ETHNOGRAPHIC RESEARCH IN MEDIA STUDIES: PRACTICE, METHODOLOGY, AND ETHICS FOR FIELDWORK

Coordinates: Thursday, Nov 15 at 2pm, the Global Emergent Media Lab (FB 630.15)

Participants: Vicki Mayer (Tulane – Communication and Media), Joshua Neves (CURC, Concordia – Film Studies), Alessandra Renzi (Concordia – Communications)

Registration for this event is FULL. Please email patbrodie337[at]gmail.com to be placed on the waiting list. This is a SEPARATE registration from the main conference.

Arguably, among many “turns” in the humanities and media studies in particular over the past decade, one of the strongest trends has been an increased attention to the place of ethnographic work. In film and media studies in particular, from media industries research, to reception studies, to infrastructure studies, and beyond, we have seen an influx of work paying attention to lived experience of media labour, technologies, and communities. This methodological turn has led to research beyond the typical frames of analysis available to film and media studies, opening apertures to activities and worlds often peripheral to the field’s dominant areas of focus—from activism, to practices of informality, to media use and reception outside of the privileged confines of the Global North.

As film and media studies scholars, these methodologies are typically not part of our training. Many of us find ourselves embarking on in-depth, immersive fieldwork with little introduction to the methodologies involved. For example, many of the approaches we use—extensive site visits, photography, participation in local cultures and events—feel more hinged on practices of anthropology, and yet film and media studies programs often remain focused on texts, policies, technologies, and other research items that can be comfortably studied from afar. But this comfortable distance is exactly what work among the ethnographic turn attempts to address—media are lived, and experienced unevenly, differentially, and outside of the normative parameters of address available to traditional media studies scholarship.

This workshop will address some methods and approaches to fieldwork in film and media studies when doing research that is particularly ethnographic. The session will consist of brief introductions by the workshop participants focusing on their experiences in the field. Each of the session-leaders has embarked on extensive fieldwork for their given research projects and practices. The workshop will then address questions, taken in advance, from the workshop attendees around issues of ethics, practices, and relations in the field. The workshop will not be goals-oriented, but rather will facilitate an open discussion about a set of methodologies that students of film and media studies are often left to figure out on their own.

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