Qualitative inquiry has a long and rich tradition of powerful methods to grasp environmental discourses, but digital information and communication technologies (ICTs) from web-based news services to social networking platforms pose new challenges which require a re-thinking of qualitative and mixed methodological frameworks to capture their new dynamics and complexity. This paper uses the case of the Canadian oil/tar sands with its layered discourses of energy debates, environmental resistance, and deeper political critiques to highlight conceptual and methodological problems in capturing digital discourses in general. It uses Zygmunt Bauman’s (2000) concept of liquid modernity as a theoretical point of departure to identify methodological problems with increasing digital intransparency, instantaneity, and time- and spacelessness of virtual discourses. The paper explores possible qualitative strategies of validation to deal with the increasingly complex data environment of digital discourses, while continuing to address the needs of an in-depth (i.e. narrative, ‘digital’ ethnographic) qualitative understanding of the constructions behind the politics and dynamics of discourses.
|Keywords:||Digital Information and Communication Technologies, Environmental Discourses, Qualitative Inquiry, Liquid Modernity|
Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, Faculty of Arts, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada