Humans Of The Web

An Introduction To Netnography

Abhishek Kothari
5 min readSep 25, 2018


Henry & Co. on

The gifts of our colors may be different, but God has so placed us as to journey in the same path — James Fenimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans

Netnography is the observation of human behavior on the internet. Today, businesses of all sizes use expert netnographers to to observe how people interact on the internet. This article introduces readers to netnography.

As a child, I heard stories about the Masai-a tribe mainly residing in Kenya and Tanzania. I was told the Masai could stare down a lion. They also happen to be one of the tallest people in the world with an average height of 6ft, 3 inches. I was very keen to observe the tribe in person.

About a decade ago, I received an invitation to attend a family wedding in Kenya. It was more than just a wedding for me. Not only was it my first time outside India but it was also an ethnographic dream come true. Africa, to me, is the continent where it all began — home to our ancestors and rich in natural beauty beyond comparison. My trip to Kenya proved that and much more.

Today, the modern tribe lives on the internet. Naturally, the internet represents a giant social experiment. It is of interest to business and to society in general. That’s where Netnography comes in.


The word “ethnography” is made up of two words ie ‘ethno’ which means of people and ‘grapho’which means I write. I attended a class where a professional ethnographer explained his modus operandi. It ranged from simply carrying a diary along and observing people go about their daily lives to actually finding good representatives of a tribe or community who could explain their way of life. Thus, methods of collecting data range from observation, inquiry, surveys to interviewing members of a community.

Often, ethnography is guided by themes or issues that the ethnographer wants to study. The idea is to insert minimal bias, be less intrusive, gather and document data. Ethnography can be used to discover unexpected issues, identify certain best practices and survival techniques. For instance, the Masai have survived for decades on very…



Abhishek Kothari

Futurist@The Intersection of Finance, Tech & Humanity. Stories of a Global Language: “Money”. Contributor @ Startup Grind, HackerNoon, HBR