HomeWeChat Ethnography: New Practices and Limits of an Emerging Research Methods

HomeWeChat Ethnography: New Practices and Limits of an Emerging Research Methods

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Published on Monday, January 23, 2023

Abstract

As more and more social practices take place online, scholars have also changed their ways to conduct research, disrupting the traditional methods of social sciences. This workshop encourages researchers in social sciences and Chinese studies to share their “Wechatethnography” experiences and to open discussion related to online research methods, grasping the new opportunities as well as the limits and difficulties it provokes, bearing in mind that doing good ethnographic research consists of “finding practical anddefensible balancing points between opposing tensions”, and making accounts that are “properly responsible and accountable to their audience and their informants”.

Announcement

Presentation

As more and more social practices take place online, scholars have also changed their ways to conduct research, disrupting the traditional methods of social sciences. Indeed, online ethnography has evolved into an increasinglypopular research method and, as Hallett and Barber pointed out, “it is no longer imaginable to conduct ethnography without considering online spaces”(2014: 307). In the context of conducting research in China or with Chinese,reinforced by the Covid-19 situation and a limited access to the fieldwork, the use of WeChat –the most popular social media in China –has become critical. However, this platform may be both promising and constraining and requires methodological and ethical reflections on how to operationalize “WeChat ethnography”: May we use or reproduce a private chat conversation to support an academic argument? How to deal with pseudonyms and identity markers to protect the participants? Whose permission should we seek for the publication of an image publicly shared online? How to credit users for their creations while respecting their privacy? How to deal with the respondents’ intimacy?

This workshop encourages researchers in social sciences and Chinese studies to share their “Wechatethnography” experiences and to open discussion related to online research methods, grasping the new opportunities as well as the limits and difficulties it provokes, bearing in mind that doing good ethnographic research consists of “finding practical anddefensible balancing points between opposing tensions” (Baym, 2009: 173), and making accounts that are “properly responsible and accountable to their audience and their informants” (Hine, 2013: 6).

Programme

Part II: February 9-10, 2023

Thursday, Febuary 9

  • 9:30-10:00(online) - To Face the Coming of An Era of WeChat Ethnography –An Awarness of Anthropologists on the Cultural Transformation in the World Xudong Zhao (Renmin University)
  • 10:00-10:30(online) - Digital ethnographers as a (perhaps) forgotten guest: the case of a teacher-student chat during Covid-19 lockdown in China Michela Bonato (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice)
  • 10:50-11:20(onsite) - Beyond Quanzi: Digital Production of Queer Sociality and Spaces in Shanghai Jiannan Shi (Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge)
  • 11:20-11:50(onsite) - Between the “Virtual” and the “Real”: Benefits and Challenges of Using WeChat to Research Chinese Queer Sojourners in France Cai Chen (Université Libre de Bruxelles)
  • 13:30-14:00(online) - Applying WeChat Ethnography to politically sensitive topics Yue Wang (Tampere University)
  • 14:00-14:30(onsite) - Handling Online Intimacy: Some Methodological Uses and Limits of Islam-Related WeChat Groups in China Pascale Bugnon (HES-SO/Confucius Institute, University of Geneva)
  • 14:30-15:00(onsite) - Researching Nomadism and Ritual Practices in Peripheral China through WeChat Ethnography Aurore Dumont (Groupe Sociétés, Religions, Laïcité –GSRL)
  • 15:20-15:50(onsite) - Space Modalities of Chinese Academies in Contemporary China and the Implications for Modern Society Jie Shu (Université Paris Cité, Institut Français de Recherche sur l'Asie et l'Est (IFRAE))
  • 15:50-16:20(online) - Studying Mobility without Moving: Pandemic-Era China Research and Social Media Tami Blumenfield (University of New Mexico & Yunnan University)

Friday, Febuary 10

  • 9:30-10:00(online) - Building A WeChat Group: Smart Phone Use and Elders’ Community among China’s Migrant Grandparents Min Zhang (School of Ethnology and Sociology, Minzu University)
  • 10:00-10:30(online) - Coming of Social Media and Transformations of Long-distance intimacies: A WeChat Ethnography in China Ting He (Renmin University)
  • 11:00-11:45(online) - Re-constructing Transnational Relationships in Cyberspace: Employing WeChat to Mediate Qingtian (青田) as a 侨乡(qiaoxiang, sending area) Mette Thunø (Departmentof Global Studies, Aarhus University) & Yiwen Wang (Aarhus University/University of Amsterdam)
  • 13:30-14:15(online) - Evaluation of Fully Automated Translation in Social Media: An Ethnologic Study of WeChat Haina Jin (Communication University of China) & Zhiyan Li (Communication University of China)
  • 14:15-14:45(online) - Is WeChat a Feasible Tool for Conducting China-based Ethnographic Research Under the Platform’s Censorship? NingjieZhu (Center for Advanced Security, Strategic and Integration Studies, University of Bonn)

15:00 Concluding remarks

Additional information

Location: Institut Confucius, Route de Lausanne 266A, 1292 Chambésy / Geneva, Switzerland

Zoom link

ID meeting: 670 0684 2591

Code secret: 915747

Contacts: Yali Chen: yali.chen@unige.ch & Pascale Bugnon: pascale.bugnon@unige.ch

Places

  • Route de Lausanne 266A
    Geneva, Switzerland (1292)

Event attendance modalities

Hybrid event (on site and online)


Date(s)

  • Thursday, February 09, 2023
  • Friday, February 10, 2023

Keywords

  • digital ethnography, China, methodology, ethics

Contact(s)

  • Yali Chen
    courriel : yali [dot] chen [at] unige [dot] ch
  • Pascale Bugnon
    courriel : pascale [dot] bugnon [at] unige [dot] ch

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Pascale Bugnon
    courriel : pascale [dot] bugnon [at] unige [dot] ch

License

CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« WeChat Ethnography: New Practices and Limits of an Emerging Research Methods », Conference, symposium, Calenda, Published on Monday, January 23, 2023, https://doi.org/10.58079/1adk

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