Posted by: acecasanova | May 8, 2013

Going Native… in a virtual world?

As I read through “Ethnography and Virtual Worlds”, I could not help but think of how “going native” may apply to being a virtual ethnographer. In native villages and gorilla studies (not guerilla) the concept of “going native” seems rather simple. An ethnographer begins to not only empathize with, but identify as a native of this society as well. Or in the instance of observing “gorilla” behavior, could end up becoming an extremely strong activist or trying to involve yourself with the daily lives and affairs of the group, hence losing your objectivity.

So in a virtual world, what does it mean to “go native”? Would one perhaps become “sucked into the Matrix” losing their grasp and concept of reality? And then one would have to go further and ask, “what then is reality?”  But I digress. In reading on through this first chapter, their definition of virtual worlds intrigued me that it did not include Facebook or social media platforms, but rather games like YouVille and Farmville. Places that virtually exist and continue on despite the user’s presence. Kind of makes me think about what my farm looks like now (since I haven’t touched it in over a year).

So to bring it home, perhaps it is this idea that in some cases, an ethnographic researcher could become much like the subjects they are researching, or just simply prefer the virtual world over the real world. Do you think ethnographers studying virtual worlds can “go native?”


  1. They can absolutely go native Anthony! And, they have. I’ve known of some folks who abandoned their dissertations because of it.

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