To read this content please select one of the options below:

The Researcher and the Never-Ending Field: Reconsidering Big Data and Digital Ethnography

Big Data? Qualitative Approaches to Digital Research

ISBN: 978-1-78441-051-3, eISBN: 978-1-78441-050-6

Publication date: 3 November 2014



This chapter considers the challenges and potentials of using so called big data in communication research. It asks what lessons big data research can learn from digital ethnography, another method of gathering digital data.


The chapter first takes on the task of clearly defining big data in the context of communication and media studies. It then moves on to analyse and critique processes associated with the dealings of big data: datafication and dataism. The challenges of data-driven research are juxtaposed with qualitative perspectives on research regarding data gathering and context. These thoughts are further elaborated in the second part of the chapter where the lessons learned in digital ethnography are linked to challenges of big data research.


It is proposed that by including the materialities of contexts and transitions between material and mediated realms, we can ask more relevant research questions and gain more insights compared to a purely data-driven approach.

Practical implications

This chapter encourages researchers to reflect upon their relations to the object of study and the context in which data was produced through human/human–technical interaction.


This chapter contributes to debates about qualitative and quantitative research methods in communication and media studies. Moreover, it proposes that methods which are in the widest sense used in the never-ending digital field benefit from the mutual consideration of both qualitative and quantitative approaches.



Lohmeier, C. (2014), "The Researcher and the Never-Ending Field: Reconsidering Big Data and Digital Ethnography", Big Data? Qualitative Approaches to Digital Research (Studies in Qualitative Methodology, Vol. 13), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 75-89.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014 Emerald Group Publishing Limited