Confronting the Digital: Doing Ethnography in Modern Organizational Settings

Onajomo Akemu, Samer Abdelnour

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Digital technologies pervade modern life. As a result, organizational ethnographers must contend with informants interacting in face-to-face and digitally mediated encounters (e.g., through email, Facebook Messenger, and Skype). This overlap of informants’ digital and physical interactions challenges ethnographers’ ability to demonstrate authenticity and multivocality in their accounts of contemporary organizing. Drawing on recent theorizing about the nature of digital artifacts and two cases of ethnographic fieldwork, we argue that digital artifacts afford ethnographers different modes of being co-present with research participants: digital as archive and digital as process. We offer guidelines to researchers on how to deploy these modes of co-presence in order to improve authenticity and multivocality in ethnographic studies of modern organizations. We also explore the implications for methodological concerns such as ethics, analytical choice, and reflexivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)296-321
Number of pages26
JournalOrganizational Research Methods
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2018


  • digital artifacts
  • digital research methods
  • mixed methods
  • modern organizations
  • organizational ethnography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Decision Sciences(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation

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