Thursday, April 14

more of the same, but differnt this time:

[just trying to work differently with my blog here...this is not my text, but anne beaulieu- reference here!]

…seeking interaction

Hine’s work on the internet is an important case here (Hine 2000; Hine 2001). This groundbreaking ethnographic work is highly successful in addressing a number of issues in an ethnographic approach to the internet (the notion of site, face to face, interaction, authenticity). In making its object, it relies on a strong humanist notion of the subject as source of intersubjectivity. This investment is especially clear if one compares this work to the stance of cyborg anthropology, which seeks to challenge to human-centred project of anthropology (Downey and Dumit 1997). Hine, for example, does not investigate the search engine in this ethnography. Thus, while she too notes that the web is generally considered to be static, and therefore not interactive and not open to ethnography, she recovers/discovers intersubjectivity on the web by seeking non-institutional pages (as opposed to those produced by media outlets), and focusing on those produced by individuals. The assumption seems to be that these are more likely to lead to interaction with individuals. The ethnography is sustained by the dialogue between clearly interpelated individuals, and an ethnographer who attempts to make herself and her goals as clear as possible. Similarly, Heath and colleagues (Heath, Koch et al. 1999) interact with users, though somewhat more unexpectedly, not having set out to do so from the start, in the way Hine did. In their study of the Human Genome Project, these researchers also interact with a producer of a website, exchanging about their reading and her production of it. They further explicitly distance this approach to ethnographic knowledge from lurking, because of the latter’s lack of engagement with the “subject matter” (page 460)(Heath, Koch et al. 1999).” Like in more conventional fieldwork, knowledge comes from engagement and interaction, always both purposive and incidental.

Intersubjectivity is also an important theme in efforts by some ethnographers to produce a new kind of representation of ethnographic knowledge. These explorations of multi-media ethnography are somewhat different from the other texts considered here, because they mainly challenge the writing tradition of ethnography, rather than the practices of research. In other words, they are part of what Gupta and Ferguson (Gupta and Ferguson 1997) call the literary turn, taking ethnography from ‘thick description’ to ‘writing culture’. This distinction between objectification and representation is a fuzzy one however, and these novels practices in ethnography may come closer in the future, or might not seem so different in a different analytic framework than the one used here. Thus, while these efforts to produce new ethnographies were not explored in detail for this article, it seems worthwhile to mention at least one example of such projects. As part of a project on hypermedia and ethnography at Cardiff University[1], Mason and Dicks try to make room for the reader in the ethnography as representation. They propose a hypertext as conduit for their work: ethnographic hypermedia environment (EHE). The aim is to problematise the ethnographic object by showing some of the construction of the ethnographic representation, and by enabling the reader to navigate through various ethnographic materials. This project also aims to take seriously critiques of authorship and representations in ethnography, by enabling the reader to navigate her own way through (and restructure to some extent) the materials presented in the ethnographic account. Because such projects invest in the ethnographic values of interaction and co-construction, I include this project here under the theme of intersubjectivity.


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