Pongo aquí el abstract que envié para el taller de Etnografía Virtual, a ver qué les parece:
From “Virtual Worlds” to “Complex Ethnography”: a few notes from the Latin-American field.
Edgar Gómez Cruz
Universidad de Colima, México/Universidad Complutense, Spain.
This paper is divided in two parts. The first part is a “historical” examination of the characteristics of the “Computer Mediated Communication” as a field of study in Latin-America (with special focus on Mexico). Using ethnography as the guideline, this first part seeks to explore the evolution of the conceptual, theoretical and methodological frames of research in this field, and does that by reviewing some of the problems derived from the fact that the main literature is written in English and that it has been specifically constructed to be used in developed countries. Some of these works have been very useful as main approaches to the field. Nevertheless, they’ve also presented difficulties when it comes to applying some of the elements used because of the specific characteristics of the cultural environments in Latin-American countries and also because of the varieties of uses and practices that different “community of users” have in comparison with those in other countries (for example the concept of Race in Mexico is not entirely applicable because of the historical mixture of different races, which makes this concept inadequate to be studied as a variable). In this way, researchers interested in CMC have had to adapt and adopt some different strategies (including some peculiarities in the use of techniques such as “in-depth interviews” and observations) in order to obtain a positive goal in a field which is both very “young” and quite difficult to explore (at least in those countries). This first part also analyses the “historical” changes in the use of some concepts that study CMC: “virtual community”, “virtual extension of the community”, “hyperspace”, “virtual ethnography”, etc., as well as some of their problems, in order to explain the complexity of these practices. Some of these concepts have been discarded; changed or readapted by every new approach to the field. The growing academic interest in it is obviously related to the evolution of the practices and uses of CMC by more and more people. Lastly, this first part presents a self-reflection on the field and its “lights and shades” as an object of study in the contrasting realities which are different than those presented in developed countries.
The second part of the paper includes a reflection on the current possibilities of CMC research using an ethnography that “blurs” some of the “traditional” dichotomies used in the study of CMC (Social/Natural; humans/non humans and especially Virtual/Real), a subject already developed by several authors (including Hine). This approach (which I am starting to use as a part of my doctoral thesis about Instant Messaging) seeks creative ways of engaging with the complexity of the practices and the recent transformations of the most used systems of CMC (from public chats to “personal networks” in IM, blogs and mobile phones), and the “new techno-social hybrids” of communication (SMS, IM with mobile phones, WiFi in public places, etc.). Following the “actors” in their practices, this approach looks to describe more than explain this practice in a wider context that the one reduced to “the screen”.