On the second day of the Ethnography in Urban Context workshop, the three speakers each focused on themes relating to their own research. Tying the talks together was an overarching theme that about how best to connect rigorous ethnographic methods to urban research.
The speakers for the first day were Jessika Tremblay, Emily Hertzman, and Lukas Ley.
(1) PRESENTATION | Digital Ethnography in Urban Context
How do ethnographers collect and analyze data from social media rigorously yet qualitatively? How can we effectively write and code fieldnotes about social media processes? by Jessika Tremblay | PhD Candidate, Anthropology, University of Toronto
ABSTRACT | Jessika Tremblay’s presentation focused on methods for conducting digital ethnography in urban contexts. In contrast to big data techniques that focus on obtaining large quantities of data online, the presentation asks how do ethnographers collect and analyze data from social media rigorously yet qualitatively? How can we effectively write and code fieldnotes about social media processes? Drawing on experiences from her research in Indonesia, Jessika demonstrated her own approach to collecting social media data from a qualitative and ethnographic perspective. This involved using qualitative data analysis software such as Atlas.TI to upload and code images and text collected from user Facebook profiles during fieldwork. The presentation was framed in a broader discussion about the existing theoretical and methodological literature around digital ethnography.
ABOUT | Jessika Tremblay is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto. Her dissertation topic is “Internet Kampung: Community-based internet infrastructure in post-Suharto Indonesia.” The research is based on 20 months of “online and offline” ethnography conducted in Central Java, Indonesia from 2012-2014, where she investigated the role of the internet and social media in the lives of lower-middle class urban residents before the current large-scale shift to smart phones. She is also one of the co-founders of the Urban Ethnography Lab.
(2) PRESENTATION | Collaborative Micro Ethnographies of Urban Mobilities and Spatialities How can we maintain rigorous ethnographic data collection methods for short-term projects that involve high degrees of collaboration? Where do we locate ourselves socially and physically, as ethnographers of mobility and spatiality in the city? by Emily Hertzman│Emily Hertzman (University of Toronto, Asian Institute) and Tamir Arviv (University of Toronto, Department of Geography)
ABSTRACT | The project explores the micro politics of urban mobilities and spatialities within a range of minority ethnic, religious, national, and sexual communities, particularly Asian-Canadian communities in the GTA. It foregrounds specifically situated perspectives that takes into consideration multiple axes of difference as intersecting core factors influencing the ways that groups of people can be in, use, move through, and make claims to public space, and by extension, claims to membership in local, national, and transnational publics. In this presentation, Emily Hertzman, explained the genesis of this project and described the forms of collaboration taking place, arguing that working together as an interdisciplinary group holds a powerful potential for deeper forms of self-reflexivity as researchers, explorations of our positionality vis-à-vis our research subjects and broader intellectual analyses that are not always possible when working alone.
ABOUT | Emily Hertzman (PhD) is a sociocultural anthropologist whose research focuses on Chinese Indonesian mobilities and identities. She received a B.A and M.A. from the University of British Columbia and a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto (2016). Emily Hertzman is the coordinator of the Ethnography Lab in the Department of Anthropology at University of Toronto and a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Asian Institute, where she manages the Richard Charles Lee Asian Pathways Research Lab.
(3) PRESENTATION | Conjuring up the City What do alternative navigation software, water walks, and Jane’s Walks have in common and what can we learn from them? How do different actors search for underlying social and cultural values and power politics that give form and meaning to the cityscape and the built environment? In which ways can ethnography and urban research learn from these actors? by Lukas Ley | (University of Heidelberg, Institute for Anthropology)
ABSTRACT | In his presentation, Lukas Ley explored three different ways of exploring the city on foot: Jane Walks, alternative navigation software, and Lost River Walks. These explorations conjure up the city, that is they are devices to make the city visible or sensible. As “theory machines” using the city as an object for theory formulation, they also have political interests, such as creating awareness of the metabolic processes of the city or emancipating city users from everyday life stress. He argued that these devices can inspire and augment urban ethnographic research.
ABOUT | Dr. Lukas Ley is a social anthropologist (Postdoc) at the Institute of Anthropology, Heidelberg University, and a member of the Urban Ethnography Lab (Toronto/Berlin). His research is broadly concerned with urban marginalization, temporality, and the material environment within post-colonial urban landscapes. He received an MA in social anthropology from Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales and a BA in Anthropology from University of Münster. He is co-founder of the independent ethnographic Journal of Urban Life.