This article explores the relevance of the ethnographic study of the Internet for feminist scholars interested in families. The online world is an emerging field site for feminist scholars investigating spousal, parental, and kin relations, one that opens up new arenas of study but also requires novel methodological approaches. The proliferation of cyber-communities and computer-mediated communication has radically altered how we live, communicate, and gather, share, and produce knowledge. This is particularly true for families, as new media technologies have impacted how families form, interact, and understand themselves and the world. Web 2.0 offers the potential for new imagined communities, new forms of social and political resistance, and new identities and networks that can transcend or reinforce traditional understandings of community, nation, and family. This article begins with a critical review of relevant literature (primarily from the United States) and offers several case studies that show the relevance of cyber-ethnography to feminist researchers interested in families. As the cases illustrate, ethnographers face new methodological and ethical issues associated with cyber studies and cyber-ethnography. Given the changing media landscapes families find themselves in, scholars of gender and families are well served to think through the effects of new media on families and the methodological benefits and challenges for studying these new forms of communication.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.