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New modes of online connectivity dissolve traditional ideas of the ethnographic field, with profound implications for power asymmetries, mechanisms of representation, data analysis and more. We tease out the methodological, ethical and political implications of the possibility of staying connected.
While classical ethnography depended in large part for its coherence on a sharp divide between 'the field' and the academy, anthropologists have worked to trouble this relationship, conducting field research 'at home' and even within the 'ivory tower' itself. Yet changes in the nature of globalized academic knowledge-production and advances in communication technology like the internet, social media, and ubiquitous mobile telephony further trouble the relationship between the space of 'writing up' and the field in complex ways—with profound implications for methodology, research ethics, and the politics of representation. This panel takes up the question of how this new reality of staying connected long after fieldwork has ostensibly finished is transforming the nature of ethnographic knowledge-production. What happens when interlocutors acquire new technological and institutional means to reach out to researchers from afar? What is at stake when researchers find themselves being pulled back into the systems of social control that define their field sites via social media—or even just the wider availability of access to their publications? How do changing modes of communication demand a reassessment of anthropologists' own experiences of and reflections on personhood and identity? In what ways do the challenges posed to traditional field methods represent something unique to the project of ethnography? This panel seeks to investigate these questions through grounded reflections of ethnographers working at the intersection of technology and relationality in a range of fieldsites the world over.