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Wednesday, July 13 • 13:45 - 15:15
Panel 5E: Scraping the Ground: Qualitative Inquiry at the Online/Offline Interface

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Location: PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - 302, 
Goldsmiths, University of London, Building 2
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  • John Boy, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Karen Gregory, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  • Ingrid Hoelzl, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

The contemporary city has been described as a “stack” (Bratton 2016), an “interface” (De Waal 2014), a “mixed reality” (Galloway 2004), as “augmented” (Graham, Zook and Boulton 2013), “mediatized” (Lundby 2014), and “cross-hatched” (Miéville 2009). These metaphors and models call attention to the ways that everyday life in the city has been profoundly molded by the ubiquitous presence of computing devices and digital media platforms. Researchers trying to make sense of everyday life in the city are presented with a set of theoretical and methodological issues arising from these transformations in and of their research sites. Thus, a recently survey found that the average American smartphone user spends almost three hours per day on their phone, mostly using social media and messaging apps. This activity only leaves digital traces that researchers seeking to make sense of everyday life must take into account somehow. Moreover, the volume and variety of translocal interactions urban dwellers engage in, whether through social media or other digital channels, must be understood as an integral part of urban social life. 

This panel proposes to tackle these issues by bringing the research traditions of urban ethnography and community studies into conversation with recent theoretical and methodological developments, including quali-quantitative methods and actor-network theory (Venturini and Latour 2010), digital ethnography (Pink et al. 2015), live social research (Back & Puwar 2013), the microsociology of mediated environments (Collins 2010; Hancock and Garner 2015), and computational social science (Lazer et al. 2009). 

We seek to evaluate what these developments contribute to the practice of field research and to critical understandings of everyday life more generally. We will ask questions related to empirical strategies, for instance about how we can understand group formation and conflict without simply studying hashtag campaigns, thereby sampling only cases where activist uses of social media play a pivotal role. More broadly, we will address questions such as: How can we choose research sites and ascertain their boundaries? What are logistical problems, compounding complexities, new and old ethical quandaries, and epistemological implications of working with these methods? 

In their reflections, panelists will draw on their research projects, which span multiple cities, continents, and contexts and draw on a varied mix of research methods.

Wednesday July 13, 2016 13:45 - 15:15 UTC
PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - 302 Goldsmiths University, Building 2