Category Archives: ethnography

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.

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 Researcher (f/m), (36-38 hours per week)

Project information: You will be responsible for the implementation of ethnographic and explorative research in the sub-project “Dissemination and exploration”. You will perform observations of the use of ICT in humanities research. In particular, you will identify problems that emerge as researchers renew their research practices with the aid of technology. You will explore and assess the current developments in digital humanities, also on the basis of the published literature. This exploration will regularly involve short visits to research centres in the Netherlands and abroad. Your work on this aspect of the project will be supported by an information expert, whose role will be to assess the technological merits of infrastructures. These observations and assessments will support the Alfalab project leader in the preparation of the second phase of Alphalab. Your research results will also support the dissemination of Alfalab’s outcomes among humanities scholars in the Netherlands. This work will result in a research report, which will form the basis of a follow-up grant application, and the basis for international scientific publications.

Job requirements: You have ample experience in ethnographic research and current knowledge of ict applications in the humanities, as demonstrated by a PhD in a relevant area (for example, Science and Technology Studies or Information Science). You show interest in humanities research. You are a good communicator, possess good writing skills, and are capable of building good cooperative relations with researchers from a variety of scientific traditions. You have an excellent command of English and Dutch.

Conditions of employment: This position involves a temporary appointment for a period of 1.5 years. In consultation, the job can be performed on a secondment basis (for instance from a university). The intended starting date is 1 May 2009.

More information will be available on the website of the VKS or on the website Academic Transfer.

“Lying is done with words and also with silence.” –Adrienne Rich

The March meeting of the ethnography reading group will deal with lying: the (sometimes necessary) constitution of false statements, deliberately presented as being true. Why and when do ethnographers fib? What do we do when we think the interlocutor prevaricates? And who can tell?

Two texts will provide the academic framing of this discussion. One is the text ‘ten lies of ethnography’, by Gary Fine, published in the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, but also posted on the web as the text of a keynote address to QUIG Interdisciplinary Qualitative Studies Conference in 1992.

Along with this piece, Peter Metcalf’s book will be grounds for discussing lying in ethnographic relationships and in the presentation of the ethnographer.

Along with writing culture?

One of the discussions at the working papers day last  year was sparked by the material provided by Marianne Franklin. Her submission sought to transfer her work on the constitution of fields from an conference performance, involving image, video, sound and talk, to a multi-media, hyperlinked text on a pdf support.

This discussion raised many issues: norms of communication, writing styles, linearity, modes of disciplining knowledge, and the rules we impose on ourselves and each other with regards to what counts as academic output.

This is an important topic, and one which might well be worth revisiting in the course of Collaboratory work. Formulating the issue(s) will be a challenge, since the vocabulary of scholarly work tends to emphasise text, writing and authorship… all elements we might seek to question or transcend or maybe even ignore. Yet, terms are needed to set the debate. I propose: ‘along with writing culture’ as a phrase to label these efforts at ‘doing things differently’.

There are several ways into this debate besides using new tools for mediation of our work–but that is definetely a part of it. A tip I received along these lines is a tool called Sophie, from the Annenberg School. Anyone heard of it or used it? And what are other trails to follow?

This post had been dormant since last June, but was revived partly through our discussion of Coming of Age, in which Boelstorff affirms that writing a book about an object like a virtual world is an important statement.

In The Game: Ethnographic relationships, mediation and knowledge

A pre-conference workshop was held in conjunction with the annual conference of the Association of Internet Researchers, in Copenhagen, Denmark. The workshop was set up around work in progress on the topic of ethnographic relationships, as articulated in the call for papers (see VKS website).

names mosaic

names mosaic

Contributions were structured around the way research relations in ethnography are being reconfigured in terms of the themes of contiguity, accountability, affectivity & embodiment, and scholarly practices. All participants had submitted papers in progress, and these were circulated ahead of the workshop. Hanna Wirman acted as reporter for the event, setting up a blog and documenting it textually and photographically. Each paper was discussed for half an hour, beginning with the comments of an assigned respondent, followed by general discussion. The exchanges that ensued were marked by a high level of engagement, and participants enjoyed the detailed and in-depth feedback they each received from the respondents and participants. The discussions of papers were critical, yet the mood was very supportive, and debates around several themes that cut across papers evolved over the course of the day. The workshop ended with a wonderful dinner in town for all participants, where conversation continued.

Much more about this event can be found at