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

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

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Published on Wednesday, May 04, 2022


This workshop invites original research that employs Wechat ethnography to share their research fieldwork and to open discussion related to online research methods.



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 increasingly popular 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 “Wechat ethnography” 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 and defensible 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).

Submission guidelines

Paper proposals (in the form of a 250-word abstract), along with a short biography should be sent to the organizers :

  • yali.chen@unige.ch
  • pascale.bugnon@unige.ch

before July 1, 2022.

Accepted participants will be informed before August 1st and the conference abstract booklet will be published in September 2022.


The workshop will take place at the Villa Rive-Belle (main building of the Unige Confucius Institute), Route de Lausanne 266A, 1292 Chambésy, Geneva, Switzerland, on October 7th-8th, 2022. Due to COVID restrictions, the workshop format will be hybrid (in-person and virtual participation).


  • Yali Chen, Ph.D., Lecturer at the School of Social Sciences, University of Geneva
  • Pascale Bugnon, Ph.D., Researcher at Confucius Institute, University of Geneva


Baym, N.K. (2009). What constitutes quality in qualitative internet research? In A.N. Markham & N.K. Baym (Eds.), Internet inquiry: Conversations about method (pp. 173-189). SAGE Publications.

Hallett, E. R., & Barber, K. (2014). Ethnographic Research in a Cyber Era. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 43: 306–30.

Hine, C. (2013). The Internet. Oxford University Press.



  • Villa Rive-Belle (main building of the Unige Confucius Institute) - Route de Lausanne 266A
    Geneva, Switzerland (1292)

Event format

Hybrid event (on site and online)


  • Friday, July 01, 2022


  • Wechat, ethnography


  • Yali Chen
    courriel : yali [dot] chen [at] unige [dot] ch

Information source

  • Yali Chen
    courriel : yali [dot] chen [at] unige [dot] ch


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 Method », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, May 04, 2022, https://calenda.org/991158

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