Ethnography, Data Transparency, and the Information Age

Alexandra K. Murphy, Colin Jerolmack, Deanna Smith

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


    The conventions ethnographers follow to gather, write about, and store their data are increasingly out of sync with contemporary research expectations and social life. Despite technological advancements that allow ethnographers to observe their subjects digitally and record interactions, few follow subjects online and many still reconstruct quotes from memory. Amid calls for data transparency, ethnographers continue to conceal subjects" identities and keep fieldnotes private. But things are changing. We review debates, dilemmas, and innovations in ethnography that have arisen over the past two decades in response to new technologies and calls for transparency. We focus on emerging conversations around how ethnographers record, collect, anonymize, verify, and share data. Considering the replication crisis in the social sciences, we ask how ethnographers can enable others to reanalyze their findings. We address ethical implications and offer suggestions for how ethnographers can develop standards for transparency that are consistent with their commitment to their subjects and interpretive scholarship.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)41-61
    Number of pages21
    JournalAnnual Review of Sociology
    StatePublished - 2021


    • data sharing
    • ethnography
    • methodology
    • reanalysis
    • replication
    • technology
    • transparency

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science


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