technical paper

AAA Annual Meeting 2021

November 18, 2021

Baltimore, United States

Virtual ethnography and digital archives of global Chinese philanthropy





We outline a research project on virtual ethnography and digital living archives of global Chinese philanthropy, building upon the work of an independent documentarist working specifically on this topic for 12 years. We draw upon virtual ethnography as a research method, particularly use of digital communication technology for ethnographic research, and digital “living archives”, which are ongoing collections that transcend the relatively fixed standards of description, control, and taxonomy of traditional archives, through inclusion of material sampled from the open, porous, and informal universe of user generated content, including social media and materials from other participatory platforms. This digital living archive contains materials that trace over 30 years of Chinese philanthropic history across 7 countries, covering all the leading and most well-known Chinese philanthropists and philanthropy foundations, and documents not only their self-promoted events, but also much of their relations and interaction with the Chinese government and civil society. Our preliminary work on a small sample of this digital archive enabled us to show the significant value of conducting virtual ethnography of global Chinese philanthropy using these materials, which enable scholars to transcribe statements verbatim and examine them with significant nuance through access to audio-visual materials. The extraordinary value of such methods and materials can in turn enable important scholarly contributions to the fields of visual anthropology, global studies, and other critical social sciences and digital humanities.


Transcript English (automatic)

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