01 One of the most-cited descriptions of virtual ethnography is Hine, C. (2000). Virtual Ethnography. Sage.
Often online ethnographies include a mix of methods, such as contextual interviews conducted online with screen sharing or in-depth retrospective interviews with other community members.  There are different ways to do online ethnography, including:
- Self-ethnographic research, where a researcher becomes part of a community and documents her own experiences.
- Non-participant online ethnography, where researchers decide to only observe, for example, an online community.
- Participant online ethnography, where researchers get in touch with specific participants to “shadow” their online activities (e.g., through screen sharing).
Online ethnographies can focus on many different aspects, such as social interactions within an online community or the differences in self-perception of people when they are online in comparison to their self-perception in real life. Online ethnography can be overt or covert. When you do overt online ethnography, people you interact with online know that you are a researcher, while a covert approach means that people you interact with do not know that you’re a researcher. When researchers are visible to the people around them, it is important to be aware of a potential “observer effect” – the influence researchers have on their environment and on their community’s behavior simply by being present (also virtually).