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July Edition of Ethnozine – Ethnography of Wikipedia Sources, Live Fieldnoting, & 4 guest contributors for The Ethnographer’s Reading List


Ethnozine: July ’12 edition

Just because summer is here doesn’t mean that ethnographers slow down.This month Heather Ford updates us on her Wikipedia research. She shares with us screenshots from her digital ethnography of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, revealing how Wikipedians manage sources in breaking news events. Tricia Wang finished up a few years of fieldwork in China and shares with us a new process for writing ethnographic fieldnotes, live fieldnoting. We have four guest contributors for The Ethnographer’s Reading List. Sam Ladner’s list mixes creativity with time, religion, and humor. Nicolas Nova’s list takes us back to objects, public spaces, and lines. Christina Dennaoui’s list brings us some science, emotion and pain. Elisa Oreglia’s list gives us something new, something blue, and something borrowed.

 Other tidbits:

Jason Antrosio at Living Anthropologically compiled a list of anthropology communities with a facebook page. We saw familiar communities like Savage Minds, but we also discovered new ones like Neuroanthropology,  ALLA (The Association of Latina/o Anthropologistsa) and How to be an Anthropologist.  We’ve added several their blogs and a few new ones to our blogroll. Do let us know if you would like to suggest a site to add to our blogroll!

Do you have a post that you would like featured on Ethnography Matters? Or would you like to be our next guest contributor? Here are some ideas for how you can participate. Email us! We’d love to hear from you.

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Writing Live Fieldnotes: Towards a More Open Ethnography


I just returned from fieldwork in China. I’m excited to share a new way I’ve been writing ethnographic fieldnotes, called live fieldnoting. I spoke about live fieldnoting in a recent interview with Fast Company that also featured a slideshow of my live fieldnotes. I want to elaborate on the process in this post.

At one point in time, all ethnographers wrote their notes down with a physical pen and paper. But with mobiles, laptops, iPads, and digital pens, not all ethnographers write their fieldnotes. Some type their fieldnotes. Or some do both. With all these options, I have struggled to come up with the perfect fieldnote system.

I have experimented with the Livescribe Pen, regular old notebook, and a laptop. The Livescribe digital pen didn’t work for me because it’s really uncomfortable to use after a half hour of writing and its dependency on digital paper makes it inflexible for fieldwork outside of the US and longterm extended fieldwork (my review of the pen on CulturalByt.es). The notebook seems like the most practical solution. But I can’t seem to find the “perfect” notebook. Do I use a really small one that fits in my pocket? A medium size one that allows me to write more? If it’s too big then it looks like a “notebook.” And what should this notebook look like? Does a black moleskin look too nice for my fieldsite? Does it look too official? Does my notebook allow me to fit in with teens? But the notebook with bears and hearts that I use around teens doesn’t work for my meetings with government officials. And in the end no matter what kind of notebook I use, I still have to type all my notes to Evernote. So using a laptop is inevitable as all notes eventually end up there and are cleaned up there.Read More… Writing Live Fieldnotes: Towards a More Open Ethnography

Ethnographic Monographs Reading Group on Mendeley!


While there are many outputs to ethnographic work from talks to user insights and papers, a very traditional output of ethnographic field work is the ethnographic monograph. Some ethnographers have gone to great lengths to bring their field site to life in this form.
We thought that compiling a list of ethnographic monographs would be of valuable to the community. We have created a public Mendeley Ethnographic Monograph group that we invite all readers to join. Anyone can add ethnographic monographs to the list as long as it’s in book format (see Jenna’s post for a definition if you’re unsure or Carole McGranahan from Savage Minds).
Another idea that we have for the Mendeley group is to turn it into small reading groups. These groups will read 1 monograph in 1 month and discuss questions together. The group’s answers will be shared as a blog post.
Several of the contributors will experiment this summer with a reading group model where we have 1 person lead a small reading group of 3 to 4 people. The organizer will help set the schedule for 1 book a month and pose several questions for the group to answer via email every week. Then the organizer will compile all the answers into a blog post to share with the community.  We will try this out during the summer and report back in the fall on how others can join also!
In the meantime, we would love to see you on our Mendeley group!
Also we are on our 9th edition of our monthly Ethnozine newsletter, here is the June issue. And as always, we welcome contributions and any other ideas you may have! Or just email us to say hi!
–The Ethnography Matters Team
Featured image: “books” by phil on Flickr CC BY NC-SA

June Ethnozine – wrapping up June contributions


The June Ethnozine is online.

Summer is here in the Western hemisphere! Many of us are going into fieldwork or doing some catch up reading. This month we are launching a new series called “The Ethnographer’s Reading List.” We’re starting off with Tricia Wang’s summer reading list and then featuring two contributors who work in the industry, Carla Borsoi of AOL and Jay Owens of FACE. Thanks to Roy Christopher for giving us the inspiration to create the Reading List series! Every summer, Roy asks friends and colleagues to create a reading list in which he laboriously compiles and links to Powell’s online store. After we saw his list, we wanted to create an ongoing one at Ethnography Matters. Do check out Roy’s 2012 list that has contributions from Howard Reingold to Douglas Rushkoff.

Our July guest contributor, Jared Braiterman, is a design anthropologist based in Tokyo, Japan. Jared starts off the summer with an exciting post, first telling us that we should break anthropology rules and second suggesting that design anthropology is distinct from ethnography.  The last time we had a post this provocative was when guest contributor Sam Ladner asked if “Corporate Ethnography sucked?” What are your thoughts on Jared’s ideas? What rules do you break? And how different do you think design anthropology is from ethnography? We’d love to hear your thoughts on Jared’s article in the comments section.

Jenna gives us the final installments of the The Ethnographer’s Complete Guide to Big Data. You can read all three installments together, part 1 part 2, and part 3. Lastly, Heather talks to Annie Lin of Wikimedia Foundation about their collaboration between Cairo and the Middle East.

We announced the idea for an ethnographic reading group last month on Mendeley. We’ve just posted some of our ideas for how to conduct the group. For now, the blog contributors will experiment with how to conduct a virtual reading group and we’ll report back by the end of the summer on how to start a reading group! Anyone who is interested is invited to join on Mendeley (sign up here). Also help compile a list of ethnographic monographs on our shared Mendeley group or share with us your ideas for the group!

Do you have a post that you would like featured on Ethnography Matters? Or would you like to be our next guest contributor? Here are some ideas for how you can participateEmail us! We’d love to hear from you.

The Ethnographer’s Reading List: Tricia Wang’s List


For the Ethnography Matters Reading List Series, we’ve invited several ethnographers to share their reading lists with our readers. I want to thank Roy Christopher for giving us the inspiration to create the Reading List series! Every summer, Roy asks friends and colleuage to create a reading list in which he laboriously compiles and links to Powell’s online store. After we saw his list, we wanted to create an onoing one at Ethnography Matters. Do  check out Roy’s 2012 list that has contributions from Howard Reingold to Douglas Rushkoff. First in the line up is Ethnography Matters contributor Tricia Wang, who is coming back from a year and a half of fieldwork and has curated a list ethnographic monographs  and non-fiction books. Carla Borsoi from AOL and Jay Owens from FACE also contribute for July.

We would love to feature your book list! Please contact one of our contributors or email us!
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I haven’t read any books because I’ve been in fieldwork, so I don’t even know where to start. But I managed to narrow down my list into two themes: 1.) ethnographic monographs written by ethnographers and 2.) creative non-fiction written by journalists & writers.

LIST 1: ETHNOGRAPHIC MONOGRAPHS
I’ve chosen several ethnographic monographs about how people learn capitalism. I am quite obsessed with this topic because what I see happening in China is people learning capitalism – like learning how to be a consumer, investor, borrower, and credit card users. Insurance ads are plastered to billboards, malls are open til midnight, and teenagers are learning how to shape their identity through products. Though I’ve always felt helpless when I am observing “capitalism.” Coming from a sociology department, I’ve been heavily trained in Marxist theory. Marxism helps me understand how labor is a  commodity and how people become alienated from their own work. But Marxism doesn’t help me understand why consumers want commodities, how financial markets work, and why capitalism continuously mutates. I’ve found three monographs that address the questions that Marxist theory doesn’t address and that will hopefully help me better understand my field site.Read More… The Ethnographer’s Reading List: Tricia Wang’s List

A Retrospective of Talks Given by Ethnographers at Lift Conference since 2006


Pic by Ed Horsford

ImageOf all the conferences that are dedicated to discussions on technology and society, there’s one that has continued to consistently curate an amazing line of up speakers while maintaining an intimate environment for meaningful exchanges without any elitist barriers to participation –  Lift! Since 2006, I’ve been following Lift because they continually have featured speakers who focus on the social side of technology.

So when Nicolas invited me to speak at Lift ’12 in Geneva, I broke my promise to not leave my field site for a year. I took a break for a week and it was well worth it because I got to meet people whose work I’ve been following for a while. I was also forced to analyze my data, which wasn’t a bad thing. My talk, Dancing with Handcuffs: The Geography of Trust in Social Networks, was about some of the ethnographic work I’ve been doing this past year in China.

After my talk, I had a chance to chat with one of the people I’ve been virtually brain-lusting for years,  Nicolas Nova, ethnographer, co-founder of Lift, and Lift program curator. Nicolas found time to sit down with me to give a retrospective of past ethnographers who have given talks at Lift.

Oh and one of the best parts about Lift is that there are videos for each speakers! Each of the talks are around 15 to 20 minutes and they are pretty dense, so read this when you have a chance to ponder about the wonders of life and ethnography!Read More… A Retrospective of Talks Given by Ethnographers at Lift Conference since 2006

Core 77 Spotlights Service Design Ethnographer, Panthea Lee


panthea_face.jpg

Image courtesy of Panthea Lee

Ethnography Matters hopes to interview Panthea Lee of reBoot with our own list of questions, but in the meantime, Dave Seliger of Core 77 tracked Panthea down A Better World By Design conference. For those of you who are not familiar with Panthea’s work, Tricia Wang wrote about Panthea’s Design Research essay a few months ago on Ethnography Matters.

We liked Panthea’s explanation of NGO’s perception of their own value in a community:

With a lot of these NGO’s, people assume they’re doing a lot of good work and then they design a program poorly or design a bad service and they put it out there and beneficiaries have to use it because they don’t have any other options. There’s no accountability.

Panthea then cuts through the hype of designing for “social change”:

Design for social change is a very “sexy” topic and you see a lot of design firms now going to the public sector and to NGO’s saying, ‘We’re designers, we’re here to help you!’ And they’re like, ‘What are you talking about? You don’t speak our language, you don’t know development theory, you don’t know our approach.’ It helps to know why things are the way they are today because so much of the time you see people jumping in and saying, ‘We’re going to design for change and things are going to be better.’

But what’s the context around why we have these problems to begin with? What has already been tried? I think design firms—well-intended, very talented—don’t always understand that and so I think governments look at them a little weirdly. With most of the people from Reboot, we come from those kinds of organizations and we know what we don’t know. I think that is an advantage for us.

Read the rest of the interview with Panthea on Core 77, A Better World By Design Spotlight on Panthea Lee of Reboot.  And if you didn’t get to go the conference, Dave Seliver provides a roundup of each day of the conference a the end of the post!

IDEO.org Opens 2012-2013 Call for Fellows


IDEO is opening it’s call for fellows at Ideo.org. This seems like a great opportunity for ethnographers to apply!

IDEO.org has issued its second annual call for fellows to serve as “innovators in residence.” The 2013 class of fellows will follow eight diverse fellows, currently part of the nonprofit start-up’s inaugural year. Those eight were selected from an applicant pool in 2011 of over 400. Phase 1 applications for the 2012-2013 fellowship year are due Friday, December 9, 2011; select candidates will be invited to participate in a more in-depth round of reviews, followed by interviews.

The IDEO.org Fellowship Program enables future global leaders from the design, business, and social sectors to spend one year working with experienced IDEO designers to address poverty-related challenges using the tools of human-centered design. Over a 12-month period, Fellows will deliver solutions for non-profits, social enterprises, and foundations on an array of topics, such as: agriculture, gender equity, financial services, health, water, and sanitation.

Click here to learn more about IDEO.org and its fellowship program.

The Invisibility of Ethnography


What are ethnography’s doings? I mean, really, how do you describe what exactly an ethnographer does? S/he watches people? Explains people’s feelings? Translates cultural ideas into concrete stuff? I’ve come up with some interesting ways that work for me to describe my work, but it still requires context and to a person who has never worked with an ethnographer before, it’s not always clear.

Heller Communication writes about the invisibility of socially innovative design.

Design for social innovation begins with the design of conversations themselves – it requires treating a conversation with the same care, and the same planning, that would be appropriate for the design of a product. Conversation starts everything – and yet we rarely think of them as an opportunity for design. This is not only the most important, upstream part of the systems that we need to change, it’s the fastest way for a designer to become a vital part of a strategic initiative. It’s where things begin, and where the most important things are decided.

On the hard side, it doesn’t provide much of a portfolio. Nothing to enter into design competitions, few samples to put on your website, harder to explain at a cocktail party just what it is that you do. In fact, most of the invisible things you’ll be designing are private and sensitive to CEOs and leaders of all types of organizations. You can’t even talk about them. This can be a tough shift for designers who are loathe to give up the artifacts of their work. Of course it doesn’t mean that you won’t design any artifacts, it only means that they will be the last thing you design, not the first.Read More… The Invisibility of Ethnography

Design Research: A Methodology for Creating User Identified Services


reblogged from Cultural Bytes:

For a long time, I’ve wanted to understand how ethnographically driven research is different from market research.  While I intuitively understood the differences between the two, I didn’t take the time to fully sort it out.

I finally found someone who not only clearly explains the differences, but provides greater clarity and depth to my understanding of design research.

I love the way Panthea Lee of reBoot  contrasts market research and design research in, Design Research: What Is It and Why Do It? Panthea explains that the primary difference is that market research treats people as consumers – wage earners with an income to dispose on a product or service, while design research treats people as users  – humans who are trying to fulfill everyday needs through what means they see as possible.

“Market research identifies and acts upon optimal market and consumer leverage points to achieve success. Its definition of success is not absolute, though metrics are often financial. Design research, on the other hand, is founded in the belief that we already know the optimal market and consumer leverage points: human needs. Unearthing and satisfying those needs is thus the surest measure of success. Through this process, we earn people’s respect and loyalty.”

Panthea’s essay doesn’t put a value judgement on market research, rather it makes the boundaries between both types of research more explicit. This clarity allows researchers the space to be explicit about when they are wearing the market research or the design research hat. Sometimes a project needs to be considered from a market and a design perspective. So this is when this chart below becomes super useful!Read More… Design Research: A Methodology for Creating User Identified Services