Contribution to theory, methodology and practice
This research makes multiple contributions to theory, methodology and practice. Specific contributions are articulated as the research progresses.
This research expands our understanding of digitally mediated spaces that emerge during a crisis and enable activism and social movements.
Leveraging theories in information systems, media and social studies, and social movements, this research explicates the nature of digitally mediated spaces that foster activism and social movements by inquiring into: when and why do these spaces emerge, what happens when they fade away, how are they co-constituted and constructed and what is their underlying technological, sociomaterial and socio-political scaffolding?
This research introduces methodological innovations in “how to” develop an anthropology of digitally mediated spaces that arise within oppositional cultures. This inventive, digital ethnographic method, called Digital Epidemiography, is being developed as a book chapter in An Ethnographic Inventory. Field Devices for Anthropological Inquiries (target publication — 1st Qtr. 2022). An abstract is as follows:
How to do a Digital Epidemiography
John Postill (RMIT University, Melbourne) and Shama Patel (Copenhagen Business School)
In this chapter we take up the idea of digital “epidemiography” — a portmanteau of epidemiology and ethnography (Postill, 2014), to reflect on our ongoing study of the “digital pandemic” triggered by the killing of George Floyd at the height of the Covid-19 crisis. Drawing from a collaborative “remote ethnography” (Postill, 2017) conducted from Australia and Germany, and in keeping with the volume’s idea of the ethnographic inventory, we first present an inventory of the epidemiographic devices we fashioned prior to fieldwork. We then discuss some of the creative decisions we took when selecting and deploying specific devices during research, and their consequences. We conclude with a brief discussion of whether we have ‘invented’ or, on the contrary, ‘discovered’ a new social and material universe, the George Floyd digital universe, through our epidemiographic practice.
This research also introduces innovative ways to collaborate and engage in ongoing research as demonstrated by this publication.
The development of this publication is an innovation in conducting ethnographic research that closely mirrors the way researchers produce knowledge — as a rhizomatic, and often mysterious, dialectic at the intersection of phenomena, literature and methodology. As the research progresses, a reading of theories is articulated in the literature and methodology section and applied to empirical evidence to develop insights, which are shared in the main section. The publication allows collaborations to emerge as fellow-researchers and practitioners navigate the ongoing research rhizomatically, using hyperlinked text, which is kept current as new insights emerge. (Robinson & McGuire, 2010; Deleuze & Guattari, 1987)
Update as the research progresses.
Deleuze, G., Guattari, F., and Massumi, B. (tr). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. University of Minnesota Press, 1987.
Postill, J. Remote ethnography: Studying culture from afar. In The Routledge Companion to digital ethnography (L. Hjorth, H. Horst, A. Galloway & G. Bell (Eds.)). Routledge, New York, 2017, pp. 61–69.
Postill, J. Democracy in an age of viral reality: A media epidemiography of Spain’s indignados movement. Ethnography, 15, 1 (2014), 51–69.
Robinson, L. and McGuire, M. The rhizome and the tree: Changing metaphors for information organisation. Journal of Documentation, 66, 4 (2010), 604–613.