(C04)
Productive frictions: co-laboration and confluence in the work of new alliances
Location Frankland Lecture Theatre (Faraday Complex)
Date and Start Time 25 Jul, 2018 at 13:00
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Lauren Cubellis (Washington University in St. Louis) email
  • Jonna Josties (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) email
  • Christine Schmid (Humboldt-University Berlin) email

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Discussant Jeannette Pols (University of Amsterdam), Joerg Niewoehner (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)

Short abstract

Productive frictions are moments when unfamiliar perspectives are brought together for innovative recombination and shared epistemic work. In these spaces, we ask: what do we as ethnographers contribute, what do we learn, and what sorts of evaluations must we make at sites of emergent recombination?

Long abstract

This panel takes up the theme of confluence, collaboration, and intersection to look at productive frictions: moments when new and unfamiliar perspectives are brought together for the purpose of innovative recombination and shared epistemic work. We ask: what sort of environments and social trajectories shape such intersectional moments? How are different ontologies measured and mediated in collaborative spaces? What does such a "productive" friction offer in terms of potential, exploitation, or something in between? Conceptual and theoretical discussion of these questions is widespread. However, we feel a lack of discussion remains around the practical realization of these frictions. Thus, this panel will focus on concrete examples of anthropological encounter in which the making of new alliances can be observed, analyzed, and critically engaged.

The confluence of new alliances and their productive recombination can occur in (seemingly) established institutions and fields, including psychiatry, hospital work, and the re-invention of organizational forms among tech start-ups and social entrepreneurs. Taking ethnography as an inherently collaborative encounter, which today must negotiate newly confluent fieldwork conditions (Holmes and Marcus 2005, 2008), we want to discuss these different instances of new alliances in order to ask about our shared responsibilities as well: what does the role of the ethnographer - in the midst of these productive frictions - practically contribute to the production of new knowledge, and what do we learn from being part of these confluent spaces? What sorts of evaluations can we make (or must we make?) as ethnographers at sites of emergent recombination?

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

New cooperation between social psychiatry and the housing industry in Berlin: staging para-sites from within an urban assembly.

Author: Patrick Bieler (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) email
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Short abstract

New forms of cooperation between social psychiatric care and the housing industry in Berlin emerge. The paper will zoom in and out of this mode of urban cosmopolitics and reflect on the implications for ethnographic knowledge production that stem from staging para-sites from within these assemblies.

Long abstract

In my presentation I will draw on my ongoing research on the relation of mental health, urban environments and psychiatric care infrastructures in Berlin. I conducted participant observation in different sites of bureaucratic governance of the social psychiatric care system and in a lobbying project for the inclusion of people with mental illness with a specific focus on housing issues.

Adequate housing is one of the basic prerequisites for social psychiatric outpatient care. To this end, Berlin's care facilities rent flats that they sublet to their clients. Exploding rent prizes and gentrification processes, however, pose several problems for the local social psychiatric care system: clients that could live independently remain within the care infrastructure because finding housing is nearly impossible; the number of homeless people striving for psychiatric health care services increases; rental contracts are terminated.

It is this situation of crisis that is generative of the emergence of new cooperation between previously unrelated actors: social psychiatric actors approach the housing industry and local politicians in order to acquire flats - via individual informal discussions, symposia, committee meetings and devices.

My argument will address two methodological issues: Firstly, I will try to conceptualize these assemblies as mode(s) of urban cosmopolitics (Blok and Farías 2016) by partially applying the research strategy of zooming in and out (Nicolini 2009). Secondly, I will describe the practical staging of para-sites (Marcus and Holmes 2005, 2008) from a participant observant position taking part in these assemblies and discuss its implications for ethnographic knowledge production.

"Follow your concept work": juxtaposing two research projects on `Genesungsbegleitung` and their moments of friction

Author: Christine Schmid (Humboldt-University Berlin) email
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Short abstract

This paper explores situations of productive friction by juxtaposing two different research projects taking shape around one common theme: The vocation of Genesungsbegleitung, a kind of care based on experiential expertise, which is currently professionalizing in psychiatric clinics in Germany.

Long abstract

Within the last ten years, the role of what some would call experiential expertise has increasingly gained attention within inpatient psychiatric care in Germany. Peer support, a kind of care based on experiential expertise, is professionalizing in clinics and on wards as part of a specific kind of training: Experienced-Involvement (EX-IN). The resulting of this is a professional vocation called, "Genesungsbegleitung", that resonates with the goals of "The United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities" and other contextual global health developments. The production and incorporation of new/other forms of expert knowledge is currently object to heated discussion in this field. This paper draws on two different ethnographic research projects to tackle emergent questions about shared epistemic work. The first research project examines the everyday enactment and negotiation of experiential expertise - between having lived through an experience and being experienced (Pols and Hoogsteyns 2016) - in the role of the GenesungsbegleiterInnen within psychiatric clinics. The second project is an interdisciplinary evaluation project in which researchers, peer workers, psychiatrists, and psychologists are working towards recommendations for political action regarding future psychiatric care in Germany. Both projects come together around the "Genesungsbegleitungs" profession, but they each demonstrate fundamentally different contexts, circumstances, aims, and research methodologies. How do instances of productive frictions differ in these two projects? Who identifies frictions, and what do they look like? By juxtaposing these two different research projects taking shape around a common theme, this paper tries to shed light on new situations of productive friction.

"Inchoate Potential": Therapeutic and Ethnographic Reflections in Dialogic Practice

Author: Lauren Cubellis (Washington University in St. Louis) email
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Short abstract

This paper explores crisis intervention in which clinicians engage clients dialogically (Bakhtin 1981) to manage psychiatric crisis. My presence in these meetings - anthropological, dialogic, and personal - demands a re-examination of the analytic and existential work of participant-observation.

Long abstract

Bakhtinian dialogism (1981) conceptualizes the self as ever forming. The idea that the self is a straight-forward internalization of cultural material, or that identities are reproduced, is undone by an attention to the active and continuous role of dialogic speech in making up inner worlds. There is no singular individual action in a Bakhtinian perspective; rather, the self is always answering to and being addressed by co-existents with whom they mutually constitute the world (Holquist 1990). In my research, this concept has been taken up therapeutically, in a crisis intervention program where clinicians engage clients and their social networks dialogically about the experience of psychiatric crisis. Anthropology is very compatible with dialogism, as an enthusiastic inter-disciplinary turn to Bakhtin in the 1990s revealed (Crapanzano 1995; Holland et al. 2001; Weiss 1990). The emphasis on open-endedness, subjectivity, and emergence is resonant with our own flexible understanding of the nature of fieldwork. For my clinician informants, there is little problem with my formal incorporation into meetings: an anthropological perspective only adds another voice to the pursuit of polyphonic exchange. But in this context I am being drawn in not only to observe the goings on, but also to own my own participation in a way that merges with unconventional therapeutic practices. My presence in these meetings - simultaneously anthropological, dialogic, and personal - demands a re-examination of the analytic and existential work at the core of participant-observation, and of the ethnographic responsibility we take for the productive frictions in which we engage.

Bio-sensing in research on the city-psychosis nexus: theoretical and methodological challenges of a mixed-method approach

Author: Marc Winz (University of Neuchâtel) email
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Short abstract

This paper discusses opportunities and limits offered by a mixed-methodological approach - combining physiological data through the monitoring of skin conductance and qualitative data¬ - for studying how people diagnosed with schizophrenia experience urban environments.

Long abstract

In recent years non-invasive portable physiological monitoring devices have been made commercially available, allowing to collect physiological data in situ, therefore opening new ways of conducting research in the field. Biosensing - a generic term for a variety of physiological measures - has been advanced as "offering the potential to explore participants' reaction at an embodied level, beyond the subjectivity of self-reporting" (Osborne and Jones, 2017, p. 160). According to Myin-Germeys et al. (2009), daily life experience has been a black box within research on psychopathology and it is time to open it. With urbanicity - as labelled within psychiatry - identified as of crucial importance in the etiology of psychosis (Vassos et al., 2012: 1118), my paper first discusses the relevance of a mixed methodological approach, combining physiological data through the monitoring of skin conductance and qualitative data¬, for studying how people diagnosed with schizophrenia experience urban environments. Secondly, the article suggests a conceptual framework in coherence with those new methodologies. Finally, these new methodological tools come along with a series of interrogations; here the paper discusses the way physiological and qualitative data may be arranged in order to produce a more fine-grained understanding of the urban experience of people diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Myin-Germeys, I. et al. 2009. Experience sampling research in psychopathology: opening the black box of daily life. Psychological medicine, Vol. 39, No. 9, p. 1533-1547.

Vassos, E. et al., 2012. Meta-analysis of the association of urbanicity with schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Bulletin, Vol. 38, No. 6, p. 1118-1123.

Rethinking the great divide: probing the tensions between anthropologists and data scientists through situated interventions

Author: David Moats (Linköping University) email
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Short abstract

This papers reflects on some of the tensions which arise when anthropologists collaborate with data scientists in analysing social data. I attempt to rethink these divisions, locating these frictions in situated practice and proposing new ways for anthropologists to intervene in these settings.

Long abstract

Increasing numbers of ethnographers are studying the situated practices of data scientists and programmers producing algorithms, visualizations and apps using digital data (e.g. Seaver 2017). However, when data scientists work with 'social' data, this often brings their work into direct conflict with the methods and political commitments of their anthropological interlocutors.

This papers reflects on some of the tensions and power asymmetries which arise when anthropologically inclined researchers collaborate with data scientists in analyzing social data. These tensions are often reflected on but explained away as the great divide between quantitative and qualitative methods, positivist and hermeneutic approaches, or normative and descriptive outputs. It is often taken for granted that anthropologists deal in stories, oppose quantification and confine themselves to local settings and that data scientists are un-reflexive and concerned with reducing complexity (Neff et al 2017).

This paper attempts to rethink this divide by locating these tensions, not in fundamental orientations, but in situated frictions and instances of boundary work in everyday practice, drawing on empirical material from a series of collaborations with programmers. I find that these tensions can be productively negotiated but this means rethinking our given roles in these settings (as ethicist, communicator or detached critic) and potentially taking up the tools and terminology of data analysts, albeit in a more anthropological way. I argue that by intervening (Zuiderent-Jerak 2016) in these settings and causing frictions, we can learn more about these disciplinary tensions as well as exposing and testing our own normative commitments.

The formation of interest within "elusive networks" and the role of the anthropologist.

Author: Jonna Josties (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) email
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Short abstract

This paper outlines the formation of interest and cooperation efforts of "elusive networks" that have emerged from the Silicon Valley ethos. In addition, the responsibility and the role of anthropological work in this experimental, high-tech driven and fast moving field are explored.

Long abstract

The Silicon Valley ethos, established by the spread of start-up business models, has created a rich and specific set of experimental, high-tech-driven, fast-paced practices that are finding their way into all sorts of areas to realize ideas, processes and cooperation. In this paper I explore the example of a San Francisco cooperation in the search for a location in Berlin. I will show how the formation of interest within the form of an elusive network, such as the cooperation here, works through an interesting new kind of practice organisation, which is made possible by digital technology. While this practice organisation allows for certain cooperation, confluences and connections (e. g. network- wide), it tends to hinder other alliances that seem more obvious from a "conventional point of view" (e. g. with actors directly on site, such as the city administration).

The co-presence (Beaulieu 2010) in such fields of research provides the anthropologist with an astonishing data density; social interactions are stored, archived and even processed into statistics in the digital infrastructures used. Dealing with these collectivities of documents (Shankar, Hakken, Østerlund 2017) raises a number of methodological questions, the last but not least about the responsibility of anthropological work for a sensitive handling of data on social life. This paper reflects on the possibility of a collaborative agreement between the anthropologist and such unsteady fields on questions of permission to use existing data; and on a form of participation in the experimental procedures, which also provides space and time for observations necessary for anthropological analyses and contributions.

Sticky business: techniques to engage with the viscosity of practices in healthcare

Authors: Jessica Mesman (Maastricht University) email
Suyin Hor (University of Technology Sydney) email
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Short abstract

In this paper we discuss the sticky middle ground between fluid and fixed characteristics of healthcare practices. We argue that this sticky business is productive and has potential for practice optimization. We will show how the method of video-reflexivity contributes to this role in several ways.

Long abstract

The zone of healthcare delivery can be characterized both as highly fluid (huge turn-over of patients and high-density zone of uncertainty) and highly fixed (proliferation of protocols, guidelines, rules). We argue that this fixedness and fluidity meet in tandem, and in tension, to produce practices that demonstrate a kind of viscosity in their pliability. Moreover, practices are also sticky because they are resistant to change. Notwithstanding this resistance, practices are always changing, i.e. there is no such thing as 'frictionless practice'. Sometimes though there is only very little friction - so very little effect (e.g. a new guideline with no perceived relevance); sometimes too much friction - and practice stops or is forced to 'flow around' the object of too much friction (e.g. an unreasonable rule that results in workarounds). The space in between, where two 'surfaces' meet and have some transformative impact on one another's trajectory and/or character, is where friction can be productive (either positively or negatively) and thus has potential for practice improvement.

To gain insight in the productivity of frictions requires scrutinizing the viscosity of practices. As we will demonstrate, the method of video-reflexive ethnography is an apt technique to make sticky practices visible as it uses video to create sticky representations of everyday practices that are then used by participants to engage in reflexivity and redesign of those practices. However, by doing so this method creates stickiness as it is immersing in practice and building up relations.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.