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  • 00:14

    Netnography is an adaptation of ethnography,which is a very old, traditional technique in anthropology whichis based on participant observation.It literally means "writing about cultures"-- the studyof culture that's written up.And a netnography is an adaptationof ethnography for the online world--for the contingencies of online communitiesand online cultures.

  • 00:40

    And it's a way of finding those cultures and communities wherethey actually exist and understanding themas social phenomena.So, rather than understanding themas just isolated content or text or photographs that peoplemight post online, it's a way of seeing something like Facebookor something like Wikipedia as a living,breathing, thriving cultural community,sort of like an online equivalent of a villageor a neighborhood or a family or-- chooseyour communal metaphor.

  • 01:11

    But something like that that keeps the social part of itintact and understands it using techniquesthat were built for understanding social worlds.So what kind of techniques would you use, for example?Well, netnography really looks at the online communicationsor interactions that are already out there.

  • 01:31

    So if you've got a computer, you can do a netnography.It's about following conversations, findingonline places of interaction, capturing that datain some way, analyzing it, looking for commonalitiesin it.So you can also merge it with things like interviews.That's very frequently done, online or offline.

  • 01:52

    But really, the entire data set that you needwould be constituted by the online interactions thatare already out there in many, many millionsof different online forums.So, when I started, in 1995, therewere only 18,000 different websites.There was a lot of action on someof the news groups and online communities,but the internet itself was very small.

  • 02:16

    Now there are probably 18,000 different websitesthat are devoted to Britain's Next Top Model, for instance.You know, there's just a lot of places to do studies like this.So, if I were a PhD student wantingto start a netnographic study, what would be my first step?Your first step would be to get a computer. [LAUGHS]Or have access to a computer.

  • 02:39

    And to locate some area or site that's of interest to you.And it could be a topical area, too.So you would really kind of startwith something that interests you--a question-- or something that's intriguing to you.So let's say it is a television show.What's the version of American Idol that you have?

  • 03:00

    It's Pop Idol, right?Isn't it?I know we have Britain's Next Top Model and Pop Idol--Pop Idol.So let's say it's some reality TV show.You have your own version of Survivor, too?Or--Oh, I don't know! [LAUGHS]--The Apprentice?Yeah.We do have The Apprentice.You have The Apprentice.So let's say it's some reality-television showand the way that audiences relate with one anotherto try and guess who's going win,to comment on the different contestants,to follow the evolution of this particular show.

  • 03:29

    Let's say that's of interest to you.It could be a wider domain of saying,how has the internet changed the way that weinteract with television shows?So a show like Lost, for example,had a huge online following.And they even had a wiki called "Lostpedia"that I wrote a book chapter about,that fans used to keep track of all the different threadsand all the different mysteries and allthe different characters and everythingthat had gone through it.

  • 03:57

    My own work, I've studied a number of different televisionshows-- a series like Star Trek or X-Files or Star Wars.And they have these complex universesthat are built up around them.The internet's a great way that people share these ideas,talk about them, and build information around them.So let's say that was your topic.You would need to go out and find areas onlinethat talked about that topic.

  • 04:21

    Or interactions-- photographs, YouTube, wikis,online communities, and so on-- and investigate where there areinteresting things happening.Once you've done that, you would kind ofstart to localize and decide which groups of informationare interesting to you.And you would start to save your data, code your data,analyze it, and then be able to start to ask and answerinteresting research questions.

  • 04:48

    So, at some level, netnography is just qualitative inquiry.But it's a specific kind of qualitative inquirythat takes place among the cultures and communitiesthat are online and that kind of focusesin on interesting questions that can-- for an academic,for a PhD student, as you asked-- can answer or informcertain theoretically important questions in areasand literatures that are of interest to the scholarsin that particular discipline.

  • 05:18

    And do you think there's a certain type of question that'sparticularly suited to this kind of method?Um-- I think it's a very flexible method.Like ethnography is, it's adaptable to all sortsof questions.So it could inform about social life online.It could inform about particular practices.

  • 05:38

    It could Inform about particular aspects of social lifethat have all kinds of offline implications.I was just talking to someone, after my presentation, who'svery interested in online dating.And she was mentioning that the reality of online datingis quite different from the reality of physicaldating, but that almost all dating-- or-- no,not almost all dating, but a lot of peoplenow, particularly among certain age groups,takes place in this interrelationshipbetween meeting people online and meeting them physicallyand continuing their relationship partially onlineand physically.

  • 06:15

    So there's a lot of interrelationshipbetween the physical and the online world.So netnography's not just about the online component.It also is a way to study that online component,but you don't ignore the physical component.So it's an interrelationship of both.So I think netnography's very useful for many areasof social life where we have bothan online and an offline component.

  • 06:39

    For example, being a new mother, dating, being a teenager,keeping in touch with your old friends.I mean, so many aspects of social lifenow have an online component that makes them important.And it moves between online and offline.So, before, we had-- you know, ethnographic research-- and Iwould say this is probably largelythe case, still, in anthropology, which really usesonline netnography, but rarely.

  • 07:05

    I still see it not used very much at all.So the research kind of stops at the-- theyfollow the person around, and then itstops at the door, where they startto engage with online content.Well, netnography enables you to open that doorand investigate that online worldand continue that investigation when the person walks backfrom that world with netnography.

  • 07:25

    So it doesn't have this missing component part to it.If you wanted to just investigate whathappens in "an" online community.So, for example, I studied a group of coffee connoisseurscalled, which is still going.You don't really need the physical componentto that, because you're just lookingat the impact of the online community on their coffeeconsumption and on what they do.

  • 07:46

    And I also theorized about how online communities of all kindsimpact all sorts of behavior-- not just coffee, but televisionand, you know, hotel purchasing, deciding whereto go on vacation, and so on.Deciding what automobile to purchase.You know, it impacts a huge number of different behaviors.I developed it to look at a lot of consumer behaviorsand consumption behaviors.

  • 08:09

    But I also developed it around things like social behaviors,like boycotting.And political decisions are a huge part of it,and social decisions, friendship decisions,all kinds of decisions.So it's a method that really has a lot of flexibility built inand enables you to investigate a lot of different kindsof questions.If there's no online component, you probablydon't need netnography.

  • 08:32

    But if there's a mix of the real life and the online,netnography can help you to give a fuller portrait of people'ssocial life as it moves between online and offline kindsof interactions and communications.What do you think are some common problems a student mightencounter, trying to use this method?And what would your response be?

  • 08:53

    And how could they overcome those problems?Yeah, I mean, I think the problems with netnographywould be similar to the problems with ethnography,which is that it's a technique thatrequires some analytic depth.So, although it's tempting to wantto be able to do a one-week or a two-week dissertation usingnetnography, that's probably not what's required.

  • 09:15

    What's required is commitment and training and practice.Going deep into analysis is difficult,whether you're doing ethnography,whether you're doing depth interviews,whether you're doing netnography.That level of analytic depth is difficult.Perhaps a maybe more North American problemwould be that there is-- qualitative researchin some areas is looked at as kind of soft and fuzzy.

  • 09:40

    When you add to that the trendiness of the internet,maybe people will think that this is not as rigorousa technique as, say, going out and giving a surveyand crunching the numbers and coming up somethingthat seems quite concrete.So I think that the legitimation,or the legitimization of qualitative inquiry techniquesin general and netnography in particular, because it is quitenew, still might hold back students and be somethingthey would have to justify a little bit moreand have to explain a little bit more.

  • 10:14

    But I will say it's a lot more fun, and a lot more enjoyable,and it's probably worth the extra effort.As well, I think the articles that I've written,and the book chapters, and then particularly the bookfrom SAGE-- the 2010 Netnography-- DoingEthnographic Research Online-- can reallyhelp to explain the method and justify it and give reallya lot of in-depth comments, and a lot of sortof detailed technical specifications,and step-by-step directions about what you need to do,and quotable quotes about why it's justifiedand how it's a logical extension of existing methods.

Video Info

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Publication Year: 2011

Video Type:Interview

Methods: Netnography

Keywords: consumer behavior; culture (anthropology); internet; internet and communities; legitimacy; online dating; practices, strategies, and tools; Social life; television shows; web sites ... Show More

Segment Info

Segment Num.: 1

Persons Discussed:

Events Discussed:



Associate Professor Robert V. Kozinets defines netnography as a form of ethnography that examines online cultures and life. He explains that it is a particularly good method to examine the relationship between online and real life activities, but it is so new that some academics feel it is not rigorous.

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What is netnography?

Associate Professor Robert V. Kozinets defines netnography as a form of ethnography that examines online cultures and life. He explains that it is a particularly good method to examine the relationship between online and real life activities, but it is so new that some academics feel it is not rigorous.

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