Media Ethnography and Participation in Online Practices

David Waldecker Kathrin Englert Wolfgang Ludwig-Mayerhofer Oliver Schmidtke

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In this article, we focus on the issue of participation in online interaction in ethnography in general and in our own research in particular. In the first section, we discuss methodological questions concerning various forms of participation within the ethnography of online practices – practices that connect actors located in several different situations. Linking situations in this way transcends the traditional ethnographic mode of the researcher’s physical participation in a situation. In the second section of this article, we portray our approach to these issues in our research project, which examines the media practices of teenagers and young adults: we explore what they consider as an appropriate degree of observability on social media and how they actually use their accounts to gain attention or to stay unobserved. In doing so, we focus on the benefits and challenges of observing the online part of the young people’s interaction on and through social media.