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Goldsmiths Media Ethnography Group

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The media ethnography group aims to be a forum and research hub for the understanding of media practices and technologies in a social and cultural context.

We build on the strong research and teaching tradition of media ethnography at Goldsmiths. The media ethnography group brings together scholars from across the College who use ethnography to understand media practices broadly defined. We aim to strengthen these interdepartmental relationships and form partnerships with other national and international centers. Through a series of workshops, mini conferences, seminars and public talks we encourage interdisciplinary dialogue and research collaborations.

We are a media ethnography group to reflect the pervasiveness and convergence of media environments that include both traditional media and current digital developments. By media we refer to a range of technologies and platforms (from film, television and letters to mobile phones, social media, webcam and virtual environments) and practices (institutional, creative and everyday). We are committed to exploring the continuing relevance of ethnography for understanding digital processes and do so drawing on the rich traditions of media anthropology and as well as current methodological innovations.

Group members specialize on film and screening practices, audience research, the social and political consequences of mobile and social media, visual ethnography, material culture and documentary practices among others. Our work explores a range of topics: social and protest movements, distant intimacy in online environments, homelessness and the internet, migrant networks and networked technologies, new communication technologies in disasters and film screenings and animist traditions. Group members work in Bangladesh, Greece, Italy, Spain, Thailand, the Philippines, UK and US while many of us are developing comparative and transnational research.

News and events

Media Ethnography Group Seminar Series 2014-15

Autumn Term Seminar, PSH 302, 17.00-19.00

Professor Jo Tacchi (Director of Research and Innovation, Design and Social Context, RMIT)

Digital Rhythms

How do we research digital media when it is so embedded in the routines and habits of our everyday lives, both central to our existence but increasingly taken for granted and invisible? Digital ethnography as a research approach draws attention to the often mundane and ‘hidden’ dimensions of how and why digital media and content matter. Digital Rhythms is an exploratory research project, funded by global auditing company KPMG. In this talk I will explain what is meant by ‘digital rhythms’ and describe the principles that underpin our approach to digital ethnography. What are the implications for understanding digital and contemporary everyday life, and why does this approach appeals to us as academic researchers, as well as to organizations like KPMG? 

Media Worlds and the Ethnographic Imagination 

A workshop organised by the Goldsmiths Media Ethnography Group and the Department of Media and Communications, Goldsmiths University of London

June 16 2014

10am-6pm

LG01 and 314 Stuart Hall Building (formerly New Academic Building)

Goldsmiths, University of London

This one-day event launches the Goldsmiths Media Ethnography Group, an interdisciplinary network of scholars who use ethnography to understand our mediated worlds. The workshop is organised around a series of talks, panels and round-table discussions which will trace the diverse traditions and future trajectories of media ethnography.

Apart from showcasing the richness of ethnographic research on media practices, broadly defined, speakers will also address questions of ethnographic practice. The workshop aims to encourage an interdisciplinary dialogue through which we will consider different types of ethnography (including auto-ethnography and digital ethnography) and the challenges and opportunities of conducting ethnographic research in digital environments. Speakers will address questions of ethnographic writing, self-reflexivity and ethics as well as the ways in which ethnography relates to other modes of inquiry, both qualitative and quantitative.

The event will begin with a keynote talk by Professor David Morley entitled ‘Towards an Ethnography of Media Audiences (Part 2)’. The workshop will end with a plenary round-table discussion on the contribution of ethnography for understanding digital practices.

Confirmed participants include: Julie Archambault (Oxford); Veronica Barassi (Media, Goldsmiths); Somnath Batabyal (SOAS); Marianne Franklin (Media, Goldsmiths); Richard MacDonald (Media, Goldsmiths); Miranda McLachlan (Media, Goldsmiths); Mirca Madianou (Media, Goldsmiths); Isaac Marrero-Guillamón (Anthropology, Goldsmiths); Evelyn Ruppert (Sociology, Goldsmiths); Anamik Saha (Media, Goldsmiths); Gareth Stanton (Media, Goldsmiths); Olivia Swift (Anthropology, Goldsmiths)

Draft programme

10.00-10.15 Registration

10.15 Welcome and Introduction

10.30-11.30 Opening Keynote

David Morley (Media & Communications, Goldsmiths): Towards an Ethnography of Media Audiences (Part 2)

11.30-11.45 Coffee Break

12.45-13.15 Panel I

Chair: Olivia Swift (Anthropology, Goldsmiths)

Julie Archambault (University of Oxford): Mediated intimacy, ethnography and the search for authenticity in Mozambique.

Richard MacDonald (Media & Communications, Goldsmiths): Projecting films for the spirits: researching the use of media apparatus in ritual practice

Isaac Marrero-Guillamón (Anthropology, Goldsmiths) Ethnography beyond representation: media artefacts and the politics of invention

13.15 -14.15 Lunch

14.15-15.15 Panel II

Chair: Miranda McLachlan (Media & Communications, Goldsmiths)
Gareth Stanton (Media & Communications, Goldsmiths): Movies, Melodramas and Murderers: the Journey of Media Anthropology

Somnath Batabyal (SOAS) Minding the Gap: practitioners as ethnographers

15.15-15.30 Coffee break

15.30-17.00 Plenary Round Table Discussion: Ethnography and digital practices

Chair: Anamik Saha (Goldsmiths)

Speakers: Veronica Barassi (Media and Communications, Goldsmiths); Marianne Franklin (Media and Communications, Goldsmiths); Evelyn Ruppert (Sociology, Goldsmiths); Mirca Madianou (Media and Communications, Goldsmiths).

17.00 Reception 

Abstracts

Panel 1

Mediated intimacy, ethnography and the search for authenticity in Mozambique

Julie Archambault (Oxford)

 Now part and parcel of everyday life throughout most of the world, mobile phones have transformed the ways in which we imagine, experience, as well as navigate material and social spaces. In Mozambique, young people’s eager adoption of the phone has sparked heated debates, especially with regard to the phone’s ambivalent role in the pursuit of romance.

What these debates highlight are profound concerns about the relationship between mediation and authenticity that speak of wider preoccupations with truth and the construction of what counts as real. Based on ethnographic field research carried out in southern Mozambique since the introduction of mobile phones a decade ago, my paper shows how, as young Mozambicans juggle with the possibilities and drawbacks of mobile communication, they also balance skepticism with acceptance so as to adopt a viable version of reality. It is through a look at such epistemological compromises that I propose to contribute to our understanding of the ethnography of media practices. 

Projecting films for the spirits: researching the use of media apparatus in ritual practice

Richard L. MacDonald (Media and Communications, Goldsmiths)

 This paper reflects on the role that film projection plays in transactions between humans, spirits and deities in Northeast Thailand. It sketches a planned ethnographic study of an urban shrine in Khon Kaen, a city in the Isaan region, where nightly open-air film screenings from multiple mobile projection vans, equipped with 35mm projectors, are the result of individuals redeeming pledges to provide film entertainment to the shrine’s guardian spirits in return for their favourable intervention. Human spectators are apparently incidental to these film events which are primarily addressed to spirit beings. In dialogue with the work of anthropologists for whom media technologies are intrinsic to processes of religious mediation, facilitating connections between humans and the supernatural or the divine, the paper considers the way mobile cinema in the region functions in the indeterminate space between ritual practice and leisure, and between everyday life and festive time. Approaching the integration of mobile cinema within ritual exchange ethnographically provides an opportunity to investigate the processes through which meanings, values and capacities come to be attached to specific media technologies within particular social and cultural contexts. Moreover, conducting this research at a time of increasing scarcity of the physical vehicle of the projected image, the 35mm film, allows us to ask how ritual practices that incorporate media negotiate the impact of radical changes in access to their sanctioned mediating apparatus. In other words, what will the spirits watch when ‘celluloid’ film is no longer available?

Panel 2

Ethnography beyond representation: media artefacts and the politics of invention

Isaac Marrero-Guillamón (Anthropology, Goldsmiths)

This paper discusses my encounter with a series of loosely ethnographic visual/media artefacts that, in different ways, render problematic the use of analytic strategies based on the language of representation. These artefacts question any neat distinction between a pre-existing reality and the means deployed to represent it, and carry with them an invitation to depart from an interpretative paradigm that treats representations as ‘symbols’ or ‘texts’ to be read. Following the work of non-representational theorists (Thrift), I’ll propose we conceive them instead as performative entities, i.e. actors that make a difference, that gather affects, and which may transform the conditions of possibility for those around them.

The examples to be discussed are: media activists Nau21’s Timeline (2005), an online archive related to the conflict surrounding the eviction and demolition of the Can Ricart factory in Barcelona; photographer Stephen Gill’s Buried (2006), an account of the cleansing of the area that was to become London’s Olympic Park; and filmmaker Pedro Costa’s In Vanda’s Room (2000), a film about the regeneration of Fontainhas, a shantytown in Lisbon.

The wider relevance of thinking about ethnography beyond representation has to do with an understanding of radical politics as an activity of invention (rather than, say, denouncement or debunking). I’ll therefore analyse the political work of these three projects in relation to the production of new landscapes of possibles (Lazzarato), new distributions of the sensible (Rancière), and new collective enunciations (Deleuze).

Movies, Melodramas and Murderers: the Journey of Media Anthropology

Gareth Stanton (Media and Communications, Goldsmiths)

In this paper I will explore the prehistory of media anthropology from a personal viewpoint and examine the competing claims of journalists and anthropologists in their respective efforts to depict history and society. This will lead me to look at some recent examples of media anthropology and explore what we can learn from them. In the process I shall examine what makes them different from other competing accounts of the world.

Mind the Gap: practitioners as ethnographers

Somnath Batabyal (SOAS)

News organisations have always been associated with power. Powerful people own them or those who want political clout attempt to buy into a television channel or newspaper. With the diffusion of technology and opening up of economies, there has been a growth spurt in media organisations, especially in the developing economies. This has allowed industrialists and corporations to buy into or own influential media outlets that not only mould public opinion but also lobby governments. Increasingly, such organisations have become secretive.

For newsroom ethnography and ethnographers the first hurdle, access, now becomes even more difficult. Newsroom studies, a rarity at the best of times, are fast dwindling. Yet, given the rapid changes due to ownership patterns, such research is necessary and urgent. In this void, it is the practitioners, former reporters and editors, who are stepping up. Though access is perhaps easier to negotiate, ethnography throws up several methodological challenges that the insider must negotiate. Using his own work at the Murdoch owned Star News in India, Somnath Batabyal examines a few of the potential pitfalls.

Members

Dr. Mirca Madianou (Media & Communications)

Dr. Veronica Barassi (Media & Communications)

Dr. Richard L. MacDonald (Media & Communications)