Recent research on street-involved populations has documented their online presence and has highlighted the effects of their online presentations on their lives in the real world. Given the increasing conflation between the online and offline world, contemporary urban ethnographers should pay increased attention to their participants’ online presence and interactions. However, methodological training of this sort is still in its infancy stages and has not yet evolved to guide the growing number of researchers undertaking this form of research. This article draws from our experiences using social media in our urban ethnographies with criminally involved groups, to examine the benefits, risks, and challenges of drawing on social media in urban ethnography. It is intended to serve as a foundational piece that will hopefully ignite scholarly dialogue, debate, and methodological training relating to deploying social media in urban—and specifically—gang ethnography.

Gangs, Netnography, Presentation management, Social media, Urban ethnography,
Qualitative Sociology
Erasmus School of Law

Urbanik, M.-M. (Marta-Marika), & Roks, R.A. (2020). GangstaLife: Fusing Urban Ethnography with Netnography in Gang Studies. Qualitative Sociology. doi:10.1007/s11133-020-09445-0