‘The Obstacle is the Way’: Methodological Challenges and Opportunities for Video-Reflexive Ethnography During COVID-19



Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Publication Title

International Journal of Qualitative Methods




COVID-19, focus groups, methodological challenges, video reflexive ethnography, virtual environments


The COVID-19 pandemic greatly impacted research. In this article, we explore the opportunities and challenges presented by the pandemic to a group of researchers using video-reflexive ethnography (VRE) – a methodology used to understand practices, grounded in: exnovation, collaboration, reflexivity, and care. To understand how the pandemic impacted researchers using VRE, we facilitated two focus groups with 12 members of the International Association of Video-Reflexive Ethnographers. The findings suggest the pandemic exacerbated existing methodological challenges, yet also provided an opportunity reflect on our own practices as researchers, namely: accessing sites, building relationships, facilitating reflexive sessions, and cultivating care. Due to public health measures, some researchers used insiders to access sites. While these insiders shouldered additional burdens, this shift might have empowered participants, increased the salience of the project, and enabled access to rural sites. The inability to access sites and reliance on insiders also impeded researcher ability to build relationships with participants and generate the ethnographic insights often associated with prolonged engagement at a site. In reflexive sessions, researchers had to learn how to manage the technological, logistical, and methodological challenges associated with either themselves or participants being remote. Finally, participants noted that while the transition to more digital methodologies might have increased project reach, there needed to be a mindfulness around cultivating practices of care in the digital world to ensure psychological safety and protect participants data. These findings reflect the opportunities and challenges a group of researchers using VRE had during the pandemic and can be used to stimulate future methodologic discussions.

Open Access