Young people are living their lives online and offline, but research rarely incorporates both in a synchronous way. This paper explores a way to address this issue through the use of smartphone data in ethnographic research. It puts forward an updated, case study approach that serves youth and media researchers by focusing robustly on social relationships and connectivity. To illustrate the method, I walk through my collaborative fieldwork with JayVon, an eighteen-year-old from Harlem (New York, N.Y.). I demonstrate what the inclusion of each layer of smartphone data allowed me to understand about JayVon that contributes to key lines of children and media research on presence, screen time, and media curation. After showing how the ecology of a case opens up naturally by analyzing smartphone data ethnographically, I discuss the significant, ethical challenges concerning access to such intimate data and how case researchers can establish suitable study boundaries with youth.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cultural Studies
- case study
- screen time