Practices and Flows of Digital Photography: An Ethnographic Framework
This article comprises a critical examination of photographic practices conducted in unfamiliar social and geographic territory; the implications that these practices have on social networks, circulation, performances and the significance of traditional photographic practices. More specifically, this article investigates the hybridization of technical and social traditions resulting from the digitalization of images, media convergence and emerging arenas for social performances.
The advent of the camera phone has tremendously impacted the representation of time, space and visual consumption pertaining to multimedia networks. Individuals belonging to any number of social collectives now have the capacity to reinvent themselves. This ability brings into question the authenticity of the personal presentation or representation of self in modern society.
With the convergence of these concepts on social networks, the concept of time has become compressed and given the general public the ability to literally observe events directly as they unfold. In academia, this allows for various new forms of investigative inquiry. Ethnographers and non-representational researchers now have the option of examining social and environmental interaction of social groups or communities even when they are removed from the physical space that these entities occupy. This information can be used as a supplement to qualitative interviews, since most of our social interaction is conducted unintentionally or habitually.
This new mobility has the capacity to document the physical travel of individuals in space; the physical movement of technology through space; the digital movement of images, music, film, documents, email and text messages; the imaginative, virtual travel of people through memories, images, brochures, Google Earth, webpages and blogs; and the communicative travel of people via letters, text messages, phone calls and email.
This information can assist in the professional examination of circulation, cultural meanings, objects and identities in converging time-space social reality. This type of investigative research is known as a multi-sided ethnographic study. A multi-sided ethnographic study follows the conjunctions and juxtapositions of human interaction within virtual and physical locations in the time-space continuum.
Through participant observatory field research, a methodological framework for undertaking the empirical study of material practices, technologies and performances is developed and refined. This process is both interactive and collaborative in nature.
This is unlike other field research methods, because it comprises a non-representational approach to photographic inquiry. By this I mean that the area of inquiry is focused primarily on the practice of social, physical and geographical enactments or performances.
Multi-sided, visual ethnographic inquiry follows the flow and diversity of human mobility through multiple physical and virtual spaces to highlight how local performance and place are constituted through distant flows and mobilities. This approach mobilizes the visual social sciences.