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Digital Methods for Ethnography: Analytical Concepts for Ethnographers Exploring Social Media Environments

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The aim of this article is to introduce some analytical concepts suitable for ethnographers dealing with social media environments. As a result of the growth of social media, the Internet structure has become a very complex, fluid, and fragmented space. Within this space, it is not always possible to consider the “classical” online community as the privileged field site for the ethnographer, in which s/he immerses him/herself. Differently, taking inspiration from some methodological principles of the Digital Methods paradigm, I suggest that the main task for the ethnographer moving across social media environments should not be exclusively that of identifying an online community to delve into but of mapping the practices through which Internet users and digital devices structure social formations around a focal object (e.g., a brand). In order to support the ethnographer in the mapping of social formations within social media environments, I propose five analytical concepts: community, public, crowd, self...
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