This paper examines how ethnographic practices can be adapted to suit the context of computer-mediated environments in exploring the relationship development process in computer-mediated (or virtual/online) environments. A range of issues are examined including guiding ontological epistemological assumptions ethnography as methodology versus method, its advantages and disadvantages both generic and internet specific, and considers the ethical issues involved in this form of research. The authors argue that an ethnographic approach with the researcher engaging in that which is researched, gives access to the richness of the exchange process and meaning attributed by both parties. With this approach, managers will have a better understanding of the relationship building process engendered entirely 'online'. The paper suggests by understanding the virtual environment and the culture in which they are increasingly operating, the development of successful long-term relationships with their customers is more likely.

Date of creation, presentation, or exhibit



Elsevier. The definitive version is available at Note: imported from RIT’s Digital Media Library running on DSpace to RIT Scholar Works in February 2014.

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Department, Program, or Center

Accounting (SCB)


RIT – Main Campus