From field sites to field events: Creating the field with information and communication technologies (ICTs)

Tanja Ahlin, Fangfang Li
  • Medicine Anthropology Theory | An open-access journal in the anthropology of health illness and medicine, September 2019, Medicine Anthropology Theory
  • DOI: 10.17157/mat.6.2.655

Digital technologies shaping the field

Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

What is it about?

What becomes of the field when the researchers include digital technologies into their methods? We propose that 'the field site' then is better understood as a 'field event' in which mobile phones, smartphones and webcams shape ethnographic encounters, relationships and data.

Why is it important?

When ICTs enter the field, they shape the interactions between researchers and their study participants in significant ways. While making it possible to collect data from people in different parts of the world at all times imaginable, these technological devices also set limits to what kind of information can be gathered. It is important to consider which human and non-human actors participate in the creation of field events, how, and under what conditions, and with what consequences, both for the ethnographic data and the ethnographers’ relationships with their study participants.

Perspectives

Tanja Ahlin
University of Amsterdam

This piece took years of discussions and drafts before it saw the light of final publishing. The merging of anthropological concepts with science and technology studies (STS) - which is what we do in this piece - is challenging, but the result is rewarding, as classical notions, such as the field site may become seen in a completely new way. I hope the readers will find this piece thought-provoking and relevant, especially as digital technologies increasingly become a part of ethnographic research.

Read Publication

http://dx.doi.org/10.17157/mat.6.2.655

The following have contributed to this page: Tanja Ahlin