The Ethnographer in the Network

Thu, Jun 20, 2013, 9:00 am to Sat, Jun 22, 2013, 5:00 pm

The Ethnographer in the Network was a three-day intensive workshop at Princeton University to discuss the relationship between networked technologies and ethnographic knowledge practices.

Many researchers in the intersecting fields of sociology, organizational studies, science and technology studies, and informatics are turning their attention to distributed organizations, cyberinfrastructural projects, or communities that span online and offline domains. While we usually analyze how our communities of study accomplish their goals, we also face methodological challenges in describing, accessing, and analyzing activities in our fieldsites. After all, ethnographic work that takes place “in the network” may combine many different approaches already familiar in the qualitative social sciences: it may be team-based, (semi-)virtual, multi-sited, cross many scales of action and interaction, and deploy digital tools as part of data collection and research practice. Given what we know about the relationship between digital technologies and knowledge production in our fieldsites, then, it seems relevant to ask similar questions of our own knowledge-making activities.

This workshop assembles expert researchers to discuss specific approaches, methods, and complications associated with studying  such networked systems of social interaction. Surfacing our own methods, we will describe the challenges that we ourselves have faced in fieldwork on distributed phenomena, our creative solutions, persistent questions that remain, and opportunities for future research and practice.

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