NetNoCon23 – the first international Netnography Conference

Ray Poynter, ESOMAR President, shares his experience at being at the world's first Netnography Conference.
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NetNoCon23 – the first international Netnography Conference
Date 3 August 2023
Author Ray Poynter

The first international conference on Netnography was held on 26-28 July at the University of Salford in the UK. I was delighted to attend the conference, representing ESOMAR (who were a sponsor of the event). For anybody unfamiliar with it, netnography is the blending of ethnography, social media and qualitative research, and it can trace its popularity back to Robert Kozinets’ book, Netnography, first published in 2009 (and now in its 3rd edition). The term netnography (a mashup of the internet and ethnography) was coined by Kozinets in 1995. 

Topics covered by the conference included:

  • Investigating influencers and their ecosystems

  • Researching subcultures, fandoms, and gaming

  • The Metaverse, AI, and social robots

  • The TikTok culture

  • Studying disruption

  • Consumer ideologies and behavioural shifts

  • The use in Netnography in understand and advancing health.

On Friday morning Robert Kozinets led a two-hour workshop on ‘Doing Netnography Today’. One of his key points was that netnography is new and, therefore, still evolving. If you were to look back to some of his published papers before the 2009 book, you would see that the world has changed and that netnography has changed too. The topic of ethics was discussed at length, as was the need to be immersed in the human, lived experience to draw insights. As ever, the topic of subjectivity came up, and Kozinets emphasised the need to embrace one's subjectivity as part of the analysis process, which is why elements such as journaling and reflectiveness are so important to the process.

My presentation was titled “The commercial and ethical considerations in applying netnography to business situations”. Many people in the audience were from an academic background, so I started by outlining the ethical, commercial market research and insights ecosystem, for example, the ICC/ESOMAR Code. I then highlighted the commercial uses (and possibly corruptions) of netnography via a series of case studies, following that with a section about ethics as they apply in commercial research. My final section, and perhaps the one that caused the most discussion, was a series of comments about what AI is already being used for in the commercial world and where it will likely go next.

The next international NetNoCon conference will be held in 2024 in Milan, so you might want to keep an eye open for the call for speaking synopses.

Picture Credit Dr Alex Fenton, from the University of Salford.

Ray Poynter
President at ESOMAR