Virtual ethnography refers to an ethnographic research approach that is carried out in the online setting (the Internet). Ethnographers are interested in studying culture often engage in fieldwork to immerse themselves in culture they are studying. In the same way, virtual ethnographers study online communities and culture. They conduct their research on the World Wide Web.
Virtual Ethnography has been termed differently by various researchers and different disciplines. One term that has become particularly popular was coined by Robert Kozinets. He combined the words 'internet' and 'ethnography' to come up with 'netnography' (Kozinets, 2010). Other terms used to described ethnographic research online are digital ethnography, online ethnography and cyber ethnography.
Kozinet's provides a concise definition of netnography (or virtual ethnography). He describes it as "
ethnography conducted on the Internet; a qualitative, interpretive research methodology that adapts the traditional, in-person ethnographic research techniques of anthropology to the study of online cultures and communities formed through computer-mediated communications" (Kozinets, 2006, p. 135)
Kozinets, R. V. (2010). Netnography: Doing ethnographic research online. London: Sage Publications.
Kozinets, R. V. (2006). Netnography. In V. Jupp (Ed.), The sage dictionary of social research methods (pp. 135). London: Sage