The Fieldsite as a Network

A Strategy for Locating Ethnographic Research

Authored by: Jenna Burrell

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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This chapter draws on theories about networks and ethnographies of the Internet to address issues of fieldsite selection in ethnographic research. Interest in ethnography—a complex of epistemological framings, methodological techniques, and writing practices—has spread into many domains and disciplines beyond its roots in cultural anthropology. It has been directed increasingly toward pragmatic outcomes beyond academic knowledge production ranging from political action and the development of social programs (Brydon-Miller et al. 2003; Madison 2005) to product design (Lewis et al. 1996; Salvador et al. 1999). It is now firmly entrenched within a range of disciplines, including sociology, media studies, education, science and technology studies, and more. It has long since branched out of academia and become incorporated (with varying degrees of acceptance) into the corporate world (Orr 1996; Suchman et al. 1999; Jordan and Dahl 2006) and international development institutions (Tacchi et al. 2003). Ethnographic practice has been reconsidered and reconfigured at different times and in different domains to meet the diverse sets of interests represented by these various spheres. Some of the convenient fictions that facilitated ethnographic approaches in the past have been less applicable to the new issues, theoretical and pragmatic, undertaken by researchers.

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