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Digital Ethnography: Anthropology, Narrative, and New Media

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    Digital Ethnography
    Book Description:

    Digital ethnography can be understood as a method for representing real-life cultures through storytelling in digital media. Enabling audiences to go beyond absorbing facts, computer-based storytelling allows for immersion in the experience of another culture. A guide for anyone in the social sciences who seeks to enrich ethnographic techniques,Digital Ethnographyoffers a groundbreaking approach that utilizes interactive components to simulate cultural narratives.

    Integrating insights from cultural anthropology, folklore, digital humanities, and digital heritage studies, this work brims with case studies that provide in-depth discussions of applied projects. Web links to multimedia examples are included as well, including projects, design documents, and other relevant materials related to the planning and execution of digital ethnography projects. In addition, new media tools such as database development and XML coding are explored and explained, bridging the literature on cyber-ethnography with inspiring examples such as blending cultural heritage with computer games.

    One of the few books in its field to address the digital divide among researchers,Digital Ethnographyguides readers through the extraordinary potential for enrichment offered by technological resources, far from restricting research to quantitative methods usually associated with technology. The authors powerfully remind us that the study of culture is as much about affective traits of feeling and sensing as it is about cognition-an approach facilitated (not hindered) by the digital age.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-74434-9
    Subjects: Anthropology, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    Natalie M. Underberg
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    You open your eyes and take a look around the Plaza Francia in an old section of downtown Lima, Peru. Pivoting, you see a cerulean church with an elaborate rose window. Opposite this ecclesiastical structure you spot a man wearing an intricately woven vest that falls just below his mid-chest. He’s standing next to a light green kiosk around which various books, flyers, and newspapers are stored. Intrigued, you walk up to him and he greets you:

    Good day! I moved to Lima a while back but have fond memories of my home, Puno. Take a look at some of...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Rethinking Culture through Multimedia Ethnography
    (pp. 17-27)

    Multimedia ethnography, as a conceptual and creative descendant of literary and visual ethnography, clearly demonstrates the boundary crossing that increasingly characterizes academic practice. We see this in the pioneering visual anthropology of Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead starting in the 1940s (Bateson and Mead 1942; also see Ruby 1996), as well as the interpretive work that encouraged literary anthropology, starting with Clifford Geertz inThe Interpretation of Cultures[1973]; see also, among others, Clifford and Marcus 1986; Geertz 1988; Van Maanen 1988).

    In our work, we have found that cultural experiences and ideas can be represented by digital media through...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Florida and Peru: Experiments in Ethnographic Representation
    (pp. 28-41)

    In recent years, scholars have increasingly turned their attention to the ways in which digital culture enables communities to express their identities. Scholars such as Moore and Hennessey (2006) and Christensen (2003) have studied the use of new technology to reassert “offline” cultural identity. Christensen’s work, for example, investigates the expression of Inuit social identity online, arguing that the design of Inuit web pages reflects a self-image of peripherality, seen through, for example, the inclusion of references to physical space and boundaries such as images of Inuit in the Arctic environment and physical maps of land claim areas. Their self-representation...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Digital Tools for Anthropological Analysis
    (pp. 42-47)

    As indicated in the introduction, the historical disconnect between anthropologists and computer technology is well known (Porter 2004). White and Truex (1998), for example, note that anthropology as a discipline has been slow to develop new software, and that it is more often than not scholars and professionals from outside the field that have encouraged computer-related developments within it.

    Schwimmer (1996), similarly, expressed doubt that anthropologists would heed the call to become more involved with computer technology, noting that only a handful of anthropology departments had even established significant web presence. Zeitlyn and Houtman (1996) argue that cyberculture studies generally...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Using the Extensible Markup Language in Cultural Analysis and Presentation
    (pp. 48-65)

    Insights about using the extensible markup language (XML) can be used to assist cultural heritage research in a variety of ways. In an earlier publication (McDaniel and Underberg 2007), we briefly explained the nature and potential usefulness of XML for humanities and social science research involving narrative:

    Metadata is data about data, or descriptive data that is intended to describe or represent preexisting data from another source. Such data does not need to be visible to the user; in fact, metadata is often invisible and works behind the scenes in much the same fashion as hypertext markup language, or HTML....

  9. CHAPTER 5 Using Features of Digital Environments to Enable Cultural Learning
    (pp. 66-73)

    From the beginning of the study of cyberspace, anthropologists have struggled to articulate how this new world might cause us to rethink what it means to be human and to live in a culture. Escobar’s classic “Welcome to Cyberia: Notes on the Anthropology of Cyberculture” (1994) called on anthropologists to concern themselves with “cultural constructions and reconstructions on which the new technologies are based and which they in turn help to shape. The point of departure of this inquiry is the belief that any technology represents a cultural invention, in the sense that it brings forth a world; it emerges...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Cultural Heritage Video Game Design
    (pp. 74-81)

    Evidence of the increasing scholarly attention to video games is evident. Recent work has proliferated at the intersection of games and culture in areas including online gaming culture (Morris 2004; Taylor 2006), the popular culture and presence of archetypes in games (Berger 2002; Tews 2001), and identity issues in games (Consalvo 2003; Taylor and Kolko 2003). In this chapter we focus not on the study of but on the production of a computer game project in order to explore how an ethnographic perspective—which has always, as Boellstorff (2008) reminds us, been virtual in a sense—can be embedded in...

  11. Conclusion. Narratives and Critical Anthropology: Roles for New Media
    (pp. 82-90)

    Berta, an eight-year-old girl, is lying on the grass on her back in the Peruvianpuna(high plateau), looking up at the sky. Seeing a condor fly overhead, Berta says:

    Seeing the condor flying overhead makes me feel so safe, like I’m being watched over. But I’m lonely, and wish I had a playmate to play with. The stories they tell, though, like “The Condor Seeks a Wife,” seem kind of silly to me, and I don’t know why they keep telling the same fanciful tales over and over in my pueblo. Why should I listen to these stories? How...

  12. APPENDIX: Guide to Web-Based Materials
    (pp. 91-92)
  13. Glossary
    (pp. 93-98)
  14. References Cited
    (pp. 99-110)
  15. Index
    (pp. 111-117)