Accepted Paper:

Facebook: friend or foe of equestrian ethnography?  


Valerie Will (University of the West of Scotland)

Paper short abstract:

Using an ethnographic case study of an equestrian livery yard, this paper explores how Facebook became a symbiotic partner in the ethnographic endeavour by both facilitating and augmenting the real world ethnography.

Paper long abstract:

The equestrian livery yard as an industry sector is abundant and growing. However, there is a lack of understanding with regard to the complexity of elements combining to create a healthy experience for both horses and humans. One aspect which appears to impact on the lives of those inhabiting a livery yard is that of the relationships between the individuals themselves (such relationships may be characterised as symbiotic, commensal and/or parasitic) and indeed their equine counterparts.

Information facilitating an understanding of the lived experience and culture of the livery yard was gathered via four 'real world' ethnographies. In one of these, Facebook became a symbiotic partner in the ethnographic endeavour. Consequently, we explore in this paper how the social network impacted on the development and operation of the ethnography. In particular, we examine how the judicious use of Facebook allowed the ethnographer to gain entry and acceptance in the world of a particular livery yard by building relationships with the clients, workers and owners of the yard. We also consider how observing people's lives 'at a distance' via the computer-mediated environment as they are played out on Facebook may actually generate deeper insights than are sometimes available in real life. Although there may be ethical issues which should be acknowledged, viewing the virtual world of the livery yard clients and staff on Facebook unquestionably augmented the 'real world' ethnography - thus traditional ethnography can clearly co-exist in conjunction with a digital approach, to the benefit of both.

Panel P31
Entwined worlds: equine ethnography and ethologies