Using Digital Methods to Shed Light on “Border Phenomena”: A Digital Ethnography of Dark Tourism Practices in Time of COVID-19

Felice Addeo, Gabriella Punziano, Giuseppe Michele Padricelli


The digital turn urges for a critical rethinking of social research in order to address the new epistemological and methodological challenges that come from the Digital Society. Digital methods offer a wide range of new possibilities, but they also have their own limitations and boundaries that social researchers need to experience in order to make the most of the online research methods. Also, the Pandemic posed new challenges that require an epochal rethinking of social research activities that have dominated the scene so far. Our paper aims at exploring these boundaries by applying a digital ethnographic approach to study an unconventional and rather unique research object: a controversial social practice, the so-called Dark Tourism during an unforeseen event, COVID-19 pandemic. Our case study starts from the analysis of Facebook groups born in the first Italian “red zones” and possibly eligible as places of potential digital dark tourism. Starting from a completely exploratory analysis, before formalizing substantive results on the investigated phenomenon, this paper brings to the attention of the reader a reflection of methodological order on the type of questions that can be answered by adopting digital methods approach and what limits are imposed to knowledge production and research work on which it is necessary to continue to reflect in order to more fully achieve understanding on the particular phenomenon proposed as a case study.


digital dark tourism; COVID-19 Italian’s red zone; digital ethnography

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