Accepted Paper:

Face Masks and Followers: Hybrid Ethnography in a ‘Post-Pandemic’ World  
Laura Bergin (The University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses the merits of hybrid ethnography in relation to the study of face masks within the context of COVID-19. I argue that these methods allow for the examination of phenomena not bounded by space, but rather by events occurring across communities at a specific time in history.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines the use of hybrid ethnography within my research surrounding the face mask in the context of COVID-19. Much of my research has entailed conducting digital fieldwork on social networking sites, primarily Instagram, as well as digital video interviews with participants. These methods were supplemented with in-person interviews, filming, and a series of workshops conducted in the UK. I argue that for my research, a hybrid approach to ethnography was a necessity rather than a choice, as I examine a phenomenon not bounded by space, but rather by an event occurring across communities at a specific time in history.

Social networking sites have recently been the subject of anthropological fascination, with researchers debating their use as archives (Geismar 2016), expressions of morality (Miller 2017), and as new forms of connection with research participants (Bluteau 2019). However, the significance of these sites, both for participants and researchers, must be reassessed within the context of COVID-19 and the ‘post-pandemic’ world.

Related to my application of anthropological methods, I argue that Instagram was singular in its facilitation of image collection and analysis, participant observation, and interview procurement. Employing hybrid ethnographic methods allowed me to gain access to a non-geographically banded community of individuals experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic across the world over an extended period of time.

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