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Notes on the 1st digital ethnography reading (Horst, Hjorth and Tacchi 2012)

July 14, 2015

by Allister Hill
PhD candidate
Digital Ethnography Research Centre (DERC)
RMIT University, Melbourne

Last week, on 9 July 2015, the Digital Ethnography Research Centre (DERC) ran its first monthly reading group. It was, by all accounts, a success. Intimate enough to allow everyone the chance to readily participate, with a little under 10 people going, John Postill (as the resident academic guru) and myself were facilitating. As you can see from last week’s post, the introductory reading, Horst, Hjorth & Tacchi (2012). ‘Rethinking ethnography’, was chosen to centre the discussion on what ethnography means to us as researchers and how this shapes (or will shape) our research practices moving forward, both in relation to analogue and digital localities.

The discussion was quite varied with participants sharing both their experiences and intentions, with regards to ethnography, in a variety of areas such as internet practices, activism, social media, indigenous groups, gaming and subcultures located in Australia and around the world; including Russia, Indonesia and Spain. While many of the group have been working closely with digital worlds it was apparent that digital media and materialities are not the only matters being explored. Some other discussion topics included matters, such as:

  • How relevant is the notion of community for ethnography and the idea that locality (be that virtual and well as physical or a mix of the two) may be a more important consideration, when identifying the boundaries of ethnographic enquiry. Amit and Rapport’s (2002) ‘The Trouble with Community’ was suggested as a good resource, in relation to conceptualisations of community; and
  • When considering the ‘reflective turn’ in anthropology, it was recognised that this was now part and parcel of the constructivist approach for ethnographers, as they instinctively acknowledge what they bring to bear in their own research. Rather than disappearing into the apparatus of the ethnographers tool kit, however, the recent ‘ontological turn’ in anthropology (exemplified by the Sahlins/Latour ’showdown’ at the 2013 AAA Conference – see Morrison 2014 ) and the rise of social activism suggests that inward looking reflexivity and the existence of multiple meanings, differences and worlds inhabited are front and centre for many ethnographers.

With the nature of the first session being fairly reflexive, in itself, and broad ranging there is too much to cover here. Moving forward the reading group will likely be more focused as participants reflect and discuss each month’s ‘digital ethnography’ reading. This is not to say every reading will have to include digital elements. As with the members of DERC, I’m sure future readings will cover a wide and varied range of ethnographic methodologies, accounts and insights.

Next month’s meeting is on 12 August 2015. If you’re in Melbourne at the time and would like to attend this meeting please drop us an email.

[John Postill adds: We’ll probably be discussing a chapter from Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous. Gabriella Coleman. Brooklyn, NY: Verso Books, 2014. 464 pp. Gabriella Coleman will be giving a talk at DERC on 26 or 27 August, so the reading session will be a good opportunity to do some preparatory work.]

References
Amit, V., & Rapport, N. (2002). The Trouble with Community: Anthropological reflections on movement, identity and collectivity. London: Pluto Press.

Horst, H., Hjorth, L., & Tacchi, J. (2012). Rethinking ethnography: An introduction. Media International Australia(145), 86-93.

Morrison, I. (2014, 24 January). Public Engagement Vs. The Ontological Turn. Allegra Lab. Available from http://allegralaboratory.net/public-engagement-vs-the-ontological-turn/

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