Medical and Health Sciences
This is the first article to describe how broadening of the term netnography in qualitative research is leading to misperceptions and missed opportunities. The once accepted need for human presence in netnographic studies is giving way to nonparticipatory (passive) approaches, which claim to be naturalistic and bias-free. While this may be tenable in some environments, it also removes the opportunity for cocreation in online communities and social media spaces. By contrast, participatory (active) netnographers have an opportunity to conduct their research in a way that contributes value and a continuity of narrative to online spaces. This article examines the ways in which netnographies are being used and adapted across a spectrum of online involvement. It explores the ways in which netnographies conform to, or depart from, the unique set of analytic steps intended to provide qualitative rigor. It concludes by advocating for active netnography, one which requires a netnographic “slog” where researchers are prepared for the “blood, sweat, and tears” in order to reap rich benefits.
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