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Accepted Paper:

Exploring User-Initiated Digital Economic Practices: Ethnographic Insights into Social Interactions on a Chinese Coupon App  
Jingjing Fu (Queen Mary University of London)

Paper short abstract:

The paper details ethnographic methods employed to study user-initiated economic practices on a Chinese coupon app, aiming to understand social interactions and relations in a commercial and private sphere. It addresses methodological challenges and explores ethical issues in Internet ethnography.

Paper long abstract:

The paper articulates the ethnographic approaches that I employed to study users' self-initiated economic practices on a Chinese coupon app and their associated private social networking accounts. The research object of my fieldwork is people's social interactions in an online context that is both commercial and private. The study aims to understand and interrogate the nature of those social interactions and their associated social relations. To pursue answers, the data I intended to capture needed to offer insights into the participants' use experiences, including, but not limited to, their perceptions, understandings, and affective motivations. Moreover, the study also intends to examine those experiences of social interactions in a broader social and cultural context. Therefore, to achieve such a research scope, digital ethnographic methods such as the walkthrough method, the 'media go-along' technique, and semi-structured interviews were employed.

This paper seeks to demonstrate the methodological challenges of conducting ethnographic research regarding user-initiated digital economic practices. Second, the paper draws on the literature on qualitative methods, particularly ethnographic approaches and qualitative interviews, and explains how each method can be applied to my research, its limitations and advantages. Finally, the paper addresses the ethical issues I encountered and reflects on them in the context of Internet ethnography in a hybrid sphere.

Panel P036
Digital ethnography and experiences from the Global South
  Session 2