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Digital Ethnography

Inter-Institutional Undergraduate Intensive, with M.E. Luka and Annette Markham

The acronym IRL, or “in real life,” purports to distinguish our “real,” unmediated, bodily existence from everything “unreal” that happens online. But the distinction isn’t quite so tidy; there’s hardly any aspect of our social and material worlds that remains untouched by digital technologies. How can we deploy the methods and sensibilities of ethnography, anthropology’s signature method, to better understand how the digital shapes our relationships, our institutions, our economies, our selves, etc? How might we deploy digital tools *in* that investigation? And how can we supplement anthropological methods with those from media studies, critical data studies, infrastructure studies, design, creative technology, and a variety of other fields? In this intensive intersession workshop, we’ll join with the Digital Ethnography Research Centre at RMIT in Melbourne, Australia, and the University of Toronto to engage in the globally networked exploration and application of digital ethnography. Students will be invited to complete course readings and screenings, small ethnographic exercises, and an individual or collaborative final project: a multimedia documentary of, or a field guide to, a digital environment or community or phenomenon. For the first two weeks in January, we’ll meet intensively for lecture, discussion, and collaborative exercises; students should expect to dedicate roughly five hours each day to either class meetings or asynchronous engagement, plus light homework. Students will then apply their learning through independently designed and executed digital fieldwork, which they’ll complete during the first half of the spring semester. The sensibilities and skills developed in this course will be highly relevant in a variety of fields, as most institutions and industries in the post-pandemic world will have to reimagine themselves to more integrally incorporate digital technologies.

Spring 2021 Class Website

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