Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Anthropology and Environment Society
Primary Theme: Technology
Secondary Theme: Environment and Environmental Inequality
As new forms of digital connectivity transform experiences of distance, location, and access, what new avenues are opened for ethnographic inquiry and ethical reflection? In places that are imagined or re-imagined as far away and remote (Ardener 2012, Harms et al 2014)—a longtime staple of the disciplinary imaginary of anthropological fieldwork—the implications of digital technologies for changing narratives, affects, and senses of place are of interest to anthropologists seeking to better understand how environmental conditions impact contemporary socialities. The human-environment relations of “remote” places provide physical and social parameters in which information technologies and “green” technologies may create new experiences of isolation and connectivity. Social Media platforms, such as Facebook and Whatsapp, as well as internet forums, radio programs, etc. could contribute to a sense of community between users, while simultaneously enacting varying degrees of connectivity and isolation. How do information and communication technologies shape perceptions of remoteness, isolation and connectivity amongst users? And how do the surrounding landscapes intersect with the use of information technologies to reinforce or challenge forms of isolation and connectivity?
This panel engages with trends in digital anthropology and environmental anthropology to interrogate forms of information technologies and electronic materialities in circulation across varying remote and distanced landscapes. The assembled papers will draw on overlapping themes including: political positionalities within community organizations through social media in post-natural disasters, concerns for accessibility in tension with ideals of self-realization and remoteness, and the inherent power relations between technology users, data collection processes and the institutional and modalities of waste and refuge within circulations of green energy materialities. .
Through ethnographic engagement with the digital spaces of “remote” field sites, this panel also seeks to further the dialogue on the ethnographic modalities of the digital age. The question of “access” is a familiar trope of ethnographic training, but contemporary ubiquity of cellular service, text messaging, and social media change constructs of contact, access, and of exit from fieldsites. What kinds of new ethical questions are posed about responsibilities to interlocutors, intimacy within digital spaces, and public attention of ethnographic materials, when digital connectivity is part of both the ethnographic method and subject of study? How do ethnographers negotiate tensions between quantifiable technologies and relational ethnographic texture in the products of their ethnography? How can ethnographers navigate differing digital practices linked to their own methodologies?
2012 Remote Areas: Some Theoretical Considerations. HAU : Journal of Ethnographic Theory; Edinburgh 2, no. 1: 519–33.
Harms, Erik, Shafqat Hussain, Sasha Newell, Charles Piot, Louisa Schein, Sara Shneiderman, Terence Turner, and Juan Zhang.
2014 “Remote and Edgy: New Takes on Old Anthropological Themes.” HAU : Journal of Ethnographic Theory; Edinburgh 4, no. 1: 361–81.