Difference between revisions of "Ethnography in the Digital Age"

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===The Digital Field Site===
=== Recommended Books ===
=== Recommended Books ===
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[[The Professional Stranger: An Informal Introduction to Ethnography]] by Michael Agar
[[The Professional Stranger: An Informal Introduction to Ethnography]] by Michael Agar
=== Example ===
''Obs 14''
I was sitting in a lounge in a meeting with a student club. The club meeting was in a public area and was comprised of four students, three guys and one girl. We were talking normally, when another student, a girl, came up and interrupted me.
"My cell phone is out of batteries" she said, "can I use yours?"
No please, but a thank you. Just an interruption as intense...or even more intense than what a cell phone call from one of the group members might do to interrupt the meeting.
It provided me with the perfect opportunity to see how it felt to be in the opposite position of the one I was just in when I had to borrow the cell phone from a student at the bus stop to complete my phone call. I was able to see how it felt when someone borrowed my cell phone.
I gave to her, and saw that she still had her Pink Motorolla Razrphone in her hand. The same model I used to have. I didn't comment on it.
When she had my cell phone in her hand, she immediately turned away from me, closing me off to futher conversation with her. She put in the number, pressed the call button, and placed the phone to her ear. Once she did this, she walked firther away from me, to the other side of the room. She began to talk a little, and pace a little. After about five minutes she came back over to me and told me a quick "thank you", but not a desperate one, and neither was it a particularly patronizing one. I am once again interrupted in my meeting, which is pretty formal looking: four members, two laptops, four writing pads, and lots of conversation. I joke with the group that she's made a great cell phone research subject.
Ten minutes later and my phone begins to ring. I hurredly take it out of my pocket as I leave the group setting and go to the midle of the room to answer the call. The nubmer is not familiar, but I answer it anyway. The guy on the other side of the line says hello, and I say "who is this?" with a tone that is not very kind. After a moment he asks me if I know this girl, because she just called him from this phone number. I look for the girl, who is waiting at another point in the room and strech the phone out to her. She runs to me to take the phone, and hurriedly talks on it. I go back to my group once again, and after 3 minutes the girl comes over to me to give the phone back. There's a hint of embarrassment on her face, but she is gone as quickly as she appears. The meeting goes on without further interruptions.
=== Surveys ===
'''May 2008'''
I sent out a survey about cell phone use to 200 LC students and other people I knew on Facebook. Many users gave their responses in only 15 minutes. The survey was 30 questions long, but people loved filling it out. Before I sent out the survey, I imagined that there would be a lot of people on Facebook that would be sitting there bored, wasting time, looking for something to do. I imagined all of the "desire to work" sitting there doing nothing on Facebook. All of these people were consolidated into one place with nothing to do. I imagined my own self on facebook, excited to get a message, especially one with a survey about myself or my beloved cell phone use. It was intense and I wish I could use it to extent my facebook paper that I wrote for cyborg anthropology. I wish I could extend that paper because I feel like Lewis & Clark College has a Facebook obsession that has taken over the school. I feel it leads to a lot of procrastination and it might be due to the weather. It was strange that this survey prodded this.
=== Journals ===
Journal of Contemporary Ethnography
A. C. Garcia, A. I. Standlee, J. Bechkoff, and Yan Cui
Ethnographic Approaches to the Internet and Computer-Mediated Communication
Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, February 1, 2009; 38(1): 52 - 84.
[Abstract] [PDF]
Source: <a href="http://jce.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/38/1/52" rel="nofollow">jce.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/38/1/52</a>
Ethnographic Approaches to the Internet and Computer-Mediated Communication
Angela Cora Garcia
Bentley College
Alecea I. Standlee
Syracuse University
Jennifer Bechkoff
San Jose State University
Yan Cui
University of Cincinnati
In this article we review ethnographic research on the Internet and computer-mediated communication. The technologically mediated environment prevents researchers from directly observing research participants and often makes the interaction anonymous. In addition, in the online environment direct interaction with participants is replaced by computer-screen data that are largely textual, but may include combinations of textual, visual, aural, and kinetic components. We show how the online environment requires adjustments in how ethnographers define the setting of their research, conduct participant observation and interviews, obtain access to settings and research subjects, and deal with the ethical dilemmas posed by the medium.
Key Words: ethnography • computer-mediated communication • Internet • participant observation • interviewing
Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Vol. 38, No. 1, 52-84 (2009)
DOI: 10.1177/0891241607310839
=== Writing a Thesis ===
Structing academic papers;
Okay, i just got back from talking with Suzan.
She told me that theory is there to help us understand phenonemon. I've been studying interaction ritual with goffman and there is a good link between his theories and my observations.
She told me to keep focusing on proxemics :"you're trying to see if there are theories that are trying to explain the behaviours you've been seeing."
She told me to begin writing summaries of the theories that I've been finding. For instance, "goffman's concept of interaction ritual focuses on the "saving of face." In my observations this presentation of face is interrupted and oriented more towards the person on the other line than to people in the cell phone user's natural vicinity.
Then I have to ask myself, for each theorist, and each observation. "Will ____'s theory help me to explain why people talk next to each other while on cell phones?" "Will ___'s theory help me to expmail why people talk loudly on cell phones?" "Will ____'s postmodern construct theory help me to explain why the cell phone is a hypercommunication construct that compresses time and space into a tiny object?"
She told me that "as long as you keep the reader with you, you can be as creative as you want with the structure of your thesis, but if you get off track it will be difficult for you to explain where you are to the reader, and the lines of logic won't follow to your conclusions and overall thesis."
She said to use notecards, and spread them out all over the a big table in the library. She told me to develop patterns everywhere. Patterns in my observations, patterns in my research. In terms of research, headings and subheadings work well. She said that students with learning disabilities find it difficult to deal with anything that gets too long. So she said, "don't let things get too long. If they start to get out of hand, chunk them up." and "you need an outline first. once a good outline is in place, the whole of the research can fall in, and you'll be able to write. But you can't write without an outline, because the paperwork will eat you.
So I need a roadmap, of course.
So I can say, for instance. "The anthropologists like Sadie Plant and Richard Ling talked about the signal blockages that prevent the cell phone user from seeing the faces of others frowning down upon their cell phone usage. Postmodern cyberanthropological theorists like Sandy Stone define the hyperreality of the cyberspace and discuss the absorbtion of the individual into the cell phone. They discuss the cyberspace as a hyperspace, but do not apply this theoretical analysis to cell phones. This is what I'd like to do. I'd like to take my observations and apply Goffman and others as a theoretical framework. Then I'd like to take the same observations and apply a cyberanthropological background to them; something from cyberspace analysis that compares this new spatial architecture to the postmodern condition of mobility. I'd also like to add in the soundtrack for the new body, which would include the ringtone and the immersion into the "cinema". Cyberspace may be a cinema in visual terms, but a cell phone is an auditory cinema. A voice helps to make it real in the mind of the user, and helps to immerse the user in a space that is more engaging than the non-directed auditory space of real life.
And Hubbert pointed out something to me as well, and that's that the real tensions of the interactions of people with cell phones occur in more confined spaces. The space and the shape of space are what cause these tensions. Thus, it could be a waste of time to follow people around, but instead just focus on the areas where the conflicts arise. Else I'd have a lot of data that does not hint at problems and the negotiations of space in a new spacial economy.
I've found that Sandy Stone has helped me out a lot in this direction. She points to a lot of places and theories that have not yet been applied to cell phones. Hopefully. I've read a lot of research on cell phones, but I've only found one that brings in Haraway, and not many that have been as in-depth about cyberspace as Sandy Stone. I just hope I am not missing something important.
So my roadmap would look something like this:
Pt. 0
Introduction (I'll probably write this last) It will be about the reasons for cell phones. The new nomadic state, the global economy. The global forums. It will have a reprise of the Eras of technology by Sandy Stone. There will be postmodernist constructions in here. It will be great.
Pt. 1
Here I will describe what I've observed and the patterns that I've gleaned from my observations in the field.
Pt. 2
Here I will have my literature review. I will say that many of the Anthropologists who've also studies cell phone use explained these patterns as ______, and that what I've observed matches the patterns of those who have done research in others places.
Pt. 3
Here I will talk about:
"However we are tlaking aobut a phenomenon that's developed with technology. There are a number of theories based on the reality of cyberspace, but they have not made a connection between cyberspace and proxemics (except one that I found...I will cite him here...mobile technology and the attention economy) but I beleive such a connection can be made with cyberspace theory and the answers to the question of why these patterns of cell phone behavior (the patterns that I have gleaned from my observations) have emerged, what causes them.
Pt. 4
Here I will make the linkage between the two. I will cite Sandy Stone, and others she has cited.
I will soon go over some of the theory in the Cyborg Handbook. Some Baudrilliard, see what I can find that works, throw out what doesn't work. I also have this book called "Liquid Modernity". I'll go over that.
So then Suzan tells me to begin freewriting about the linkage. Play around with the theories of cyber linked up to the soruce of that behaviour.
But first I have to categorize, order, sort, the observations I've netted, and see what patterns I can glean from them. I can't make any sense of any of this, or put anything to it, or make anything stick or flow or anything before I do that, so that's my cheif goal for the next few days, and then over the trip I go on, I'll be working on that and putting things into a better theoretical framework.
So steps:
Organize Observations
Write a better outline based on pattern recognition results.
Match theory to it.
Match cyber theory to it.
I will be doing this in analog. I can't work with the digital. Suzan said that the reason for that is that for scatterbrained kids there's only a few paragraphs visible on screen at a time. It is difficult to have a tactile system of organization this way. I can't possibly work on a computer until I have this all figured out on paper. by this I mean my notes on notecards, but I have a clearer outline in my head now. The structure is difficult to see on a computer.
So then she said "we know the 1st and second parts of the paper will be there. start mapping out those sections of the paper right now and writing them. In a way, the cyberspace part will be gravy.
So I am feeling better now. It seems to be something like taking observations, applying theory, applying cyber theory.
She said then to work "macro to micro" "sketch out your plans. either write a highly elaborated outline, or else do an outline, then plan to do a quick and dirty draft.
"Don't spend a lot of time on paragraphs until you know what they are and what they're doing. "
"So an outline is essential becuase you're drawing relationships between things."
But before this I didn't understand how to shape the outline.
So today I am mentally overviewing my observations, looking for patterns, and keeping proxemics in mind. "I'll do this with this observation, and it connects with this in this way, and no, I see another pattern."In the outline, explain why you are connecting something to something else, if you can't explain why, there's no reason it should be there" , so "I'm starting here, then going over here, because if I want to change the logic, I'll have to change the abstract".
She told me that in terms of patterns I am just going to have to find them. She told me to look for three or four basic patterns. This is what I will do today after I figure out some more key terms that I feel I've been missing forever.
So that was basically everything she told me. I told you because it reinforced what she said to me, and I hope it helps you to see where I am going. I have a learning curve, it seems, but I am working to get through it. I hope I am not too behind, but I need to understnad what I am doing. Thanks for having us write the ridiciously early rough drafts. And thanks for being so helpful!
Augé is very interesting & stimulating-- however, IMO, the connections forged by cell phones  other ICTs is eminently relational, historical & concerned with [negotiating] identity.  What may be in play here is a detaching of "place" from physical location.  [Chatasha is doing some thinking along related lines concerning ethnicity and identity, arguing that with transnational migration  and cultural hybridity  identity is not longer tied to single locations. You guys  should  exchange an email or two.]
I think the literature about "virtual" connections may be more apt.  Internet sociality is all about  relationality that's not anchored to co-presence in  shared geographical locations.
Sound right? 
You could, tho, introduce Augé briefly in order to argue *against* him.....
Good  thinking  going on!  Glad you and Leah have been in touch too.
may be helpful!  --D
Axel BK. 2006. Anthropology and the new technologies of communication. Cult. Anthropol. 21:354–84
Rafael V. 2003. The cell phone and the crowd: messianic politics in the contemporary Philippines. Public Cult.
Horst H, Miller D. 2005. From kinship to link-up: cell phones and social networking in Jamaica. Curr. Anthropol. 46:755–88
Bray, Francesca 2007 Gender and Technology. Annual Review of Anthropology, 36: 37-53
 "In destabilizing boundaries between the human and the natural or between human and machine, promoting new, troubling relations of intimacy, or facilitating new forms of governmentality, emergent technologies such as in-vitro fertilization, transnational organ transplants, stem-cell research, or data-banks raise new questions of "how to live" (Collier & Lakoff 2005). New technologies may be conceptualized as prostheses, elements of cyborg fusions between human and machine that extend our capacities and permit enhanced modes of being and relating; new forms of interpenetration of zones of space and time; and new possibilities for action at a distance, for connection, coalition, or control (Axel 2006, Rafael 2003, Wright 2001)."
[[Category:Traditional Anthropology]
[[Category:Traditional Anthropology]]

Latest revision as of 21:26, 15 February 2014

Recommended Books

Research Methods in Anthropology: Qualitative and Quantitative by Bernard, H. Russell

Topic Specific Books

Global Technography: Ethnography in the Age of Mobility by Grant Kien

Perpetual Contact: Mobile Communication, Private Talk, Public Performance by James E. Katz (Editor), Mark Aakhus (Editor)

Material Culture and Technology in Everyday Life: Ethnographic Approaches by Phillip Vannini (Author)

Cyborgs@Cyberspace?: An Ethnographer Looks to the Future by David Hakken

The Professional Stranger: An Informal Introduction to Ethnography by Michael Agar