Digital Ethnographic Techniques in Domestic Spaces: Notes on Methods and Ethics

Main Article Content

Bjorn Nansen
Jenny Kennedy
Michael Arnold
Martin Gibbs
Rowan Wilken


This paper reflects on the opportunities provided by the use of novel digital ethnographic methods for gaining insights into the changing uses of broadband internet and digital media in everyday domestic spaces, as well as the new kinds of methodological and ethical issues that are raised by these techniques. It begins by describing the research context, rationale, and methodology for deploying mobile devices, digital ethnographic software, and visual tasks in domestic spaces, which sought to encourage and empower participants to actively produce and interpret visual data. In particular, we describe how these digital ethnographic techniques aimed to overcome some of the limitations of traditional media ethnography in domestic spaces. We go on to describe a number of ethical implications, both anticipated in the research design and emerging during the introduction and early period of household data collection within the longitudinal study. These included issues of gaining informed consent and participant burden, given the disruptive qualities of the mobile device, ethnographic software and visual tasks, and the creative and technical competence required to complete the research tasks. We conclude with a discussion of the benefits and challenges of these digital ethnographic techniques, and note how the research methods have undergone collaborative modification in response to the ethical challenges encountered by participants.

Article Details

How to Cite
Nansen, B., Kennedy, J., Arnold, M., Gibbs, M., & Wilken, R. (2015). Digital Ethnographic Techniques in Domestic Spaces: Notes on Methods and Ethics. Visual Methodologies, 3(2), 86-97.
Author Biography

Bjorn Nansen, University of Melbourne

Media and Communications