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Search results for 'burrell'
13 November 2012

Nicolas Nova interviewed on Ethnography Matters

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The people from Ethnography Matters, an ethnography group blog that is celebrating its first year anniversary today, interviewed their new regular contributor Nicolas Nova. He joins the all-woman team of Tricia Wang, Heather Ford, Rachelle Annechino, and Jenna Burrell.

Nicolas teaches at the Geneva University of Arts and Design, works closely with design and corporate firms throughout Europe, co-founded Lift, a conference that has often been described as the cozier & smaller version of TED, and has been blogging about his research since 2003 on Pasta & Vinegar.

The interview is a very nice read. Congratulations, Nicolas. Looking forward to reading your posts. And congratulations, Ethnography Matters team, with one year of inspiring contributions.

28 June 2012

Ethnographic research in a world of big data – Part 3

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In her final piece on ethnographic research in a world of big data (see earlier posts), Jenna Burrell, sociologist and assistant professor in the School of Information at UC-Berkeley, seeks to answer a few remaining questions:

1. How might big data be part of projects that are primarily ethnographic in approach?
2. What do people consider to be the compelling applications of big data?

11 June 2012

Ethnographic research in a world of big data – Part 2

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Following up on her earlier piece on ethnographic research in a world of big data, Jenna Burrell, sociologist and assistant professor in the School of Information at UC-Berkeley, continues her argument against the idea that big data might usher in a new era of automatic research and along with it researcher de-skilling or that it would render the scientific method obsolete.

Her latest post in structured through two questions: “What is big data?” (and therefore “What is beyond the easy reach of big data?”) and “Where do we stand in relation to this phenomenon as ethnographers, or more generally, as researchers with a bent towards qualitative and interpretivist approaches?”

Here are a few sentences that I found quite illuminating:

“There’s something that ethnographers have in common with big data enthusiasts though neither group perhaps realizes this. Though ethnography has sometimes inaptly been equated out in the wider world with interview studies, it is the immersion of the ethnographer in a social world and the attempt to observe the phenomenon of interest as it unfolds that more distinctively characterizes such a methodological stance. […] It is this the closeness to the phenomenon of interest that is a shared concern. There is a common understanding that what people say (out of context, in a private interview or survey) is not a transparent representation of what they do. Ethnographers get at this the labor-intensive way, by hanging around and witnessing things first hand. Big data people do it a different way, by figuring out ways to capture actions in the moment, i.e. someone clicked on this link, set that preference, moved from this wireless access point to that one at a particular time.

Of course a major and very important point here – ethnographers’ observations are NOT equivalent to what data logs record…and a critical point is that ethnographers don’t stop with the observation or treat it as inherently meaningful, but do a whole lot of complementary work to try to connect apparent behavior to underlying meaning.” [Emphasis by author]

A part 3 is still forthcoming.

Read article

1 June 2012

Ethnographic research in a world of big data

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Reacting to the Wired Magazine article that suggests that “the data deluge makes the scientific method obsolete,” Jenna Burrell, sociologist and assistant professor in the School of Information at UC-Berkeley, lists some questions that she (and maybe other ‘small data’ people) have about the big data / data analytics trend:

  • What do researchers consider the most compelling examples, the ‘showcase’ applications of big data that involve study of the social world and social behavior?
  • To what end is such a research approach being put? What actions are being taken on the basis of findings from ‘big data’ analysis?
  • The data analytics discussion appears to be US-centric debate … how well are researchers grappling with the analysis of ‘big data’ when dealing with data collected from across heterogeneous, international populations?
  • How do ‘big data’ analysts connect data on behavior to the meaning/intent underlying that behavior? How do they avoid (or how do they think they can avoid) getting this wrong?
  • How might the analysis of ‘big data’ complement projects that are primarily ethnographic?

For good measure, she also provides a couple of interesting, probing takes on big data:

Jenna Burrell is an assistant professor in the School of Information at UC Berkeley. Her book Invisible Users: Youth in the Internet Cafes of Urban Ghana is forthcoming with the MIT Press. She completed her PhD in 2007 in the department of Sociology at the London School of Economics carrying out thesis research on Internet cafe use in Accra, Ghana. Before pursuing her PhD she was an Application Concept Developer in the People and Practices Research Group at Intel Corporation. Her interests span many research topics including theories of materiality, user agency, transnationalism, post-colonial relations, digital representation, and especially the appropriation of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) by individuals and social groups on the African continent.

1 May 2012

The demise of the ethnographic monograph

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As ethnographic practice has spilled out into the broader world of design and policy-making, business strategy and marketing, the monograph has not remained the singular format for presenting ethnographic work.

In the design community and high-tech industry, it is the conference paper (see EPIC, DIS, CSCW, and CHI, etc), the technology demo, and within corporate walls, the PowerPoint slideset or edited video that have become established formats for delivering ethnographic outputs.

There is great pressure in some subfields to offer clearly outlined implications and propose practices alongside (or instead of) the theory and holistic description of the more conventional format.

In light of the publication this week of her own ethnographic monograph titled Invisible Users: Youth in the Internet Cafes of Urban Ghana, Jenna Burrell thought it worth considering the question: why should someone outside of the Academy read her book or any other of this genre?

Read article

16 September 2009

Grameen Foundation: mHealth ethnography report

MoTeCH
One of the projects of AppLab, the application laboratory of the Grameen Foundation, is focused on mobile technology for community health (MoTeCH) in Ghana:

“Grameen Foundation has launched an initiative to determine how best to use mobile phones to increase the quantity and quality of antenatal and neonatal care in rural Ghana. Funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Mobile Technology for Community Health (MoTeCH) initiative is a collaboration with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and the Ghana Health Service. The two and a half year project will develop a suite of services delivered over basic mobile phones that provides relevant health information to pregnant women and encourages them to seek antenatal care from local facilities. After the birth, the system will address common questions about newborn care. Simultaneously, the MoTeCH system will help community health workers to identify women and newborns in their area in need of healthcare services and automate the process of tracking patients who have received care.”

A just published ethnographic research study sought to assess the initial state of information, communication, and mobile phone use for maternal and newborn health both within the health sector and the general population in the Dangme West District in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana. Key study findings illustrate that there is a strong foundation upon which the MoTECH Project can build to advance the use of mobile telephony to target beneficiaries in the general population.

Download research report

(via Tech4Dev)

An older study (January 2008) dealt with “Livelihoods and the mobile phone in rural Uganda.”

11 April 2009

Africa perspective on the role of mobile technologies in fostering social and economic development

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Last week, the W3C Mobile Web Initiative organised a workshop on the “Africa Perspective on the Role of Mobile Technologies in Fostering Social Development” in Maputo, Mozambique.

The workshop set out to understand the specific challenges of using mobile phones and Web technologies to deliver services to underprivileged populations of developing countries, and to capture the specificities of the African context.

“There are today more than half of the population living with less than 3$ a day, and lacking all kind of services (health, education, government…). The incredible growth of the mobile penetration rate last few years is providing a new hope. The potential of simple ICT services on mobiles to improve people’s income has indeed been largely demonstrated. The aim of this workshop is to explore how to leverage these success stories and create an enabling environment that would drive the appearance of numerous services all over the Developing World.”

There were sessions on m-health, technology, mobile activism, enabling environments, m-govenment, m-banking and agriculture.

Presentations and papers are now available online (though some presentations are very concise). Here is a short selection:

Technology

Enabling Environment

M-Banking

2 November 2008

Everyday Digital Money workshop at UC Irvine

Everyday Digital Money
The Department of Anthropology at the University of California at Irvine recently organised a workshop on innovation in digital money, entitled Everyday Digital Money.

The workshop examined this emerging, complex, and unevenly distributed landscape of digital money innovation from cultural, psychological, legal, artistic, technological, and industrial perspectives, in order to identify key topics for future research within and across disciplines; such as:

  • M-banking, m-payment, and electronic remittance systems
  • Design tradeoffs; e.g., security/accountability vs. accessibility/empowerment
  • Financial literacies and numeracies
  • Regulatory conflicts and opportunities
  • Formal and informal experimentation with new electronic moneys
  • Connections to physical and virtual mobilities

The workshop blog contains a lot of materials, including the presentation abstracts of each of the sessions:

Some papers and presentation slides are available on various websites, including

Further browsing unearthed additional resources such as: