Digital photography: three provocations

Unfortunately I couldn’t attend Photomedia this year (one of my favorite conferences) but I did participate with a video and a skype discussion about visual material practices. Here are my three provocations, on video.


A Vignetthnography of artists (in the wild)

I finally had the time to edit another “Vignetthnography“. This one was shot at the Burbage Valley in the Peak District and was part of the Inhabiting the Hack project funded by the CCN+ and organised by Helen Thornham and Alex McLean.

While I was editing the video I was thinking that, hopefully in the near future we could  develop an academic culture that allows us to produce more visual content as research outputs (it is quite a lot of work but also a good counterbalance to writing articles).

Selfies beyond self-representation: the (theoretical) f(r)ictions of a practice (article)

This is a paper that Helen Thornham and I wrote for a workshop in Sweden earlier this year. It is open access which is always a good idea. Just follow this link.


Drawing on a wide corpus of ethnographic research projects, including on photography practices, young filmmakers and writers, and current research with young unemployed people, we argue that contemporary understandings of selfies either in relation to a “documenting of the self” or as a neoliberal (narcissistic) identity affirmation are inherently problematic. Instead, we argue that selfies should be understood as a wider social, cultural, and media phenomenon that understands the selfie as far more than a representational image. This, in turn, necessarily redirects us away from the object “itself,” and in so doing seeks to understand selfies as a socio-technical phenomenon that momentarily and tentatively holds together a number of different elements of mediated digital communication.

In praise of HT

Bourdieu, in his Homo Academicus, presents a comprehensive panorama of how the elites are reinforced by the hierarchical system, where “academic capital is obtained and maintained by holding a position enabling domination of other positions and their holders” (1988, p. 84). In this sense, the academic career could sometimes be perceived as an “obstacle race and a competitive examination” (Bourdieu, 1988, p. 87). There are plenty of scary and frankly disappointing stories about how power is held (and performed) in academia. Nobody seems to be free from those stories and I even have one (or two) friend that had left the academic career for some of those reasons; they were tired of banging against the wall of authoritarianism or following the path of deception. They simply gave up because they lacked support, mentorship, trust or resources.

IMG_0216There are, nevertheless, other kind of stories that are always important to be told. Mostly to remind us why we are here, why we keep doing this against all odds and why we are still in love and engaging with the academic world. This is not a very British thing to do but my Mexican self allows me to do things “unquiet and non-soberly”. This is my small and humble homage to one of the most amazing friends and colleagues I’ve ever had as a Homo Academicus. Continue reading “In praise of HT”

Vignetthnographies. A DIY visual technique for fast ethnographies

<intro> With Helen Thornham we have been thinking and experimenting with concepts, methodologies and techniques (what we like to call methodological prototypes). One of our projects, in the last couple of years, comprised a series of “fast ethnographies” in hackathons, hacklabs and apps-development companies. We have addressed the concepts of fast innovation and creative thinking in the staging of these events, trying to think about them in terms of disruptions. The second stage of this project consisted in funding, through the Communities and Cultures Network +, a series of events to intervene critically in the configuration of these events (by not setting a goal for example or prioritizing collaboration rather than competition). I did participant observation in one of these events in Sheffield, a Wreckshop organized by Alex McLean from the University of Leeds and Jake Harries in the interesting space he leads: Access Space. Besides my notes and audio interviews. I did a 10 minutes video interview with Paul Granjon on the concept of Wreckshop and then edited a 5 minutes video with some images from the event (see below)…. Continue reading “Vignetthnographies. A DIY visual technique for fast ethnographies”

Raw Talent in the Making’: Imaginary journeys, authorship and the discourses of Expertise (new paper)

The paper ‘Raw Talent in the Making’: Imaginary journeys, authorship and the discourses of Expertise, co-written with Helen Thornham, was just published on Convergence: the journal of research into new media technologies. This paper is part of a Special Issue on Expertise and Engagement with/in Digital Media that we edited (along with Caroline Bassett).

This is the link to the journal’s version

This is the link to the preprint version

And this is the abstract:

In the digital age, it seems that participation has been conflated with literacy; content with engagement; novelty with innovation; and ubiquity with meaning (see for example, Thornham & McFarlane 2014, Gillespie 20010, Dean 2008, Livingstone 2009, van Dijck 2013) and encapsulated in terms such as ‘digital native’, ‘digital divide’, or ‘born digital’. In turn, these conflations have done something to technology, which is constructed as malleable, a supportive facilitator; and the user, who is constructed as active agent. Neither of these, account for mediations, or – crucial for us – the notion of the imaginary, which emerges in our research as so central to expertise. Drawing on ethnographic work carried out in Studio 12, a media production facility for young people with disadvantaged backgrounds in Leeds, UK, we propose that the concept of expertise emerges through a bigger array of social capital as well as traditional structures of power such as class, gender and race. Expertise is claimed, evidenced, and generated. For us, however, expertise emerged not only as elusive, but also because it was premised on a disjuncture between lived and everyday youth, and the promises of becoming in a future orientated (technological, imaginary and creative) landscape.