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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.

Ethics of e-research at NCeSS

At a workshop on e-research organised by Nick Kankoswki in the framework of NCeSS 2009, we are presenting on the topic on ethics of e-research.ethicsworkshop.avatars This work is based on the experiences of the VKS in the past 3 years and on two workshops on ethics organised by the VKS in June 2008 and June 2009 (with KNAW). We have given our contribution a somewhat unusual form, putting forth our insights as a set of ‘frequently asked questions’. These FAQs can be found here. Reactions to these are very welcome, whether on the blog, face to face or via email.


A fresh set of reviews appeared this week on the Resource Center for Cyberculture Studies,  including my review of Internet Inquiry, edited by Markhan and Baym. Besides that fact that I really like the book, one of my motivations for writing the review was a guilty conscience…

This review is a way of assuaging my guilt for repeated comments made to Adolfo during his visit about his explanations of his research as combining online and offline aspects.  What an odd starting point, I exclaimed, no one uses that language analytically anymore! Well, that’s just not true, witness the entire section of the book Internet Inquiry that is set up around that dichotomy. I’m not going to repeat here what the problem is with that framing (read the review!) but I would like, hereby, to dedicate the review to Adolfo Estalella, in pennance for my pig-headed underestimation of the persistence of on/offline talk.

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.

Next book…

will be ‘Partial Connections’, by Marilyn Strathern. Supplemented with a delicious piece by Anna Tsing, presented at the annual meeting of the Danish Association for science and technology studies, and brought to our attention by Dina Friis.

What is this turtle doing here?

Partly I just felt I should change the picture–never know if people are entirely happy being poster boys and girls. And then this photo of a painted turtle (chrysemis picta) is a nice reminder of various things. Among them, that ethnography modeled itself on various field sciences,* and that psychologists in my first fieldwork sometimes called me an ethnologist…

*See Kuklik’s chapter ‘After Ishmael: the fieldwork tradition and its future’, in Anthropological Locations: Boundaries and Grounds of a Field Science, edited by Gupta and Ferguson

Announcing the participants!

It is with great pleasure that we announce the list of selected authors and papers for the upcoming workshop ‘In the Game: ethnographic relationships, mediation and knowledge’, in Copenhagen!

Papers for this event will be pre-circulated (deadline 1 September). Don’t forget to reserve the evening for the workshop drinks and dinner!

John Banks (Queensland University of Technology), Consumer Co-Creation in Games Development: Ethnographic Research and Performing Social-Network Markets

Anne Beaulieu (Virtual Knowledge Studio, The Netherlands), Rethinking co-presences in terms of space, mediation and contiguity

Mark Chen, Ethical Tensions between the roles I Play

Marinka Copier (Utrecht University, The Netherlands), Pervasive Ethnography: This is not Research

Lilia Efimova (Telematica Institute, The Netherlands), Blending Blogging into an Academic Text

Adolfo Estalella (Open University of Catalonia), Blogging as Fieldwork

Sal Humphreys (Creative Industries Faculty, Queensland University of Technology), The Personal is political is professional

Casey O’Donnell (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, US), Ethnography of a Moving Target

Martijn Oosterbaan (University of Groningen, The Netherlands), In the City and on the Net

Jenny Sundén (Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden), Ethnographic Desire: on closeness, and methodological uncertainty

T.L. Taylor (IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark), Ethnography as Play

Mette Terp Hoybye (Institute of Cancer Epedimiology, Copenhagen, Denmark), Social Text and Social Texture: embodying practice in Internet groups

Loes Vollebroek, Invited as reporter

Hanna Wirman (University of West England), Invited as reporter

Dina’s Bag in Photos

Dating activities at the VKS

Last Friday the VKS hosted a workshop on Transformation in and of research.

The whole group was gathered in Amsterdam, both locals and visitors from the new department in Maastricht and the Erasmus Studio in Rotterdam.

To kick off the workshop, mostly because not everybody knew each other, the activity of speed dating was introduced. Basically, half us of sat still, while the other half rotated one place to the right every 5th minute on the ring of a bell.

The excuse was to find a common book with each of our changing partners,* but of course the underlying point was to get to know each other better.

Now this kind of activity fascinated me, because it somehow left me hungry for more. The otherwise annoying element of constantly being interrupted in conversations by a bell was exactly what made it worthwhile. It provided a dynamic atmosphere, where the subsequent break was used for picking up all the threads and tying loose ends. And in contrast to the normal kind of speed dating, in academia it’s even better if you find multiple new partners.

Of course, the workshop also had more “serious” theoretical and ethical content, but for now I’ll just recommend more academic dating-activities. 🙂

*A symbolic prize was given to the contestant who came up with the most impressive shared booklist


Ernst and I will be enjoying holidays by the water for the next few weeks, then we’ll be back, refreshed and roaring. In the meantime, here some eye candy.