Research Articles

Situating Liquid Media Use: Challenges for Media Ethnography



One of the main challenges facing media ethnographies is studying media practices in a media environment in which former boundaries between media and the ways we use them have collided or ‘liquefied’. The difficulty lies in defining the locus of media practices. People dispose of an ever expanding and more mobile, digital media repertoire through which they access content anytime, anywhere. As such, identifying the spatial, temporal and social context through which media users ‘float’ becomes ever more challenging. In this article, we draw on our experience with a semi-experimental digital ethnography on interactive news practices among non-lead users to pinpoint and reflect upon the challenges this ‘liquefied’ environment poses for media ethnographies, both on a conceptual and a methodological level. We will shed light on the continuous, self-reflexive balancing act during the research, between obtaining sound data and burdening the participants and between respecting the ground rules of ethnographic research and opening up towards new perspectives, such as the Living Lab approach and probing. We build the case for media ethnographies as forming an indispensable methodological tool for gaining insights into the way people give meaning to the media they use, as long as ethnographic practice remains open to conceptual and methodological innovation.

Keywords: new media, methodological challenges, media ethnography, Living Labs, digital ethnography

How to Cite: Picone, I. (2017) “Situating Liquid Media Use: Challenges for Media Ethnography”, Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture. 9(3). doi: