Digital approaches in linguistic ethnography

Authored by: Piia Varis , Mingyi Hou

The Routledge Handbook of Linguistic Ethnography

Print publication date:  September  2019
Online publication date:  August  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138938168
eBook ISBN: 9781315675824
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter describes digital approaches in linguistic ethnography. It provides a historical account of the development of digital ethnography, identifying an increasing attention to language in the field over time. First-wave studies tended to adopt a technologically determinist approach and focus on how the medium shaped linguistic material, while second-wave studies, although more informed by pragmatics, sociolinguistics and discourse studies, were nevertheless predominantly focussed on the analysis of online data. Current work is then described which combines analysis of digital data and the practices which generate them, including Androutsopoulos’ discourse-centred online ethnography, Staehr and colleagues’ work with adolescents’ multilingual and multicultural practices online and offline, and work by Van Hout and by Swinglehurst on digital practices in professional settings. The chapter discusses the possibilities and challenges associated with adapting the principal research methods of linguistic ethnography to online settings, and provides examples of different ways researchers have resolved these issues. Future promising theoretical directions for the field are identified, including posthumanism and actor-network theory, and the importance of developing work on digital surveillance is underlined.

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