An Infrastructural Approach to Digital Ethnography

Lessons from the Manchester Infrastructures of Social Change Project

Authored by: Hannah Knox

The Routledge Companion to Digital Ethnography

Print publication date:  December  2016
Online publication date:  January  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138940918
eBook ISBN: 9781315673974
Adobe ISBN: 9781317377788


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In this chapter I outline how recent work on the anthropology of infrastructure can provide a particularly fruitful set of resources for framing and designing ethnographic analyses of digital technologies. This chapter aims to go beyond work that focuses on digital media practices and the way in which digital devices are given meaning and used by different social groups in order to draw attention to the material, ontological and relational qualities that are built into digital devices. Building on the work of the Infrastructures of Social Change group at the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC) at the University of Manchester, the chapter outlines the potential for developing an ethnographic approach to understanding the formation, circulation and use of digital infrastructural systems and their implications for social life.

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