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WhatsApp in Ethnographic Research: Methodological Reflections on New Edges of the Field
JournalArticle (Originalarbeit in einer wissenschaftlichen Zeitschrift)
ID 3694271
Author(s) Staudacher, Sandra; Kaiser-Grolimund, Andrea
Author(s) at UniBasel Staudacher, Sandra
Kaiser-Grolimund, Andrea
Year 2016
Title WhatsApp in Ethnographic Research: Methodological Reflections on New Edges of the Field
Journal Basel Papers on Political Transformations
Number 10 Mobilities - In and out of Africa
Pages / Article-Number 24-40
Keywords WhatsApp, smartphone, ethnographic research, methodology, transnational social field, actor-centred, communication, Tanzania
Abstract The mobile phone and the increasing worldwide use of smartphones with applications such as the instant messenger WhatsApp are revolutionising ethnographic research. Drawing on transnational, ethnographic research in Tanzania, the USA and Oman, this paper shows that WhatsApp constitutes a valuable tool in ethnographic research in three important fields of interaction and communication: first, between researchers and informants simultaneously in different places; secondly, as a tool to exchange with field assistants; and thirdly between researchers. Building on expanding theoretical reflections on transnational networks and practices this paper adds new insights to corresponding methodological consequences. It critically reflects on the usefulness of integrating WhatsApp into ethnographic research. It argues that by incorporating such technologies we can not only keep an actor-centred focus, but also support methodologically the theoretical shift from understanding the field as a ‘location’ to grasping the field as a ‘network’ – or even a transnational social field.
Publisher University of Basel
ISSN/ISBN 1664-6681 ; 1664-669X
Full Text on edoc Available

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