Refiguring Techniques in Visual Digital Research (New edited book)

Refiguring Techniques cover

This book interrogates how new digital-visual techniques and technologies are being used in emergent configurations of research and intervention. It discusses technological change and technological possibility; theoretical shifts toward processual paradigms; and a respectful ethics of responsibility. The contributors explore how new and evolving digital-visual technologies and techniques have been utilized in the development of research, and reflect on how such theory and practice might advance what is “knowable” in a world of smartphones, drones, and 360-degree cameras. Available here.

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“Trajectories: digital/visual data on the move” (new paper)

RVST_COVER_31-04.inddA paper that I presented at a conference on Photography and Anthropology in 2014 was (finally) published today. It is somehow disappointing that the publishing process takes so long because I would probably approach the paper differently now. In any case, I think it could be useful to expand the discussion about mobile/visual/digital ethnographies. Here is the link to the text and here is the abstract:

This article presents an outline of the concept ‘Trajectory’. I propose to understand trajectory not only as a trace of movement in a path but also as a working concept to reflect on the possibilities of visual/digital data collection for ethnographic research on the move. Images, I argue, along with some digital affordances such as metadata and GPS, can be a powerful device for ethnographic enquiry and a useful tool for reflexivity if used by making sense of the randomness of everyday mobility. The concept of ‘Trajectory’ seeks to reflect on the relationship between four elements: mobility, visual data, digital methods and reflexivity, focusing on the use of the mobile phone as a tool to engage with these elements while reflecting on them. The concept of trajectories is intended to establish a dialogue with that of the flâneur in de Certeau’s and Benjamin’s work and with some current approaches to visual/digital ethnography, especially those related to movement and senses, art and ethnography and mobilities and locative media.

P.S. It was fun that the editors chose my images for the journal’s cover

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

Adenda a “De la Cultura Kodak…” Vol. I

Para Jordi V. Pou, por sus iluminaciones emic y por el germen de amistad.

(aquí el post en pdf)

Debo comenzar con una confesión ¿Quién sería yo si no hablara de mi subjetividad cuando hablo de mi trabajo? Esa es, finalmente, “la voz” de la que hablaba mi directora de tesis al referirse al tipo de escritura que tenía que encontrar y hacer propia, mi estilo. La confesión es que siempre he querido tener una relación epistolar con algún colega con el que tuviéramos posiciones distintas pero un gusto común por debatirlas en el marco del respeto y el interés por el otro. No me desviaré hablando de Sartre, quien es sin duda un modelo a seguir en este tipo de intercambios, en cambio diré que he disfrutado un breve pero riquísimo intercambio con un ya amigo al que nunca he visto en persona.

La historia comienza así: Al anunciar la publicación del libro, alguien llamado Jordi me mandó un twitt interesándose por el texto. Unos días después de publicado el libro, Jordi V. Pou, ahora un contacto en twitter, me envió otro mensaje diciéndome que lo había comprado. Finalmente, unos días más tarde otro breve mensaje me anunciaba que ya lo había leído. Es de agradecerse que alguien se haya tomado la molestia de gastar tanto dinero en tu propio libro pero se agradece incluso más que alguien se tome el tiempo de darte su punto de vista y hacer su crítica. A partir de ello, hemos comenzado una serie de intercambios con un pequeño debate sobre algunos de los puntos señalados en el texto. Con su permiso (el de Jordi y el de ustedes), pondré algunas de mis respuestas a sus amables y certeros comentarios aquí para que la gente interesada pueda sumarse al debate. Continue reading

Sobre la investigación visual y la antropología de los medios

(Dado que en el libro dejé fuera muchas reflexiones y pasajes que podrían resultar útiles para la discusión, los rescataré y pegaré por aquí por si a alguien le resultan de utilidad). Este fragmento es parte del primer capítulo metodológico).

La etnografía ha incorporado, no sin debates importantes, diversos instrumentos para la recolección de datos. Banks (2010) apunta la relación paralela entre la profesionalización de la antropología, la sociología y la fotografía al señalar que la fotografía: “por su aparente verosimilitud, se ligó rápidamente a varios proyectos sociológicos y gubernamentales diseñados para objetivar y, en ocasiones cuantificar, las diferencias entre las personas individuales y entre grupos de personas (p. 43).

La cámara, desde sus inicios, primero la fotográfica y después las de cine-video, ha sido utilizada para la generación de conocimientos socioantropológicos, no sin un constante debate sobre dicha utilización (Becker, 1974; Edwards, 1992). En Antropología se ha generado incluso una subdisciplina[1], la Antropología Visual[2] que, como área de conocimiento: “explora la imagen y su lugar en la producción y transmisión de conocimiento sobre los procesos sociales y culturales, a la vez que intenta desarrollar teorías que aborden la creación de imágenes como parte del estudio de la cultura” (Ardèvol, 2006, p. 23). Continue reading

“Networked images”. A conversation with Anne Beaulieu and Sarah de Rijcke´s paper

I just finished the reading of the paper Mediated ethnography and the study of networked images — or how to study ‘networked realism’ as visual knowing of Anne Beaulieu and Sarah de Rijcke, that they presented at the Visual Methods Conference. What I would try to do now is to relate some of their thoughts with my own work in the spirit of exchange and share. I’ll do it in a personal and reflexive way more than to establish an academic critic of their work (which I found fascinating and useful).

The relationship between STS studies and research in cultural domains seems to be a difficult and  it has not been more explored (cfr. Couldry). In my own work I have tried to set a link between cultural production and the role of technology in its shaping. While there seems to be several works from STS that relate photography with technology (de Rijcke, Meyer), they all are settled in institutional and organizational environments. Therefore, the changing and shaping of image technology seem to be goal oriented since this use is framed by the institutions whose borders are relatively easy to trace. On the other hand, there is a huge corpus of research in photography as a cultural object. Not only related to the aesthetics but also many works that are interested in the circulation and “institutionalization” of those images, for example in the art field (Becker, Bourdieu). There is also a third corpus that reflects on the “impact” of new photographical technologies in the changing of society (for example how the Kodak Brownie camera created a new form of photography: the snapshot). My trouble is that these three fields are disconnected from each other and I need elements of the three of them to explain my fieldwork. The first (STS) is very aware of the mutual shaping between technologies and practices but lacks to incorporate the content, meaning and aesthetics of the images in their analysis. And also, they don’t seem to be interested in how people put their desires and tastes in the creation and circulation of those images. The second corpus (that we could call cultural circulation or social uses of photography) is concern precisely with these elements in order to understand the creation of visual elites and power, but seems to have a naive approach to technologies that make this possible. The third one (Social impact), is too technological deterministic and barely useful in an ethnography of the mediations.

With the emergence of digital technology, a greatest “networked complexity” is added to the equation. Continue reading