Digital ethno -- Payoffs and pitfalls

24 Apr 2006|Added Value

I came across a blog written recently by Grockwell that characterized digital ethnography as a “catchy idea for doing cheap ethnography,” but I strongly believe there is more to it than this. There can be cost efficiencies to doing digital ethnography, but its real value lives elsewhere.

Specifically, digital ethnography:
– allows us to understand consumer behaviors in real time, as they happen
– creates access to situations and experiences we might not normally get to see — digital technology helps us capture moments that a researcher may indirectly influence if present
– allows us to explore the true nature in which technology is used and applied by people

The premise for digital ethnography is undeniable. Consumers’ lives are radically changing as a result of technology. Digital technology is changing the way we communicate with each other every single day. It’s changing the way we share information and go about our daily lives. This is happening most predominantly in Asia and Europe, but we’re starting to see the life-altering effects of digital technology among younger populations virtually everywhere.

As strategists dedicated to preserving the academic and professional roots of ethnography, we acknowledge that digital ethnography isn’t the right ethnographic approach to solve all of our clients’ needs. Trained ethnographers should be responsible for evaluating the situations digital ethnography can and should be used and designing research approaches accordingly.

We think digital ethnography has a lot of potential for evolving the field of consumer insights and providing clients with deep, meaningful evidence of consumer experiences globally. As innovators in the field, we are continuing to find effective, new applications for it.

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