This site is for students and scholars who want to do remote ethnographic research amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Our first concern is helping ethnographers who are doing research now to get started as soon as possible. Rather than finish this entire site before launching it, we are making available sections as they become serviceable. Please check back for updates as we continue to build the data visualizations section of the site.

To be sure, the possibilities for creating empathetic, humanistic ethnographies through in-person research have been severely limited due to travel restrictions and safety measures. Under these circumstances, ethnographers working from their home and office computers have dug into archives to do historical research while others have looked laterally and engaged in virtual ethnographies of online sites and social media. This site introduces new alternatives through what we call “remote ethnography” that uses techniques from both documentary filmmaking and data visualization. In the first instance, “remote ethnography” builds up the filmic qualities of online, visual communication to create the vital sense of presence that characterizes documentary. In the second, it exploits remotely accessible data to create visualizations and maps that help to make sense of the complexities of our field sites and the wider invisible systems in which they are enmeshed. In short, this site offers ways of turning the limitations of the pandemic into productive forms of visual ethnography.

The site is intended to enable researchers to use these visual media for any topic. It is not intended to be a resource for “digital methods,” “virtual ethnography,” or for researching online communities and social media. There are already many excellent sources on those topics – they actually would be very fitting topics for doing remote visual ethnography! While this site has been created for researchers working under the circumstances of the pandemic, we encourage experimentation with the possibilities of remote visual ethnography well into the future. 

  • In the Remote Documentary section, you can begin to think of your fieldwork in terms of documentary styles. Follow the workflows for making recordings from online interviews and video footage that provide multiple editing and narrative options. You can learn to edit interviews and supplementary footage using documentary techniques to create ethnographically engaging and visual rich stories
  • In both the Data Visualization and Maps sections, you can learn to use data from online sources to analyze field sites and create interactive data visualizations and maps that can contextualize and raise new questions about your field sites



The Remote Ethnography Workshop is being produced in the summer 2020 Virtual VizE Lab by Princeton research assistants Ariadni Kertsikof ’22, Grace Logan ’21, Skyler Liu ’21, and Ipsita Dey GS. Additional collaboration from Carrie Hillebrand ’20 and Donovan Cassidy-Nolan ’21. Thanks to Ben Johnston in The McGraw Center for his assistance.

Funding for this work has been provided by The Council for the Humanities (Magic Rapid Response Grants for Innovation) and The University Committee on Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences (Anonymous Undergraduate Research Fund).