AERI Institute 2009

Workshop B: Ethnographic Methods

Thursday, July 9

Chairs:  Dr. Ciaran B. Trace, U. of Wisconsin-Madison, School of Library & Information Sciences and Dr. Kalpana Shankar, Indiana U., School of Informatics

In advance of the workshop we are asking all participants to complete a short assignment (see attached). The purpose of this exercise is to give you a sense of what doing ethnographic fieldwork is actually like. You should view this exercise as an opportunity to practice observing social situations and writing up your observations. PLEASE complete this assignment before the AERI workshop– we will be using your notes throughout the workshop.

A handout is now available here. Please ask Kim Anderson (kima/ or Josh Sternfeld (aeri/ for the password.

Please also post a short description about yourself and your interest in ethnography under the comments section of the workshop website (


I. Introductions

II. Introduction to ethnography – what is it, how is it done (ethnography and ethnographic methods), key terms (field, text, etc)

III. Nuts and bolts – selecting field site, getting entrée, taking fieldnotes

IV. Analysis – coding, memoing, strategies for writing

V. Virtual ethnography, collaborative ethnography, multi-sited ethnography, action ethnography, visual ethnography

VI. Ethical/regulatory issues – IRB, ethical considerations

VII. Resources/wrap up – general ethnographic books, “practical” resources, articles particularly focused on archival/record topics, tools


8 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I’ll go first: I’m Amber Cushing, a PhD student at UNC. I just finished my classwork and my second year; my research area is personal digital archiving. I took a research design class and enjoyed the lesson on ethnographic methods, but we just didn’t have enough time to go into detail about the method in that class. I am also a research assistant for the Archival Metrics for and User Evaluation for Government Archives project which will involve me observing reference interactions in an archives reading room, likely in July or August. I am hoping this workshop will be of use as I observe these reference interactions.

Comment by Amber

OK, I’ll go second! I’m Snowden Becker, a 3rd year PhD student (advancing to candidacy this summer, god willing and the creek don’t rise) at UT. My research area is audiovisual preservation, and I anticipate using ethnographic field-research methods and some participant observation as I examine how police departments manage audiovisual evidence recordings for my dissertation project. Looking forward to the Institute and this workshop!

Comment by Snowden Becker

I’m third! I’m Michelle Caswell, an incoming first-year PhD student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. My interests are in archives and human rights in South and Southeast Asia. I anticipate using some ethnographic methods in my dissertation, but I have had no formal training in it. I’m looking forward to meeting you all in person next week!

Comment by Michelle Caswell

Hello, I’m Morgan Daniels, a second year PhD student at the University of Michigan’s School of Information. My primary research interest is data sharing among scientists. I have been doing some observation for a research project, but I’d like to learn more about methods and improve my skills. Unfortunately, I will only be able to attend the first half of the session because I’ll be giving my research presentation during the second half. I look forward to meeting you all in LA.

Comment by Morgan Daniels

Looking forward to meeting you all! A bit late, but I’m Kalpana Shankar, Assistant Professor at the School of Informatics at Indiana University-Bloomington. My research agenda is rather bifurcated – data sharing/technology use in the sciences and privacy, technology, and aging. The former is increasingly taking me into virtual ethnography; the latter still requires in situ methods.

Comment by Kalpana Shankar

My area of interest is in archives, visual representation and collective memory of leprosy in a former segregation colony in the Philippines.
I explore the role of visual archives in representing, remembering and understanding leprosy, its relationship with the formation and propagation of stigma and its context within the wider discourse of social memory of the disease. An essential component of my research is actual community engagement which requires me to have good ethnographic grounding.

Comment by Ricky Punzalan

Looking forward to meeting you all! My name is Rebecca Dean, 3rd year phd student at UCLA. I am interested in ethnographic methods specifically ethnography of infrastructure and global ethnography. My research interests include feminist and critical approaches to evidence, archives, surveillance, data and documentation.

Comment by Rebecca Dean

Here are some of the other resources mentioned in the workshop today. I think there are a few more I’ll post later.

Studying Those Who Study Us: An Anthropologist in the World of Artificial Intelligence – Diana E. Forsythe

Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human – Tom Boellstorff

Comment by Kalpana Shankar

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