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Accepted Paper:

Digital technologies as co-creators of 'field events'  
Tanja Ahlin (University of Amsterdam)Fangfang Li (University of Amsterdam / University of Barcelona)

Paper short abstract:

Based on research with elderly people from Indian transnational families and on young migrants from Malaysia, we argue that (visual) digital technologies actively shape the practice of fieldwork and co-create 'field-events' together with ethnographers and their study participants.

Paper long abstract:

What becomes of 'the field site' when fieldwork is conducted with the help of (visual) digital technologies? Based on fieldwork on elder care in Indian transnational families and young Chinese migrants from Malaysia, we suggest that such technologies are more than just tools which can be used to facilitate research. Drawing on the material semiotic approach from Science and Technology Studies, we argue that digital technologies may be understood as active participants in the practice of ethnographic research, as they mediate the relationship between ethnographers and their informants and thereby influence data collection - and data itself - in specific ways. For example, people at different stages in their life cycle may prefer different kinds of technologies, and these various types of technologies shape what kind of data can be collected through them. Doing fieldwork through digital technologies involves considerable tinkering to establish what such fieldwork actually is, how it impacts what is considered the researcher's 'field,' and how it should be done to be considered 'good.' We propose that digital technologies co-create 'field events,' a notion which complicates the standards of fieldwork that are based on spatial and temporal boundaries. The possibility of 'field events' calls upon ethnographers to seriously, and collectively, re-consider what 'good fieldwork' through digital technologies may be.

Panel P060
Illuminating Futures of the Life Course through Visual and Digital Media [Age and Generations Network]