Ethnographic Apps/ Apps as Ethnography: Exploring Possibilities for a Locative, Multimedia and Collaborative Future.
A Panel Proposal for the American Anthropological Association (AAA) Meetings, November 2015
Panel Organizers: Sam Collins (Towson) and Matthew Durington (Towson)
We find it curious that anthropologists have paid relatively little attention to apps. Yes, there are certainly apps that help in our ethnographic research, as well as apps that have long been utilized by artists, folklorists, community activists and many others to encourage people to “read” and experience space and place in interesting (and even subversive) ways. But what about apps as part of our research, as, in other words, a form of ethnographic practice? Apps facilitate embodied ideologies, and they mark the exact point of interpellation where structure and symbol meet practice and bodily hexis. Apps show how institutions and other powerful agents are trying to structure the meaning of cities by combining mobile media and social media through organizing embodied narrative experiences. Even when apps reproduce already existing content, they do so by structuring experiences in ways that are illustrative of networked power: the city as a series of connections and disconnections that bring some spaces and meaning together while effectively cutting off vast parts of the city from urban practice. In other words, apps are technologies of inclusion and exclusion, and following their trail can tell us exactly how things like segregation work in an era of the actor network.…