GoPro as an ethnographic tool

glitches image of man with cardboard camera-shaped helmet

This article concerning using GoPro cameras is interesting and probably relevant to some of the work on video methods in geography… obviously the rationale used here differs from some work in geography but methodologically I think it’s useful. I suspect that this would also be relevant for student dissertation research too, where it seems there is an appetite for adopting more novel and experimental methods (at least amongst the work I’ve seen).

GoPro as an Ethnographic Tool: A Wayfinding Study in an Academic Library.
Kinsley, Kirsten, Schoonover, Dan, Spitler, Jasmine

In this study, researchers sought to capture students’ authentic experience of finding books in the main library using a GoPro camera and the think-aloud protocol. The GoPro provided a first-person perspective and was an effective ethnographic tool for observing a student’s individual experience, while also demonstrating what tools they use to find items. Using the think-aloud protocol, observers could hear students express their internal decisions, thoughts, and feelings about the process. Results confirmed trouble spots in the building and that directories are not typically used and need updating. GoPro footage revealed that there are certain qualities of the help-desk experience that can make a search more or less successful. No major sex differences were found in preference of wayfinding tools and behaviors, except that males appear to have used directories marginally more than females. In a debriefing survey, students still affirmed human help and online maps as the most useful wayfinding tools and advocated for better signage. Mapping of behaviors by floor also validated GoPro observations. At low cost to the library, the GoPro/think-aloud combination along with survey and mapping methodologies affirmed trouble spots in the building and provided suggestions for wayfinding improvements to library administration.

Critical and Creative Ethnography After Human Exceptionalism. Brilliant new publication from @annegalloway

Amidst the slog of marking a shining jewel-like piece of inspiration appeared in my inbox – one of my academic heroes Anne Galloway shared a draft of what is a fantastic chapter for a brilliant book, which is set to be published later this year (what a great editorial team too!). Anne has posted about this on her lab’s blog, so I am reposting some of that post… however, go and read it on the More-than-human Lab blog!

I’m pleased to announce that The Routledge Companion to Digital Ethnography, edited by Larissa Hjorth, Heather Horst, myself & Genevieve Bell, will be published later this year.

For the companion I also contributed a chapter called “More-Than-Human Lab: Critical and Creative Ethnography After Human Exceptionalism.”

Anne shares the introductory paragraph, which I think wonderfully performs precisely the ethos of praxis she explores in the chapter:

Haere mai. Welcome. This story starts with an introduction so that the reader can know who I am, and how I have come to know what I know. My name is Anne Galloway. My mother’s family is Canadian and my father’s family is British. Born and raised outside both places, for the past seven years I have been tauiwi, or non-Māori, a settler in Aotearoa-New Zealand. I have always lived between cultures and have had to forge my own sense of belonging. Today I am in my home, on a small rural block in the Akatarawa Valley of the Tararua ranges, at the headwaters of the Waikanae River, on the ancestral lands of MuaÅ«poko (Ngāi Tara) & Ngāti Toa, with my partner, a cat, seven ducks, five sheep–four of whom I hope are pregnant–and a multitude of extraordinary wildlife. The only way I know how to understand myself is in relation to others, and my academic career has been dedicated to understanding vital relationships between things in the world. Most recently, I founded and lead the More-Than-Human Lab, an experimental research initiative at Victoria University of Wellington. Everything I have done has led me to this point, but for the purposes of this chapter I want to pull on a single thread. This is a love story for an injured world, and it begins with broken bones”¦

Anne offers more excerpts and explanation in her blogpost and her full reference list (so please do read it!).

I did however want to share a brief snippet of one of the many bits I love from the chapter:

As more technological devices connect people to things in the world, and as more data are collected about people and things, digital ethnography stands to make an important contribution to our understanding of constantly shifting relations. When combined with speculative design that translates realist narratives into fantastic stories, I also believe we can inject hope into spaces, times and relations where it seems most unlikely.

For me,  Anne’s reading of a feminist ethics of care: for knowledge for our ‘selves’ and for our decentred place in the vital soup of our (transindividuated) becoming, as a part of contemporary ethnographic praxis is really valuable and we would all do well to involve ourselves in the conversation which Anne invites.

The image at the top comes from Anne’s twitter feed, it’s one of her own sheep:

Daniel Miller – The Internet: Provocation

There’s an entertaining and incisive piece on the Cultural Anthropology website by Prof. Daniel Miller (UCL) on (ethnographic) research concerning the internet/’online’…

I have felt that perhaps my primary qualification for engaging in the anthropology of this domain is simply that I have never, ever actually believed in “The Internet.” My provocation is that this disbelief is what distinguishes anthropologists from other scholars of online activity. My approach has always been ethnographic, what I call holistic contextualization. I study populations whose online activities are a growing element of who they are and what they do. Yet no one lives just online.

If you teach under the auspices of Internet studies or similar, it is pretty hard not to fetishize the Internet. But I cut my teeth on trying to develop something called material culture studies as a systematic defetishizing of objects (and of society). Instead, we examine the place of materiality within the anthropology of relationships. I see online as just one place in which we now live and conduct relationships with others. After overhearing a two-hour telephone conversation between your husband and his mother, for example, you would not remark, “Oh, that sounded bad, but what is your relationship like in the real world?”

Read the whole thing here.