Accepted Paper:

Some One Else's Selfie: Ethnographic Theatre Opportunities Using Every Social Media Technology  


Kerric Harvey (George Washington University)

Paper short abstract:

Using theatrical technique as a new type of qualitative research the author introduces the concept of ethnographic theatre illustrating how mobile phones can be used for cultural discovery within structured storytelling and role-playing environments.

Paper long abstract:

Building on her earlier work adapting theatrical technique as a new type of qualitative research tool, the author introduces the concept of "ethnographic theatre" and illustrates how the ordinary mobile phone can be used a cultural discovery device for eliciting and capturing cultural material based in the anthropology of performance. This technique, called "Some One Else's Selfie" combines dramatic role-playing with projective analysis to explore respondents' perceptions about world-view and identity, by giving them a way to temporarily deviate from their own ascribed social roles within a safely fictional setting.

Respondents enter a structured role-playing scenario, temporarily occupying an imagined identity as they react to a specific issue, event, or conflict. They then create mobile phone self-recorded monologues, using the phone to perform these fictionalized dramatic narratives for an imagined audience of their own choosing, as they react to real-life issues within a fictionalized environment not as themselves, but from the perspective of their role-playing characters, outside of their usual place in the quotidian world where those issues and events take place and must be dealt with according to normative expectations.

As a Digital Age application of the late Victor Turner's "subjunctive mode of culture," researchers can analyze the "selfie" narrative itself as well as the respondents' reflections on role-playing experience to excavate the complex, iterative relationships between individual social perception and the web of cultural assumptions upon which ascribed personal identity and political attitudes are at least partially based. Analysis of third party theatrical artifacts is also possible.

Panel P059
"Culture in Action": Between Performance and Ethnography