of networked individu-
alism, which plays into our development of more introspective, and even auto-,
netnography through this book. Networked individualism’s 12 principles follow
to introduce the end to a chapter that offers a cultural network theory backbone
to the social interactions and structures of online experience.
Coleman, E. Gabriella (2010) ‘Ethnographic approaches to digital media’, Annual
Review of Anthropology, 39: 487–505.
Rainie, Lee and Barry Wellman (2012) Networked: The New Social Operating System.
Cambridge, MA and London: MIT Press.
Smith, Marc A., Lee Rainie, Ben Shneiderman and Itai Himelboim (2014) ‘Mapping
Twitter topic networks: From polarized crowds to community clusters’, Pew
Internet & American Life Project, 20 February. Available at: http://www.
crowds-to-community-clusters/ (accessed 15 October 2014).
1. For detail on these many mystically founded technology predictions and the relation
between technology and mysticism more generally, I highly recommended Erik Davis’
excellent 1998 book Technosis.
2. And this might be why we are so quick to call things ‘community’ that are often little
more than a set of temporary, obligatory, opportunistic social practices.
3. Relatedly, we have computationally assisted visualization being used within the field
of Digital Humanities, and most certainly just as much within the visual arts. This is
the idea of ‘digital forensics’ from work such as Matthew Kirschenbaum’s physical book
called Mechanisms: New Media and Digital Forensics (2008). As Hayles (2012: 32) notes,
‘The idea is to bring to digital methods the same materialist emphasis of bibliographic
study, using microscopic (and occasionally even nanoscale) examination of digital
objects and codes to understand their histories, contexts, and transmission pathways.’
02_Kozinets_Ch-02.indd 52 3/11/2015 6:15:48 PM
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Nepal is the country with enormous diverse and rich in cultural, religious, geographical, and natural resources. Having eight of ten world's topmost mountain over 800 meters including Mount Everest, ten world's heritage sites, including seven in Kathmandu Valley, Lumbini (birthplace Gautam Buddha), Chitwan National Park and Sagarmatha National Park and several hotspot destinations for trekking, mountaineers, rock climbers Jungle safari and the with natural beauties. Tourism is a backbone of the Nepalese economy and also a leading source of foreign exchange and foreign revenue. Customer services are bracketed directly with the Tourism and Hospitality Industry, which is based on money, and without the customer, there is no revenue. Consequently, the tourism and hospitality industry’s mainstay is customer care, and it always plays an active imperial role in the growth of the Tourism sector. Hence, reliable customer service as to those who get excellence service is more likely to return for their future travel arrangements. As a result, service quality is becoming a part of tourism and hospitality practice; as it is essential to be able to quantify and study its effectiveness. Nepal has enormous potential for the tourism sector and has proven by delivering the quality of service to the tourist who prefers to visit and seek adventures. Hence by providing excellent service, the hotel has played a crucial role in satisfying their customer. Therefore, to satisfy its customers and to triumph towards its aims, the excellence of service is prerequisite. Service quality and customer satisfaction are the major components towards the success of any firm and also helps in intensifying the loyalty of customer and satisfaction, gain the competitive advantages within the competitors and sustain in the market for long-term in the competitive market. Quickly identifying the problems and improving the quality of service standard as requisite, can be a better approach in the satisfying customer. This study will investigate the relationship between service quality and customer satisfaction in 5-star hotels in Kathmandu, Nepal. The significant finding will provide essential tools for customer satisfaction and service quality for the different organizations, especially in the hotel industry.
... Netnography is a contemporary form of a traditional ethnography approach used to study people's behavior (Kozinets, 2002). Netnographic research involves searching and analyzing computergenerated data with a series of systematic techniques to address research questions, and it has been adapted to a range of research areas (Kozinets, 2010). Compared to traditional ethnography, online ethnography is faster, more concise, and more economical. ...
... Travel reviews are rich and reliable data sources compared with other formats of online resources (Litvin, Goldsmith, & Pan, 2008). This study employed Netnography as a qualitative research method because of the following reasons: first, this approach can access specific social groups that are difficult to reach with traditional qualitative methods (Kozinets, 2010). Second, it enables researchers to access information in a more candid, natural, and unobtrusive way (Kozinets, 2002). ...
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All-for-one tourism is a brand-new development concept and mode of China's tourism industry. Following the principle of guiding theory and practice, this paper discusses the concept and connotation of all-for-one tourism, the application of all-for-one tourism concept in planning and the exploration of regional tourism development path by combing relevant researches. Based on the literature review, this paper analyses the universal theoretical guidance to the all-for-one tourism development and discusses the possible research direction of the all-for-one tourism development in the future, in order to promote the research of the all-for-one tourism theory and then improve the all-for-one tourism development of tourism destinations. Finally, taking Ma'anshan City in Anhui Province, which is currently promoting the establishment of an all-for-one tourism demonstration zone, as an example, this paper puts forward the development path of all-for-one tourism.
... Netnography is a contemporary form of a traditional ethnography approach used to study people's behavior (Kozinets, 2002). Netnographic research involves searching and analyzing computergenerated data with a series of systematic techniques to address research questions, and it has been adapted to a range of research areas (Kozinets, 2010). Compared to traditional ethnography, online ethnography is faster, more concise, and more economical. ...
... Travel reviews are rich and reliable data sources compared with other formats of online resources (Litvin, Goldsmith, & Pan, 2008). This study employed Netnography as a qualitative research method because of the following reasons: first, this approach can access specific social groups that are difficult to reach with traditional qualitative methods (Kozinets, 2010). Second, it enables researchers to access information in a more candid, natural, and unobtrusive way (Kozinets, 2002). ...
Conference Paper
This study examines the effect of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) dimensions on tourism bank performance in Tehran. The CRM dimensions include customer orientation, knowledge management, CRM organization, and technology based on CRM influence. Similarly, an organization's performance is measured with financial performance, customer performance, internal process performance and growth, and learning performance. The study uses interviews and surveys questionnaires to collect data. It employs Structural Equation Modelling (SEM) with AMOS software for data analysis. The results reveal positive and significant path relationships between CRM capabilities and tourism bank performance. This paper explains why some CRM programs are more successful than others and emphasize the required capabilities that support such success. It outlines the limitations and concludes with the management strategies that can improve tourism bank performance.
... Netnography is a contemporary form of a traditional ethnography approach used to study people's behavior (Kozinets, 2002). Netnographic research involves searching and analyzing computergenerated data with a series of systematic techniques to address research questions, and it has been adapted to a range of research areas (Kozinets, 2010). Compared to traditional ethnography, online ethnography is faster, more concise, and more economical. ...
... Travel reviews are rich and reliable data sources compared with other formats of online resources (Litvin, Goldsmith, & Pan, 2008). This study employed Netnography as a qualitative research method because of the following reasons: first, this approach can access specific social groups that are difficult to reach with traditional qualitative methods (Kozinets, 2010). Second, it enables researchers to access information in a more candid, natural, and unobtrusive way (Kozinets, 2002). ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
This study examines the effect of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) dimensions on tourism bank performance in Tehran. The CRM dimensions include customer orientation, knowledge management, CRM organization, and technology based on CRM influence. Similarly, an organization's performance is measured with financial performance, customer performance, internal process performance and growth, and learning performance. The study uses interviews and surveys questionnaires to collect data. It employs Structural Equation Modelling (SEM) with AMOS software for data analysis. The results reveal positive and significant path relationships between CRM capabilities and tourism bank performance. This paper explains why some CRM programs are more successful than others and emphasize the required capabilities that support such success. It outlines the limitations and concludes with the management strategies that can improve tourism bank performance.
This chapter investigates the critical competitive elements in the contemporary global wine industry. The authors describe these elements as “defining factors” considered key in international trade as they facilitate growth and sustainability within the context of the worldwide wine trade. They analyze published literature, apply desk and field research, and propose a framework that includes the findings from external and internal analyses to ascertain the potentially viable elements. A sample competitive grid and a global industry analysis inventory are presented. The results of this investigation contribute to the knowledge of management, marketing, finance, wine business globalization, wine business growth strategy, and international business. The results will also benefit the stakeholders in the global wine market, including producers, importers, exporters, traders, and researchers.
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El discurrir sobre la génesis ontoepistemológica de la netnografía permite ahondar en la perspectiva de establecer su esencialidad y, consecuentemente, la manera en que se puede construir conocimiento. En ese sentido, el contexto social, en el que tiene adscripción la aplicación de la netnografia, está circunscrito a las comunidades virtuales en las cuales las personas participan, se comunican y establecen un proceso de sociabilidad que ha de ser comprendido de manera diferente, interpretado, desde la subjetividad del investigador, pero, sin desconocer la subjetividad de los integrantes de la virtualidad.
The first of three volumes, the five sections of this book cover a variety of issues important in developing, designing, and analyzing data to produce high-quality research efforts and cultivate a productive research career. First, leading scholars from around the world provide a step-by-step guide to doing research in the social and behavioral sciences. After discussing some of the basics, the various authors next focus on the important building blocks of any study. In section three, various types of quantitative and qualitative research designs are discussed, and advice is provided regarding best practices of each. The volume then provides an introduction to a variety of important and cutting-edge statistical analyses. In the last section of the volume, nine chapters provide information related to what it takes to have a long and successful research career. Throughout the book, example and real-world research efforts from dozens of different disciplines are discussed.
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Conversations on Twitter create networks with identifiable contours as people reply to and mention one another in their tweets. These conversational structures differ, depending on the subject and the people driving the conversation. Six structures are regularly observed: divided, unified, fragmented, clustered, and inward and outward hub and spoke structures. These are created as individuals choose whom to reply to or mention in their Twitter messages and the structures tell a story about the nature of the conversation.
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.