Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Cutting Edge (TB)

To give an overview of the first four papers in our Cutting Edge – ‘How To’ session we’ve had: workmen and ranch hands who use clothing as markers of group identity; the successful use of post-it notes and hats in collaborative business meetings between English speakers and Japanese speakers; teenage girls views on privacy as a matter of principle; and using blogs, VoIP, and other social tools to communicate and collaborate on an international research project between the US and India.

The second Cutting Edge – ‘Thinking’ session this afternoon has included: ethnographic research on patients and the sociality critically tied to their compliance or non-compliance in taking medication; a study of the work practices of software engineers; the ways in which technology is utilized in the family home in the ‘Great rooms’ in the US; and an ethnographic study of how rural sociality has influenced workforce behaviour and productivity at a car assembly plant in Lansing, Michigan.

An issue that jumped out at me: Wendy March and Constance Fleuriot raised questions regarding teenage girls understanding of privacy and ‘publicness’ and found that privacy was extremely important to the girls as a matter of principle. Scott Mainwaring and Alison Woodruff looked at ‘Great Room’s and issues of privacy, with a view to Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique where she notes, “she [woman] can forget her own identity in those noisy open-plan houses”.

This is a really important dimension of some of the discussions we’ve had over the last two days. Not only does it raise questions of how we can research issues of privacy and the intimacy of people’s social relationships, it also raises concerns of how we can determine which concepts and issues are significant to our research. Moreover, that these issues and concepts must be contextualized in order to effectively understand how they impact upon our research. How is the issue of privacy similar or different in each of these studies? Does everyone in the study relate to the issue of privacy in a similar way? Is there a gendered or age related understanding of privacy? Are individuals able to exercise agency over the issue of privacy, ie. how do they get it, can one person get it more than another?

Sorry, this blog has more questions than opinions! It could be that I’m all blogged out however I think that it actually shows how rich the case studies in this final section have been. Although I’ve only picked up on one strand, I know (from eavesdropping) that the final eight papers of the day have provoked much discussion as delegates have had an opportunity to think through some of the theoretical and methodological concerns by applying them to some excellent examples of ethnographic research.

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