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Ethnography and Design: Mutual Provocations is made possible through funding from the UC Office of the President, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and participating units across University of California campuses.
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Friday, October 28 • 2:00pm - 3:50pm
Searching for #Solidarities: Digital Ethnography

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It should come as no surprise that our research requires us to engage participants directly in the places they live, physically and technologically. In this workshop we will explore strategies for conducting fieldwork in the places between the techno-bio-social. Participant observation in virtual worlds can be overwhelming because it requires a complex technological skill set that evolves as our participants adopt new communication technologies into their daily rounds of activities.

As researchers, we must be adept at using these technologies because they are not solely ways of continuing communication across groups between gatherings, but provide spaces for groups to congregate, share thoughts, develop ideas, and archive their histories. We will present concepts of “information mosaics,” “digital cultural capital,” and “platform-agnostic theory” to illustrate how fitting together shards of information and varied forms of social interaction produces both online fieldsites and their representations. Ontology and epistemology are thus in a recursive relationship. For example, constructing an information mosaic about a series of protests across multiple platforms provides a fuller, but never complete, picture of events. Another example: understanding forms of “compulsive creativity” experienced by persons with Parkinson’s disease in Second Life requires attention not just to digial social capital, but digital cultural capital as this appears in both digital objectified states and digital embodied states. We will describe how popular platforms, like Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube, sort content and create networks, while demonstrating ways to query for these places to find the information relevant for your research.

We will also explore how websites and other online phenomena can be read as historical documents, where analyzing past iterations can open new questions, and provide clues on locating interviewees. Lastly, we will discuss the ethics of researching online, where the notion of public/private is no more easily disentangled than in physical-world research.

avatar for Tom Boellstorff

Tom Boellstorff

Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine
Knock, Knock!Who’s there?Ken Ken who?Ken I come in?It's cold out here.
avatar for Joan Donovan

Joan Donovan

Postdoctoral Fellow, UCLA Institute for Society and Genetics
Joan’s research deals with the ways that people incorporate and repurpose everyday technologies to meet social and political ends. Protesters are especially adept at using available technologies to mobilize for social change. Joan’s currently working on projects related to mobile... Read More →

Friday October 28, 2016 2:00pm - 3:50pm PDT
SSB 105