My research has the potential to contain both virtual and physical fieldwork. Primarily, my fieldwork would take place in the digital realm, on the websites and in the online communities created by those who engage with municipal open data to organize it and create something with it. As pointed out by my fellow bloggers, this will require participation on my part. As always, an effort must be made to maintain an ethical relationship with those communities to make sure that my research does not cross over into unethical territory. Of course I would identify myself as a researcher whenever engaging with members of the community. In such cases it is clear that the community should know who I am, what I am researching, how I am doing it and that they can choose not to be involved in my research.
Again, there are more issues at play here than there initially seem to be. These posts are all public since none of these online communities require a signing up process to create or view posts. Since everything is easily accessible to anyone online, ethics come into play again. Is it okay to look at and analyze these public posts if the posters has made them freely available to all? There are multiple online communities of open-data users who I would be engaging with and observing.
Another type of digital fieldwork that I would perform involves the items created from the open data. These items generally come in the form of applications created from open data to fill a perceived community need. Since these items are something that I will be working with the items first hand and need to engage with to understand why and how the open data users engage with the data, clearly they enter into the realm of fieldwork. Playing around with these applications cerates another digital realm of fieldwork.
My research could also contain a traditional form of fieldwork since these online communities often move into the physical realm to create their products made using open data. For example, hackathons are commonly held by members of these communities. Hackathons are events where people get together to create objects from open data. Sometimes a specific goal is in mind, though often what gets created is decided by those who attend. These events are excellent places to engage in ethnographic research. Luckily, these online communities are generally very accepting of researchers and willing to participate in studies.