Category Archives: methods

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.

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?

Reading Group Proposal

How about this new book from Cornell University Press on fieldwork? It has its own site, where some material from the book is made available. This is an edited volume, with a number of contributors who are well-known spokespeople of the American cultural anthropology scene–and several of whom have been involved in the anthropology in/of circulation statement a few months ago.

For this volume, perhaps we could all read the introduction and each pick one chapter we especially like to discuss? We will also experiment further in the coming sessions with ways of discussing/ approaching texts and issues.

Who would like to join? Lilia, are you up for this one? We’ll pick a date once we’re back from holidays.

Countdown to ‘In the Game’!

In two weeks, we will be meeting in Copenhagen to discuss ethnographic relationships and knowledge–and to exchange about a whole slew of articles and chapters ‘in progress’. The workshop is closed, but we will have two active ‘reporters’ walking around and mediating the proceedings, so some of the day’s insights will also be made public in various forms. Here is a link to the poster: inthegameposterbig.

Bikes, originally uploaded by Alfred Nerstu.

Ethics 2.0

The Virtual Knowledge Studio is pleased to announce that Maria Bakardjieva (University of Calgary) will be holding a public lecture on Wednesday 11 June, from 4-6pm.

The title of the lecture is Ethics 2.0: Balancing Privacy, Publicity and Prudence.

The lecture will be held at the International School for Humanities and Social Sciences, UvA, Prins Hendrikkade 189, Amsterdam. Here is a link to a map.

The lecture will be followed by a reception.

Maria Bakardjieva is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Communication and Culture, University of Calgary, Canada. She holds a doctorate in Sociology from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and a doctorate in Communication from Simon Fraser University, Canada. She is the author of Internet Society: The Internet in Everyday Life (2005, Sage) and co-editor of How Canadians Communicate (2004, 2007, University of Calgary Press). Her research has examined Internet use practices across different social and cultural context with an emphasis on the ways in which users understand and appropriate the communication possibilities offered by the new medium. She has also published on the topics of online community, e-learning and research ethics, including an article together with Andrew Feenberg, called ‘Involving the Virtual Subject’, Ethics and Information Technology 2: 233-40 (2001).

Dina’s Big Bag 2

Compartment comportment

The bag has a very large number of compartments, big and small, internal and external. Not all compartments get used, though an open ‘pouch-like’ compartment is very useful to just slip things in and out (water or coke bottle, groceries bought while underway). The two main compartments are the ones mostly used: one for papers or the laptop, and the other for everything else. There isn’t really a system to the use of the other compartments, which sometimes leads to scrabbling about. The bag is for her personal use only, and doesn’t get used or accessed by others, though her partner has borrowed it on a few occasions. The bag has only private things in it, nothing that would be of use to anyone else.

Private, personal and sentimental

Dina doesn’t really carry personal grooming items, like make-up or hair brushes. She does at times carry some medicine and related technologies (visible on the picture).

A few items in the bag are of sentimental value. Mostly, these are inside Dina’s agenda: pasted photos, notes about meetings or events, small bits of paper. Notably, Dina showed little torn ads she had been collecting in the run up to moving to the Netherlands. These ads contain information about people looking for accommodation-people with whom Dina would have been in touch in the run up to subletting her apartment in Aarhus. This is a symbolic tie to the other place that is home for her, and the ads are a reminder of the preparations for departure but also of the need to care for what remains there. Dina’s agenda forms part of a series, since she systematically buys similar models every year and keeps old agendas. Another personal item that is in the bag is a delicate silver bracelet she received from her partner. It is somewhat more often in the bag since another visitor has joined Dina in her office. Dina takes off the bracelet because it is noisy when she is working at a keyboard-the bag keeps it safe and close to her.

Dina’s Bag

Bags as boundary objects

Dina’s generous interest in this project is multisided, and we started our conversation with her suggestion to think about bags as ‘boundary objects’. We returned to this issue at the end of our conversation. For Dina, this association between a concept that is very important for her dissertation and our request to participate in our bags project was a very stimulating one. In a small, concrete way, it gave a new dimension to her connection to work going on at the Studio. Reflecting on ‘bags as boundary objects’, Dina suggests that this might be a useful way to think about the work that bags do, as helping to move between social worlds. But, she also wonders, is the concept of boundary object useful when the boundaries are being crossed by a single person? Is the concept most useful when the work to be done involves multiple actors?

Dina’s Big Bag

The first thing that one notices about Dina’s bag is that it’s big and bright. We tried to make a photo that would capture the full volume of the bag and its huge potential for expansion.

It’s a bag that gets used for carrying work attributes, like papers and books, and a laptop (when it’s working) but also serves to carry water bottles or purchases, or to transport groceries bought on the way home. For Dina, this is THE bag—it accommodates all bag needs. Anything fits in there, and she therefore doesn’t have to bother thinking through which bag to use. This is it!

She bought her bag (like Ernst) in the US, during a stay of a few months there in 2005. This may explain why the bag seems to be a bit of a hybrid between a work bag and a piece of luggage. This bag was something of an ‘investment’ and the quality of this bag is much higher than the succession of cheaper bags she had before. She enjoys that it is a backpack, rather than a sling/shoulder bag. If the bag is especially heavy, she may strap it on to her bicycle, but otherwise she carries it on her back. It doesn’t bother her that she has to take the bag off her back to access its contents (for example to grab a bus ticket).

Dina is working at the Studio for a few months, writing her Masters dissertation. This also affects how the bag is used. In Denmark where she was a student, she didn’t have an office and therefore didn’t carry things to an office, but only to classes. Sometimes things remain in the bag and make ‘extra’ trips before they get unpacked at the appropriate location.

Update on the Bags Project

The next postings will be derived from a second set of conversations Sally and I have been having with colleagues about their bags. Although it is still early in this project, we have already had some very interesting experiences about the relation between ‘raw fieldnotes’ and these posts, about ‘voice’, and about how to articulate authorship. We are also still learning how to address the materiality of these bags-descriptions shift to function and seem to depart from materiality very quickly in conversation. On the other hand, making photos, and the discussion about how to do this, seem to help focus on the attributes of the bag. And of course we still need to think further about what we mean by materiality.

workshops on methods

 Some workshops from the Qualiti folks at Cardiff.

Network Ethnography

Now that speakers and participants in the session are more or less back at home base (some also took part in AoIR in Vancouver), it is high time to thank them all for what turned out to be a real highpoint of the 4S conference.

It was an intense session in which speakers focused on the intersection of ‘networked’ aspects of their fieldwork and their conceptualisation of the social and cultural forms they are studying. Speakers addressed tensions between epistemically diverse representations of networks, positioning of the researcher (outside the network and then being taken up into it), mediation of the researcher’s presence, unexpected modulation and granularity of networks and combinations of data.

And though the room was crowded and time was short, questions from the floor led to further insightful exchanges. Bart’s contribution as discussant was especially appreciated for the way he formulated the need to expand on positions in an individualised way–rather than across the diversity of work. It was indeed very much in this spirit that TL and I had conceived of a set of papers in which the specificities of problems in relation to the study of/in networks would be central, rather than programmatic or methodological pronouncements.

Part of the discussion also further added to my sense that it is urgent to have a meeting on ethics of fieldwork in mediated settings. (On this topic, the paper by Estallela and Ardevol, discussed a couple of weeks ago in relation to the IRB and summer school, has now appeared.)

In the course of my own paper, I also fit in an aside on the use of tools and the notion of ‘black box’ and my discussions with Johannes von Engelhardt (for his version, see his report on his research internship) and the need to push these discussions. It is not so much a question of whether some tools are black boxes, but rather that working together can lead to a greater, more careful and precise awareness of the kinds of transparency we require of our methods. Through these collaborations, we come to better understand what it is that we do not want black-boxed, while acknowledging that some aspects of our research always will be…