Accepted Paper:

Accessing the Studio Online: Discussing Sensory Access in Video Interviews with Potters.  
Catherine O'Brien (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses conducting interviews via Microsoft Teams in my research with potters in Britain during the Covid-19 pandemic. I explore the idea of phenomenological access and what is lost (and gained) by not physically ‘being-there’ with participants.

Paper long abstract:

This paper discusses my experience of conducting digital video interviews with participants during my research into the development of pottery skill and its affective impact in Covid-19 Britain. Following Boellstorf’s (2020) contention that during the pandemic we experienced physical, rather than social, distancing, I argue that while I was able to interact with my participants in similar ways to as if we were seated in a terrestrial interview, what was lost was physical access to their surroundings. I sit at my desk, I see my participant mediated by the screen, I cannot experience the studio in which they are sitting. I cannot see the rest of the room around the camera, feel the temperature, or browse the pots on the work surface. In this way, certain experiential and sensory elements of sharing space during fieldwork are lost through digital mediation. While some participants offered me tours of their studios, pointing out pieces, materials, and tools, I struggled to get a coherent sense of the spaces in which they were working. I emphasise how in not ‘being-there’, I was unable to get a sense of their learning environments first-hand. However, in the context of my research, this limitation was also fruitful as it informed my explorations of how potters engaged with digital learning resources and the limits of video technologies that they experienced in their teaching and learning. This speaks to more significant questions about the phenomenological access of video, as both a learning resource and a methodological tool.

Panel P15a
Is the future of fieldwork digital? Digital ethnography beyond the pandemic.
  Session 1 Tuesday 7 March, 2023, -