Some of you may have noticed that I promised to report some research and then didn’t.
Last semester, for my Ethnography of Communication class, I did an Ethnography of DC taxi drivers. The theme of the Ethnography was “the voice of the drivers.” It was multilayered, and it involved data from a great variety of sources. I had hoped to share my final paper for the class here, but that won’t work for three reasons.
1.) The nature of Ethnography. Ethnography involves collecting a great deal of data and then choosing what to report, in what way, and in what context. The goal of the final paper was to reflect on the methodology. This was an important exercise, but I really wanted to share more of my findings and less of my methodology here.
2.) The particular aspect of my findings that I most want to share here has to do with online discourse. Specifically, I want to examine the lack of representation of the drivers perspective online. There are quite a few different ways to accomplish this. I have tried to do it a number of ways, using different slices of data and using different analytic strategies. But I haven’t decided which is the best set of data or method of analysis. But I am a very lucky researcher. Next week I’m headed to a workshop at Radbound University in Nijmegen, Netherlands. The workshop is on the Microanalysis of Online Discourse. I am eager to bring my data and methodological questions and to recieve insight from such an amazing array of researchers. I am also very eager to see what they bring!
Much of the discussion in the analysis of online discourse either excludes the issue of representation altogether or focuses on it entirely. Social media is often hailed as the great democratizer of communication. Internet access was long seen as the biggest obstacle to this new democracy . From this starting point, much of the research has evolved to consider more of nuances of differential use, including the complicated nature of internet access as well as behavior and goals of internet users. This part of my findings is an example of differential use and of different styles of participation. Working with this data has changed the way I see social media and the way I understand the democratization of news.
3.) Scope. The other major reason why I haven’t shared my findings is because of the sheer scope of this project. I was fortunate enough to only have taken one class last semester, which left me the freedom to work much harder on it. Also, as a working/student mom, I chose a project that involved my whole family in an auto-ethnographic way, so much of my work brought me closer to my family, rather than farther apart (spending time away from family to study is one of the hardest parts of working student motherhood!)
I have amassed quite a bit of data at this point, and I plan to write a few different papers using it.
Stay tuned, because I will release slices of it. But have some patience, because each slice will only be released in its own good time.
At this point, I feel the need to reference the Hutzler Banana Slicer
Turns out, Ethnography is more like this:
than like this: