• Ethnography Beyond Text and Print: How the digital can transform ethnographic expressions


    WendyHsu_pinecone Editor’s note: This is the final post in Wendy Hsu‘s 4-part series, On Digital Ethnography. Wendy asks what does an ethnography beyond text and print look like? To answer this question, she calls on us to reconsider what counts as “ethnographic knowledge.” Wendy provides examples of collaborative multimedia projects that are just as “ethnographic” in nature as a traditional ethnographic monograph. The first post in the On Digital Ethnography series called for ethnographers to use computer software, the second post introduced readers to her methods of deploying computer programs to collect quantitative data, and the third post urged ethnographers to pay more attention to the sounds, sights, and other material aspects of our field research.  Wendy @WendyFHsu  is an ACLS Public Fellow working with the City of LA Department of Cultural Affair. She recently finished her term as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center of Digital Learning + Research at Occidental College and completed her dissertation on the spread of independent rock music.

    Yea, as a fellow with the City of LA Department of Cultural Affairs, I have a mission to innovate and technologize the department. I’m spearheading the department’s web redesign project — thinking about how to better articulate our work, outreach to constituents, and digitize some of our services. I’m still wearing my ethnographer’s hat, thinking about how to cull through the vast amount of data related to arts and culture here at the city, and leveraging social media and other mobile/digital data to better understand the impact of our work. I’m also working with the City’s Information Technology Agency to join efforts in their Open Data initiative with the goal to augment civic participation through innovation projects like civic hacking.

    Ethnography means fieldwork or field research – a set of research practices applied for the purpose of acquiring data; but the term also refers to the descriptive representation of one’s fieldwork. In my series on digital ethnography so far, I have discussed how digital and computational methods could enhance how we as ethnographers acquire, process, explore, and re-scale field data. In this last post, I will shift my focus away from field research to discuss the process of “writing up” field findings. I ask: How might the digital transform the way we communicate ethnographic information and knowledge?

    I pick up from where Jenna Burrell left off in her recent post “Persuasive Formats” to interrogate the medium of writing as a privileged mode of expression of academic ethnographic practices. Early in graduate school, I learned that the eventual outcome of doing ethnographic research is the publication of a monograph. People around me use the word “monograph” to refer to a book-length treatment of research of a single subject published by an academic press [they looks something like what's shown in Figure 1]. This is, however, one of many definitions of monograph (apparently humanists have a definition stricter than scientists and librarians). Burrell attributes the scarcity of academic publication to economic reasons, and suggests online publishing as a potential solution to remedy the cost of print-based publishing and to enable the integration of visual materials in publications.

    Ethnographic monographs in the stacks in the Occidental library

    Figure 1: Ethnographic monographs in the stacks in the Occidental library

    Ethnography, based on the Greek root of “graph,” means the representation of field experience, findings, and analysis through the medium of writing. But writing, denoted by the word “graph,” may have always been used to refer to textual means of representation (i.e. what we think of as writing), but there are instances of this root referring to non-textual means such as photograph, lithograph, phonograph, heliograph, etc. The ambiguity of writing as a medium that can be either textual or nontextual has been with us since the invention of these words.

    I’m not advocating for abolishing academic book publishing. Others have and have discussed the economic and ideological structure that supports academic publishing and valorizes the monograph.) Instead, I want to make room for a serious consideration of ethnographic expressions that are not strictly based in text, either in the form of a book or a journal article, but are dynamically articulated in interactive and multimediated systems afforded by digital technology. Some of you might find this claim to be professionally irrelevant to you, if your preoccupation with ethnography falls outside of the academy. But the concerns and techniques that I will talk about may pique your interest as you consider the ways to communicate findings and analysis to clients, collaborators, and stakeholders.

    If we open up the definition of ethnography beyond text and print, then we can start to envision a media-enriched, performative, and collaborative space for ethnographers to convey what they have encountered, experienced, and postulated. Utilizing the affordances of digital media, ethnographic knowledge can be stored, expressed, and shared in ways beyond a single medium, direction, and user. In what follows, I will outline a few computational practices, platforms, and projects to illustrate these points.

    Multimedia and place-based interactivity

    Ethnographers of various disciplinary backgrounds including ethnomusicology and anthropology have elaborated on the value of extending their intellectual scrutiny to include the sensoria. In particular, Paul Stoller claims that sensorial narratives in ethnography found in earlier writing, for instance by Malinowski, have been overshadowed in the analytical prose in problem-oriented ethnography. He suggests a close engagement with the senses of taste, smell, hearing, and sight – a privileged mode of inquiry in European societies – to make our ethnographic accounts “more faithful to the realities of the field.”[1] There is, of course, a longstanding tradition of ethnographic films and field recordings within anthropology. Practitioners of film and sound ethnography believe in the value in transmitting content in a medium that is most proximate to the source of knowledge, and is otherwise inexplicable in a different medium. Steven Feld, for instance, coined the term acoustemology, an acoustic epistemology, to express a way of knowing and navigating in one’s physical and social environment through sound.

    To extend the ethnographic interest into the sensorial realm, we may consider using digital content systems to aggregate these disparate sensorial engagements. In these systems, users can interact with media of multiple types, audio, video, text, as these objects are stored and displayed in a relational structure via tagging or other meta-data organization. In addition to audio-visual content, with the deployment of GPS and positional systems, digital systems can associate content with geospatial data. This enriches the content by providing a spatial layer. A spatial rendering of data can lead to new research questions.

    Field researchers navigate in physical (and virtual) spaces. But the narratives they produce, by the time of publication, are often stripped of their place-based association. Imagine an account of an urban ethnography that is embedded into a place-sensitive narrative platform. The ethnographer can treat ethnographic narratives within an embedded spatial layout that interacts with other kinds of media content.

    A successful example of a multimedated field-informed project is the Hi-Fi Collection, a place-based multimedia story about Los Angeles’ Historic Filipinotown (hence “Hi Fi”). Divided into ten chapters, the collection contains a series of narratives as text, audio, and video, for instance about the historical migration of Filipino immigrants across the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area. Users may explore the collection by reading the narratives displayed alongside indications of where and when the event took place, or browse it by playing with the map or the timeline above it. The Hi Fi Collection lives within Hypercities, a mapping platform developed by faculty and staff technologists at UCLA for exploring city spaces through historical map layers and other associated interactive hypermedia. The content and research that drives the development of Hi-Fi Collection is a result of collaborative efforts by UCLA faculty Jan Reiff, students, youth participants in the PDUB Productions program, and other partner community groups and organizers such as Public Matters and Pilipino Workers Center.

    Figure 2: Hi-Fi Collection in Hypercities

    Figure 2: Hi-Fi Collection in Hypercities

    My most satisfying experience of browsing in Hypercities has been guided by a spatial curiosity. That is, place first, and then contextual information about the place.  While the Hypercities platform can present content of various types, the visual framing of the navigation window gives more emphasis on the geographic (and to a lesser extent, the temporal ) [Figure 2] over other organizational schemes such as narrative or time. This interface design, in my opinion, suits narratives driven by geography, but can relegate textual and audio-visual content to a secondary position in other kinds of narratives.

    Making room for multimodality and vernacular epistemology

    If ethnography is an investigation of how a group of people sense and know their world, then how do we express that while staying true to its structure of epistemology? A simple web map (like Google Maps), with its bird’s eye view, may shed light the relationship between places, but it may not illuminate how people experience and navigate in that space. A timeline moves in a linear fashion, either forward or backward in time; but this linearity doesn’t convey people’s sense of temporality and relationship to the past, present, and future.

    What I’m provoking is a content-form synergy that articulates ethnographic knowledge in a structure organized by an emic sensibility or knowledge system. While digital media may not be vernacular to the community of interest, but they can be shaped to reflect a vernacular sensibility or epistemology. Digital content systems can be programmed to scaffold a multisensory interaction, meaning the ability to exhibit information in a sequence, or in relation to other media objects in meaningful ways. Designing an algorithm that predetermines the scenarios in which a user interacts with content would shape the delivery of an analysis or argument. It would also enable nonlinear argumentation and narratizing. Tara McPherson has theorized database’s capacity of re-presenting knowledge beyond the “subordination to a linear spine, [that] often meaning that certain trajectories or trains of thought get pared off or eliminated”[2].

    Vectors is a web-based peer-reviewed journal that is developed by USC faculty and staff, and affiliated with the Open Humanities Press. The technologist staff works with academic content providers to design multimedia systems to publish materials in modalities that engage with the analytical, affective, sensorial, experiential, and multidirectional. Vectors has published a few ethnographic projects. In a piece entitled “Digital Dynamics Across Cultures,” Kim Christen explores alternative methods to present digital photographs and videos that she created in collaboration with the Warumungu men and women during her field research in Australia. Working with Chris Cooney, staff designer from Vectors, Christen devised a dynamic audio-visual system that follows and displays the dynamic logic of knowledge transmission that is faithful to the kinship and ancestral networks of the Warumungu people [Figure 3]. Her ethnographic website presents and exemplifies an “internal logic [that] challenges conventional Western notions of the ‘freedom’ of information and knowledge sharing’ as well as legal demands for single-authored, ‘innovative,’ original works as the benchmark for intellectual property definitions.”[3] This work exemplifies the strengths and flexibility of digital multimedia media as a platform of scholarly ethnographic publication. Through an engagement with multiple senses, the unique combination of ethnographic content and form reflects the worldview and epistemological specificity of the group of people that she interacted with during fieldwork.

    "Digital Dynamics Across Cultures" -- illustrating the Warumungu protocol of secret knowledge

    Figure 3: “Digital Dynamics Across Cultures” — illustrating the Warumungu protocol of secret knowledge

    As ethnographers, we are interested in thick knowledge and descriptions. Part of this thickness is related to the emotional and affective state of human interactions. Sharon Daniel’s piece “Public Secrets” illustrates the effectiveness of digital medium in articulating affective and polyvocal registers of the ethnographic experience. Highlighting the experience of individuals in Central California Women’s Facility Prison, Daniel’s work explicates while illustrates the psychological complexity and ideological contradictions of the prison industrial system. This piece grew out of Daniel’s essay that was previously published by online journal Intelligent Agent. Different from its linear counterpart, this nonlinear multimedia site allows the viewer to select one of thee paths – namely, Inside/Outside, Bare-Life/Human-Life, and Public Secret/Utopia – to explore site content [Figure 4]. Designed by Vectors staff technologist Erik Loyer, this structure reconfigures the “physical, psychological, ideological spaces of the prison” while immersing the viewer within a stark environment that simulates the confinement and finality of the prison. “The very design of the project – its algorithmic structure – calls our attention to the shifting borders between inside and outside, incarceration and freedom, oppression and resistance, despair and hope. Throughout your navigation of the piece, the fine lines demarcating such binaries will morph, shift, and reconfigure, calling any easy assumptions about ‘us’ and ‘them’ into question. Rather, inside and outside mutually determine and construct one another, sketching powerful vectors of relation between individual experiences and broader social systems.”[4]

    "Public Secrets", the stark multi-path index page design

    Figure 4: “Public Secrets”, the stark multi-path index page design

    One this site, the user can play back location recordings of conversations of the inmates, putting these women’s voices in dialog with academic texts about the prison industrial complex and theories of utopia, resistance, etc [Figure 5]. Juxtaposing informants’ voices with texts by academicians such as Angela Davis and Frederic Jameson validates the experience and knowledge of these women. This epistemological parallel destabilizes the social distinction between an imprisoned and a free person, deconstructing notions of deviance in the society.

    Screen Shot Public Secrets by Sharon Daniel and Erik Loyer, Vectors

    Figure 5: “Public Secrets”, juxtaposing informants’ and scholars’ voices

    Another publishing platform to consider is Sensate, a peer-reviewed, open-access media-based journal powered by Zeega, a multimedia storytelling platform. More in line with the traditions of ethnographic film and field recordings, Sensate has published a series of audiovisual ethnographic research including Steven Feld’s recent work in urban phonography. Similar to Vectors, Sensate embraces multidirectionality and query-based navigation afforded by interactive interface and database design. The journal declares the purpose of its unique platform as the following: “avoids the rigid structures of chronology and provides readers with the opportunity to explore the content in networked and associative ways, offering a rich, intuitive experience.”

    The Multi-tier archive – interacting between the raw and interpretive

    The intimate relationship between ethnography and archive has been established for a while. With the recent development in database design, ethnographic archives have been built to meet the cultural sensitivities of field materials and preservation needs of the community and ethnographer. A significant advancement in ethnographic archive is the ability to present raw data and interpretive content at once. This multi-tier display mode – of both primary and secondary sources – invites the users to engage with content in exploratory and argumentative pathways, respectively. Making available primary source materials encourages the users to formulate their own interpretive lens on the materials, thus making the “reading” experience more active and participatory. Further, it expands the ethnographic aim of providing a thick description by ushering in set of media-enriched field documentation. In this way, the multi-tier digital archive engenders among the users an individual experience of field materials as they are reanimated through a pathway chosen by the users themselves. In other words, the multipath structure of the archive, and the optional engagement with either the media objects or the annotations heightens the sense of agency in the viewing experience.

    The EVIA (the Ethnographic Video for Instruction and Analysis) Project is a great example of a multi-tier digital archive that serves the three-prong function of preservation, annotation, and publication.  The EVIA project staff and contributors work to further their ambitious goal of creating a “support system and a suite of software tools for video annotation, online collection searching, controlled vocabulary and thesaurus maintenance, peer review, and technical metadata collection.”  The site’s content is clustered as video collections, each created and organized by an ethnographer with particular subject speciality. A collection consists of a series of event-based videos with detailed annotations, along with a long-form narrative that encapsulates the scope of the collection and contextualizes it in social, historical, and geographical terms. Within a single collection, users could freely skip across events or scenes; or alternatively, users may browse content at the pre-curated, collection level, starting with the collection-level background narrative, then working their way down to each of the video events that are further subdivided into scenes. The media-enriched interface enables the users to read the annotations and simultaneously use the fine-grained playback functions for closely examine the recording [Figure 6].

    Figure: EVIA Digital Archive, interface with annotations and  fine-grained video playback control

    Figure 6: EVIA Digital Archive, interface with annotations and fine-grained video playback control

    In an exploratory mode, users can experience the site using a query-based search function to explore video based on metadata selection metadata selection organized by geography and style of performance. This feature makes possible the comparison of field recordings across geographical and stylistic categories.

    A brilliant example of a non-academic ethnographic archive is Afterquake, a multimedia website that documents the process of field-based recording and collaboration between American artists David Liang and Abigail Washburn and the children in areas affected by the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake in China. Liang and Washburn traveled to record the music and ambient sounds of sites of earthquake destruction in Wenchuan County in the Sichuan Province, a year after the earthquake struck. What they found were sounds of post-disaster mourning, community reconstruction of homes, and reflections of disaster aftermath among youth who shared them in the form of songs. Liang and Washburn remixed these field voices, narratives, and sounds into tracks that were then sold to raise funds toward those were in need.

    Figure 7, Afterquake, collaboration between US artists and the children in areas affected by Sichuan Earthquake

    Figure 7, Afterquake, collaboration between US artists and youth in areas affected by Sichuan Earthquake

    Most of the site content is organized into paths based in individual music track. While listening to the track, the user may read about the production context of the song, and browse the credits and interview transcripts of the local participants involved in the making of each of the tracks in both Chinese and English [Figure 7]. These supplementary materials serve as raw data that could enrich the interpretation of the song (the interpretive, secondary-source content). Making available primary source materials also encourages the users to not only imagine the process of creation. It also enables the users to form an individual relationship to these raw materials, while inviting them to join the remix of these geographically and temporally situated cultural artifacts.

    Unlike its analog counterpart, digital archives allow ethnographers and users to continually engage with field objects rendering the notion of archive unstable. The meaning of field documents including field notes, recordings, transcripts, photos, can continue to morph and form new relationships with other objects in a digital environment as new content and metadata is added to the collection. This dynamicism stands in contrast with conventional collections — in analog form such as a book or a journal article in print — that are fixed and museumized. The reanimation of field objects can prevent the rarification of culture, a risk that we take while creating any ethnographic representations [Figure 8].

    Sample pages in Secret Museum of Mankind, published in 1941

    Figure 8: Sample pages in Secret Museum of Mankind, published in 1941

    Jenna Burrell evoked the idea of“performing the fieldwork experience for audiences – raw data, transparency, and visuals” in her recent post. I think that this metaphor of performance can also be applied to the ethnographic process. We can reconsider the ethnographer as a performer along the fieldwork-ethnography continuum. If field research is a snapshot of a lived and alive culture, then the ethnographic production is a representation of a part of this lived culture at a specific time and place. Most researchers (I included) revisit field materials to review, re-evaluate, and (re)-produce analysis. Oftentimes, this process of re-view and re-analysis leads to further field interactions and documentation, thus forming a cyclical process from field interaction, collection, analysis, and then back to interaction. Field documentation accumulates as researchers extend their interaction in the field.

    It may be useful to think about this accumulation in an interactive, performative way — as a repertoire, not as an archive (drawing on Diana Taylor’s theory). If the shape of our knowledge production allows the space for flux, we could better articulate the changing nature of the source of our knowledge. In short, a digital archive can be closer to life because it is akin to the performative practice of building a repertoire from which agents (informants and ethnographers alike) draw scripts, meanings, and inspirations.

    Multi-authorship, access, and collaboration

    Social media including blogs, Twitter, and Instagram have transformed how ethnographers communicated their research. Blogging ethnographers have proliferated over the last few years. The use of Instagram to create flash photo field notes is becoming more of a norm, thanks to Tricia Wang who articulated convincingly the ethics and benefits of an open ethnography. After my last field trip to Taipei, I experimented with Storify to aggregate and organize field content that I produced across a number of social media platforms including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, and Tumblr into a coherent narrative. The digital capacity for instant documentation and systemic content storage and organization makes digital social media extremely appealing for fieldwork.

    While social media ostensibly makes a promising gesture toward open information and access, the question of to whom this content is open is still contingent upon the communities and their access to and experience of media. As an example, in my research, I hung out with a group of elders, musicians, and other members of the homeless, impoverished, and disabled underclass in the Mengjia (also known as Mongka) district in Taipei. I collected field recordings of some of the ad-hoc street performances by the nakashi musicians. I Instagrammed my observations of performance and audience interactions. My documentation practices informed peers of my networks about my field observations as these documents instigated a deepened conversation about what I observed. But none of the members of the community that I studied, it seemed, have a life embedded in these digital social platforms. Increasing access is difficult or impossible to realize depending on how embedded of your engaged community is in the (same) digital world(s). Further, openness could mean different things for various stakeholders in an ethnographic situation. While I would like to communicate my findings to the world, my informants may not be interested in and could be obversed to my sharing of information about them with the world. Collaboration is an ideal, but it doesn’t always equal openness. Transparency of research motivation and sharing of research results and products with the engaged community is a good thing. But an open access to information is not necessarily ethical in all situations.

    In light of the ethics and politics of access, I will talk about digital content management system as a possible approach to democratizing access and authorship in ethnographic knowledge production. A prominent feature of digital content systems is the ability to allow multiple authors on a single platform. The multi-author feature facilitates and organizes the sounding of multiple voices. This has particular implications for the politics around authorship and access in light of colonial practices associated with the history of ethnography – probing at the problematic western/northern-hemispheric/first-world representations of non-western/southern-hemispheric/third world experiences.

    After her Vectors-based project, Christen Kim continued her work in developing technology and information design to empower indigenous communities. Her most recent project, Mukurtu (Mook-oo-too) is a free and open-source “community archive platform” built for indigenous communities to preserve, manage, and share their own heritage content. The name “mukurtu” comes from the Warumungu community that she has worked with; it means “dilly bag.” Apparently, the elders of this Warumunga community chose the name for the system because they thought of it as a “safe keeping place.” Mukurtu comes with a set of fine-grained levels of access affording the users to manage the flow of their information based on protocols that reflect the social relations and values such as intellectual property rights of the group. I’m particularly excited about Mukurtu Mobile, an app that allows one to document and collect stories in the field, and then upload and manage them within the archive once connected to the network. The offline-online continuity fits the dynamic, on-the-go spatial demands of fieldwork, and anticipates unexpected needs for documentation.

    Conclusion

    the author, field recording the "Exhortation Tricycle" found in front of the Lungshan Temple in Taipei

    Figure 9: the author, field recording the “Exhortation Tricycle” found in front of the Lungshan Temple in Taipei

    To conclude, I will tell you a little of dream that I have. After I came back from Taipei, I became frustrated by my inability to contact the members of the Mongka community that I befriended in Taipei. In particular, my main informant, a grandma-aged woman who took me in as her “god-daughter,” refused to give me her address and told me that she’s sick. I’m not sure what that meant, but I could tell that she, along with others in the group, prefers face-to-face interactions over other mediated forms of contact.

    If I have the means, I would like to go back to Mengjia to set up a mobile karaoke stand / Internet café [like the “Exhortation Tricycle”, Figure 9] for this transient but socially intact community. I will make available a few computers and help those in the community with an interest in digital communication to get set up in digital platforms of their choice to document their day-to-day, special events, and memories. I will also introduce Mukurtu to them to they can think about access and come up with protocols of information that suit their needs. Maybe these documents will engender a space for a collective reflection as they face the silencing effects of gentrification and urban renewal. Maybe the creation of these documents will give them a sense of control over their changing environment. Maybe they can then create a subset of the exhibition-ready documents to rally for rights while they combat evictions.


    [1] See Stoller, Paul. 2011. The Taste of Ethnographic Things. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, pp. 8-9.

    [2] See McPherson, Tara. 2009. “Introduction: Media Studies and the Digital Humanities,” Cinema Journal 48, No. 2, Winter, p. 121

    [3] Browse: Christen, Kim and Chris Cooney. 2006. “Digital Dynamics Across Cultures,”Vectors. Fall, Volume 2, Issue 1, Ephemera. http://vectors.usc.edu/projects/index.php?project=67 (accessed January 22, 2011).

    [4] Browse: Daniel, Sharon and Erik Loyer. 2006. “Public Secrets,” Vectors. Winter, Volume 2, Issue 2, Perception. http://vectors.usc.edu/projects/index.php?project=57 (accessed July 9, 2013).

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  • Citation

    Suggested citation: Wendy Hsu (2013) Ethnography Beyond Text and Print: How the digital can transform ethnographic expressions. Ethnography Matters. http://ethnographymatters.net/blog/2013/12/09/ethnography-beyond-text-and-print-how-the-digital-can-transform-ethnographic-expressions/

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  • 9 Responses to “Ethnography Beyond Text and Print: How the digital can transform ethnographic expressions”

    1. StepsInShadows
      December 10, 2013 at 1:25 am #

      Reblogged this on Swift, like Shadows.

    2. December 10, 2013 at 7:11 pm #

      A friend on Facebook responded to my post. I thought that I would move the conversation over to the comment section of the post with the hope to generate more discussion. This is what she wrote:

      “It’s so intimidating to even begin to think oustide-the-box, which for me (in sociology), is outside-the-book. You had a real unique experience at Virginia, to pick up training in digital technologies. What an incredible asset. I’d be interested, perhaps in another column (?), what the first steps are for moving toward digital presentation of ethnography? (I’m more interested, in this point, in results/narrative/analysis than data collection, but that’s just where I’m at in the research process. So maybe a “baby-steps/first-steps” suggestions for those interested in adding some digital data-collection and another for those interested in using multi-media platforms for its dissemination?”

      • December 10, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

        It is intimidating to experiment with methods outside of disciplinary conventions. I was lucky to have gone through a series of fellowships first at the Scholars’ Lab and subsequently at Occidental’s Center for Digital Learning & Research. But I would say that scholars with an interest in digital ethnography can get started by engaging in the conversations online. I’ve learned a lot of methods and tricks by hanging out on Twitter and follow folks like Tricia Wang (@triciawang), Jeanna Burrell (@jeannaburrell), Kim Christen (@mukurtu), Tara McPherson (@tmcphers). There are also networks like the EMAC (Ethnography Media Arts Culture) network (@EMACnetwork) and Ethnography Matters (@ethnomatters) that bring together people who share their process and methods of engaging in innovative practices of ethnography.

        As far as integrating digital processes into fieldwork, I’d say that planning is everything. If you’re about to embark on (a phase of) field work, think about the mission and objectives of your project. Here are some guiding questions:

        – Would you like to share the process of your work as you’re collecting data?
        – Is place an important organizing principle?
        – What media documents do you collect?
        – Who is your audience?

        If you would like to share the process of your work as you’re collecting data, consider an open ethnography model by doing things like writing live field notes. Tricia posted about this a little while back. I experimented with a version of that by using Instgram, Twitter, and Storify. If you were curious about new field work tools and techniques, definitely check out Ethnography Matters series on “Tools we use”. Then there’s the bread and butter of keeping a blog and participating on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to share process, findings, and results as you research. This allows for a healthy dosage of interactions with your research associates and scholars of interest.

        Do ask yourself whether place an important organizing principle in your work. Also think about whether you are interested in the physicality of space or the people experience of space. These considerations will help you think the kind of place-based information most relevant to your project. For a more emic perspective on space, consider integrating (map) drawing into your engagement with research associates. If you’re looking to capture more of an etic perspective on space and place, collecting lat-long information (using a GPS or a smart phone) or balloon mapping may be useful. I’d be happy to share what I know regarding GIS ethnographic processes.

        Lastly, think about the kind of documents (media, recordings, etc) that you’re already collecting in your work and what other media types are you missing in your project. You could systemize your collecting process to see if there are interesting or note-worth patterns that are worth sharing. As you acucumulate media objects and documents, you can start to imagine how you would organize them either for yourself or for a public or external audience. This is the point at which you may think about a content management system. Do you want to find an existing publishing platform and then just use it with some minor tweaks? Or would you like to build your own or heavily modify something that’s out there? Going with the existing publishing platform also means connecting with a community of users. Who will your audience be? Academic or the public? There are many considerations here. I’m still working this out in my own work. I will share more process when I get to a productive point.

        This is a quick answer to your question. At some point, I should write another post to elaborate on the how-to-get-started question. Thanks for reading and responding!

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