This seminar presentation discusses a style of research that developed while in the field in Harlem (New York, NY) to complete the recently published book study, The Digital Street (Oxford University Press). Digital urban ethnography weaves together fieldwork on the ground and in the feeds and networks of a single set of subjects to extend the “shoe leather” of neighborhood-based ethnography to social media and smartphone communication. This presentation walks through the ethnographic strategies employed to see the same field site from multiple perspectives and in different types of data in order to draw inferences with greater confidence. The challenges and dilemmas of this scale of access to subjects in the field will also be discussed.


Jeffrey Lane is an Assistant Professor of Communication at Rutgers University New Brunswick. Lane studies urban community through ethnographic fieldwork that examines the same people in person and online. Lane’s new book with Oxford University Press is called The Digital Street. It shows how the digital life of a neighborhood shapes the experiences of black teenagers in Harlem (New York, NY). His first book, Under the Boards (University of Nebraska Press), is about the role of race in the basketball industry. Lane holds a PhD in Sociology from Princeton University and is a junior fellow of the Urban Ethnography Project at Yale University. His research has been published in peer-reviewed journals such as American Behavioral Scientist, New Media & Society, and Journal of Consumer Culture and written about in news outlets like The Atlantic and Vice.