Virtual Methods: Issues in Social Research on the Internet

By Christine Hine | Go to book overview
Save to active project

13
Sociable Hyperlinks: an Ethnographic
Approach to Connectivity

Anne Beaulieu

The Internet can be conceptualized as communication medium, information infrastructure and ‘space’ of interaction. Thinking about which concept to use is especially central to ethnographic methods, since constituting ‘the field’ is determinant for the knowledge produced in this kind of research (Amit 2000).1 The Internet is frequently seen as a mediated environment, constituted by a myriad of socio-technical interactions which often leave traces behind. Traces often seem ready-made (logs, files, archives of messages, hyperlinks), forming both a stimulus for renewed interest in ethnography on the Internet and a source of discomfort with the idea that the Internet might constitute a viable ethnographic site (Clifford 1997; Beaulieu 2004). These traces have also been perceived as potentially shared objects between quantitative and qualitative approaches. They are seductive for the researcher (Star 1999), but must be understood as representations constituted by the context, the users and last but not least, the researcher’s own activities.

The term ‘trace’ is used in this chapter to evoke a sign left behind by an entity, the meaning of which must be understood and interpreted. The methods illustrated in this chapter address one particular kind of ‘trace’, the hyperlink, and its use as an ethnographic object to constitute a field of study. I suggest that an ethnographic treatment of hyperlinks can be a useful way to understand both social and technical dimensions of the Internet as a space for sharing and circulating data. Viewing hyperlinks as both functional and symbolic suggests ways in which traditional elements of ethnography might be adapted in order to constitute an online field site for the study of infrastructure. Specifically, this approach builds on the notion of connectivity as an important feature of networks on the Internet (Scharnhorst 2003)and suggests how connectivity can be further elaborated in an ethnographic approach. While the issues explored in this chapter arose from work in science and technology studies, the discussion may well be of interest to other streams of research in which ethnography plays an important role.

-183-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Virtual Methods: Issues in Social Research on the Internet
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 242

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?