Virtual Matters: Exploring the Communicative Accomplishment of Virtual Work and Virtual Ethnography

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Contribution to Books

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Recent research highlights the complexity of virtual work and calls on researchers to examine virtual work as more than simply doing a job, but as negotiating a state of being virtual (Leonardi, Jackson, & Marsh, 2004; Long, 2010). A similar call has been made by virtual ethnographers to move away from cataloguing the differences between virtual ethnographic practices and co-located ethnographic practices and instead reflexively reconsider how and why to conduct a virtual ethnography (Hine, 2005). This chapter responds to both calls by exploring how virtual workers communicatively construct distance not as geographical absence, but as presence (Leonardi, et al., 2004; Broadfoot, Munshi, & Nelson-Marsh, 2010). Based on this knowledge, the chapter then develops a heuristic methodological framework that embraces reflexivity as a starting point and privileges communication as the mode through which virtual work is constituted and through which academics arrive at a deeper understanding of both virtual work and virtual ethnography.