Ethics and Ethnography

An outcome of a fine collaboration, fed by lots of discussions with Annamaria Carusi and with members of the Virtual Ethnography Collaboratory–thanks everyone!

Beaulieu, Anne and Adolfo Estalella. In Press, 2012. Rethinking Research Ethics for Mediated Settings. Information, Communication and Society. A bit more about the background for this paper can be found on this other blog.


TL Taylor at VKS

One of the final activities of the virtual ethnography collaboratory of the Virtual Knowledge Studio was the visit of TL Taylor. During her time in Amsterdam, TL focused on a book project, on ethnographic methodology for the study of virtual worlds, in which she is involved with other colleagues. She presented on part of this project in our research meeting, in a talk entitled ‘Ethnography as Play’.

Another part of the visit consisted in the preparation of a session on Fieldwork as Method and Process for Artful Encounters: on ethnography, art and conservation. TL and I had a great time interviewing each other, and we were very pleased at how generously the audience reacted when we turned the interview questions on them!

Workshop on e-research ethics

Ethnographers and other researchers doing fieldwork in highly mediated contexts will be interested in this upcoming workshop:

Ethics of e-research: What are the issues? What can researchers do?

In the framework of the project ‘e-research ethics’, a workshop will be held in Amsterdam on 12 October 2010. In the course of the afternoon, participants will discuss and reflect on the issues around ethics of e-research and the role of researchers in addressing them. Debate around these issues was initiated in Oxford in July 2010 and is ongoing at For more information and registration, please contact Anne Beaulieu ( before 7 October.


Our next read, calling all readers! Doodle poll is in the  making and will soon reveal the date of the next meeting!

Tsing, Anna L. Friction: an ethnography of globla connection

Post-doc gezocht, Utrecht

Het Langeveld Instituut heeft ten behoeve van het Wired Up programma een vacature voor een Postdoc digitale geletterdheid van migrantenjeugd (0,8 fte, 2 jaar.

De postdocpositie wordt vervuld binnen het grotere kader van het Wired Up programma, een internationaal, interdisciplinair project gefinancierd door de Universiteit Utrecht in het kader van het High Potential Programma. Het programma is een samenwerkingsverband tussen de faculteit Sociale Wetenschappen en de faculteit Geesteswetenschappen. Hiernaast bestaat een samenwerkingsverband met Vanderbilt University, USA. In het Wired Up programma wordt onderzocht hoe nieuwe digitale media, in het bijzonder het internet, het leven, de identiteit en de socialisatie van migrantenjongeren beïnvloedt.

Deadline for applications is 29 March.

Co-presence as ethnographic approach

Much of the ethnographic work that goes on at the VKS has been shaped by the tradition of ethnographic lab studies from Science and Technology Studies. These past couple of years, as the VKS has explored the humanities and e-research, these ethnographic methods have been adapted. A number of conference presentations and publications (this one and this one, among others) on this topic have been the result.

An upcoming contribution in Social Studies of Science is called from From Co-location to Co-presence. Here’s what it’s about:

As STS scholars increasingly study forms of knowledge production where the space of the lab (or similar locale) is much less central, other ways of conceptualizing the field may be especially useful for ethnographic research. In particular, ethnographic approaches must loosen their grip on co-location as a necessary requirement for ‘being in the field’, if they are to consider important issues about knowledge production that arise in fields, such as those in the humanities or e-research. Key STS topics, like new forms of authoritative knowledge, the changing shape of scientific work, and dynamics of innovation can be explored through ethnography. But in order to do so, the ethnographic approach must adapt in order to study these fields in which research practices are not concentrated in lab-like spaces.

By using co-presence rather than co-location as a starting point to conceptualise and articulate fieldwork, new aspects of knowledge production are foregrounded in ethnographic studies. This research note proposes and discusses co-presence as an epistemic strategy that pays close attention to non-lab based knowledge production; that can embrace textuality, infrastructure and mediation; and that draws into relief the role of ethnographer as author, participant-observer and scholar.

Because it does not assume the centrality of shared space, the notion of co-presence can be useful in ethnographies of e-research, as well as of other fields in the sciences and humanities that involve highly mediated forms of research or where the lab does not figure so prominently.

This work was discussed at the workshop In the Game, held in Copenhagen last October as an AoIR pre-conference workshop.

Calling all readers…

What shall we read for our next reading group meeting?




Books, books, books, books, books, books, and books., originally uploaded by kennymatic.

Fieldwork is not what it used to be

The book has been on my desk for a while, waiting for the perfect reading motivation that is the reading group. I’m now a couple of chapters in… enough to be quite intrigued about the book’s aims. It takes on a very particular slice of academic work–paying a lot of attention to the professional ‘craft’ of fieldwork, as Marcus calls it. I’m about to start the empirical chapters, and I’m curious to read on:  To what extent are the implications of particular ways of developing this craft linked to the kinds of knowledge produced by ethnographers?

news from the fields

Things have been a bit quiet  on this blog, partly because of a newborn sibling (network realism). But this does not mean things have been quiet on the ground, in terms of ethnography at the VKS.

Smiljana has been busy scoping the field of digital humanities and is currently thinking about how to pursue observations of users who will be trying out some of the new tools that will be developed in Alfalab. She is considering video or desktop tracking mechanisms to do this. (Suggestions welcome!)

We have also been joined by Niels van Doorn, who is just completing a major project on gender, sexuality and embodiment as performed on internet platforms that feature user-generated content. He is preparing a new project on queer spaces at the intersections between digital and physical space. In this project, he will examine how people exercise their sexual citizenship through the creation of affective networks and spaces that are intertwined with new media technologies.

And Sarah de Rijcke gave a great presentation yesterday at a meeting to set up new fieldwork at the Rijksakademie. We came away from yesterday’s meeting with the feeling that this fieldwork was really going to be mutually beneficial and that the Rijksakademie staff was actually looking forward to having us around! Sarah will be starting there in November, right after she comes back from 4S, where we have a paper on the Network Realism project in a session organised by Catelijne Coopmans on “Data Riches: The Practices and Politics of Exploiting Digital Data Sets”.

My own fieldwork around practices using Flickr for the study of street art (part of the Network Realism project) has taken off in these past weeks. I’ve found some scholars of street art who are using Flickr (and other tools) at different points in their research, and many of them are willing to talk to me. I’ll be heading to Paris for some meetings with scholars at GRIS and to visit the street art exhibit Ne dans la rue, which itself has quite an impressive presence on Flickr.

Postdoc Opportunity at VKS

Applications are invited for three-month fellowships within the Virtual Knowledge Studio for the Humanities and Social Sciences (VKS) for Spring 2010. The fellowship is designed for junior scholars who have recently received their PhDs in order to provide the following:

  • experience of working within an interdisciplinary research group
  • an opportunity to prepare material for publication
  • the chance to develop new research ideas

Deadline for applications is 15 November 2009. Please find more information on the VKS website.