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Causal Explanation in Ethnographic Research: Are Digital (and Other) Avatar Identities Sources of Well-Being?

With Prof Jeffrey G Snodgrass
Date & Time:
15:30 - 17:00,
Monday 19 February, 2024
How to attend:
Book now


In their classic accounts, anthropological ethnographers developed causal arguments for how specific sociocultural structures and processes shaped human thought, behavior, and experience in particular settings. Despite this history, many contemporary ethnographers avoid establishing in their work direct causal relationships between key variables in the way that, for example, quantitative research relying on experimental or longitudinal data might. In this talk, I draw from my ongoing mixed methods ethnographic study of avatars in ritual and play contexts—the focus of my recent book, The Avatar Faculty—to consider more narrowly how identification with digital and tabletop roleplaying game characters might contribute positively to players’ health and well-being. In the process, I present practical guidelines to help ethnographers improve causal inferences in their research by implementing key principles from the ongoing “causal revolution” occurring in the social and behavioral sciences.

Jeffrey G. Snodgrass, Professor of Anthropology at Colorado State University, is a cultural and psychological anthropologist who examines how ritual and play identities and processes contribute to health and well-being, including in situations of social and environmental precarity. This topic is the focus of his recent book, The Avatar Faculty: Ecstatic Transformations in Religion and Video Games (University of California Press, 2023). He also specializes in research methods and mixes qualitative and quantitative approaches to data collection and analysis in his ethnographic studies.



Prof Jeffrey G Snodgrass

Professor of Anthropology, Colorado State University

Jeffrey is a cultural & psychological anthropologist who examines how ritual & play identities & processes contribute to health & wellbeing, including in situations of social & environmental precarity