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Researching the post-pandemic city through digital ethnography 
Raktim Ray (University College of London)
Arunima Ghoshal (De Montfort University)
Knowledge production Technology & innovation
Wednesday 6 July, 13:00-13:40 (UTC+1)

Short Abstract:

The panel seeks to explore how (post)pandemic cities can be researched through digital ethnography. By doing so, it also addresses how digital ethnography is a complex entanglement of spatial scale, race and power relations.

Long Abstract

The palimpsest of the urban world is increasingly marked by fragmented, evolving power geometries of digital technologies that are impacting the everyday lived experience of the city through the messiness of the web and data revolution. The inherent politics of digital technologies have been heightened by the pandemic as there is a surge of interest amongst various actors of the state, civil society, citizens, and industry to extract, produce, circulate and influence urban life through the digital realm(from embodied practices to policy implications). On one hand, digital technologies have opened up possibilities for new avenues of research through remote engagement which not only reconfigures spatial scales but also unsettles the normative discourse of ‘field’. On the other hand, digital technologies are also shaped by structural inequality and hegemonic power relations and hence provides a tool for “sustaining colonial amnesia” (Dar, 2020).

Acknowledging these contradictions, this panel focuses on the use of digital ethnography as a methodological and analytical tool. It recognizes the manifold ways that the digital has pervaded lived realities and shifting conceptions of self, community and culture and how it is important to understand the interpretive processes that are constituted by these technologies (Pink 2009; Postill & Pink 2012; Degen 2015; Kaur-Gill & Dutta 2017).

This panel invites debates and discussions about the theoretical and methodological challenge that is posited by digital ethnography. Does a rigid distinction exist between conventional and digital ethnography and does that reify an ill-placed dualism? Does it instead, lead to ethnographic places that can traverse online/offline contexts and are collaborative, participatory, open and public (Pink, 2009, Walker, 2010). It also raises the question of whether current digital ethnographic practices are being conceptualised/utilised to their full potential that allows it to encapsulate the social, physical and cultural systems of the urban digital space.

This panel aims at bringing together scholars, activists and artists who are operating with this understanding of digital methodological tools and to reflect on questions related to using digital ethnography in researching the (post)pandemic city. The panel also seeks to invite non-academic submissions from activists and artists which may include digital arts, photography or any audio-visual material as forms of submissions. The themes that this panel aims to address are:

• Positioning digital methodological tools in the context of access and inequalities of everyday practices

• Does digital ethnography provide a pathway to collaborative, democratic & participatory researching practices?

• What broader connections does this method make to gaining an in-depth understanding of multi-scalar politics of data-driven urban infrastructure and policymaking?

• How does race get addressed in digital ethnography?

• What are the ethical and practical considerations for using digital ethnography in understanding the everyday embodied experiences of the digital citizen?

Panellists need to upload pre-recorded presentation or creative contributions. Convenors would request the panel members to watch each other’s work in advance to the synchronous session. Based on the contributions from the panel members, the convenors will identify overarching themes which will be part of the discussion round. Each presenter will be given 6 minutes time to present their contributions which will be followed by 2 minutes discussion. The summary discussion round will take place after all the contributions in that panel and the convenors will start the round by pitching the previously identified overarching questions. At the end of the discussion round the floor will be open to the audience for further discussions on the contributions.

Accepted papers: