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From texts to contexts: the relevance of digital ethnography in a Foucauldian discourse analysis of online gender talk in Kerala

Daigy Varghese (Department of Liberal Arts, IIT Hyderabad, Hyderabad, India)
Shubha Ranganathan (Department of Liberal Arts, IIT Hyderabad, Hyderabad, India)

Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society

ISSN: 1477-996X

Article publication date: 23 May 2022

Issue publication date: 12 October 2022

84

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to foreground the importance of context in discourse analysis by drawing on a study of online gender talk on Facebook in India.

Design/methodology/approach

Using Foucauldian discourse analysis (FDA), this study explored participants’ use of language to construct and perform various identities in online gender talk. This study discusses the methods used and challenges in analyzing digital spaces through FDA, focusing specifically on the importance of an ethnographic perspective to contextualize online talk.

Findings

Engagement with the larger socio-cultural context of the subject of study through various data collection methods enhanced our understanding of the contexts behind text. It helped the authors to explore the data from multiple directions from a Foucauldian framework. This study found that people constructed a “progressive” identity when talking about gender on Facebook.

Originality/value

There are very few studies combining discourse analysis and digital ethnography and this paper seeks to do that. Digital ethnography helps to look beyond the text and locate text in the larger socio-cultural context. To emphasize the importance of context in discourse analysis, this study engages with both online and offline data as online talk is connected with offline contexts in many significant ways. In this paper, the authors provide a description on various methodological steps used to collect and analyze online data using FDA.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

An earlier version of this paper was presented at the “14th International congress of qualitative enquiry” conference in University of Illinois at Urbana-champaign, the USA, in 2018. Our sincere gratitude to the online activists who were willing to share their online experiences and special mention to all the college students who participated in the FGDs we have conducted. Thank you for sharing your valuable experiences.

Funding: The research for this article was undertaken as part of the doctoral work of the first author, who received a doctoral fellowship from the (erstwhile) Ministry of Human Research Development.

Submission declaration and verification: We confirm that it is our original research which is not published anywhere and it is not under consideration for publication elsewhere. Its publication is approved by all authors and tacitly or explicitly by the responsible authorities where the work was carried out and that, if accepted, it will not be published elsewhere in the same form, in English or in any other language, including electronically without the written consent of the copyright holder.

Citation

Varghese, D. and Ranganathan, S. (2022), "From texts to contexts: the relevance of digital ethnography in a Foucauldian discourse analysis of online gender talk in Kerala", Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, Vol. 20 No. 4, pp. 516-530. https://doi.org/10.1108/JICES-01-2022-0001

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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