In this weekly workshop, students will learn how to plan, design, and implement–using everyday skills and devices–a multimodal ethnographic inquiry: that is, an ethnography undertaken in and through a plurality of media to render articulate other sensory domains and types of knowledge production beyond conventional forms of ‘participant observation.’ But what does it require, when might it become relevant, what possibilities does it offer? And most importantly, what might it be relevant for? Although the main aspiration of this hands-on space is (i) to develop practical strategies and discuss the potential impact of this kind of work for the experimentation and undertaking of multimodal forms of ethnographic fieldwork and representational output ‘beyond text’ drawing from the students’ MA work, the course will also search (ii) to frame the discussions and conceptual repertoires needed for students to articulate how, when, and why to do it better.
Thus, the workshop will be a space for students to explore how to draw from their existing skills, as well as learn to employ and unfold the full potential of easy-to-use, ready-to-hand and off-the-shelf devices–such as pen and paper, smartphones and digital platforms–to experiment with the collaborative and more-than-textual prospects of multimodal ethnography. Hence, we will explore in detail how different multimodal strategies in fieldwork and representation might require us to discuss the materiality of fieldnotes (from words in notebooks to drawing and sketching, or audio-visual explorations using smartphones); ways to render practicable multi-sensory engagements; how to work with digital ecologies of collaborative practice (blogs, pads, social networks); and how to undertake situated interventions and experiments in designing devices, curating exhibits and performing situations searching to produce different conditions of explore a wide variety of ethnographic effects.
However, in the attempt at finding a vocabulary and a conceptual repertoire to discuss and design further practical exercises like these, the course will search to retrace the steps of how discussions around multimodality emerged: hence, practical work will be regularly framed in discussions of the post-Writing culture moment, where forms of ethnographic authority and authorship, the predominance of observation as the main sensory engagement and the classic types of accounts and genres have been fundamentally challenged when not utterly put into question. As this course will search to make practicable and workable, the legacy of those debates still lives amongst us: in the form of an opening and an inventiveness of modes of field-working and accounting, experimenting with the politics of genres of accounting. But in the same spirit as in the many discussions around the written form, ethnographic work beyond text not only entails newer landscapes and avenues for anthropological practice, but also newer constraints, problems and predicaments.
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