Tuesday, November 15, 2005

What is Cutting Edge? - Redux (by BC)

With all the questions I posted in that previous post, I don’t think I really tackled the title issue – i.e., What is cutting edge? Well, I will repurpose a term from the tech sector for this discussion, for as I review the papers presented, I can’t help but think of the term “disruptive ethnographies.” In short, these case studies present us with new ways of doing things, and at the farthest point, they can be disruptive, just as Ame Elliott was an imposing physical force in her bilingual meetings, pushing participants to new collaborative (and ultimately successful) techniques.

In “The Worst Technology for Girls,” the data collected from the participants (what is the worst technology these girls can imagine) reveal the connections between the participants and technology (it captures their “technology narratives,” but from a different direction than what I have been doing [or attempting to do]). In “Investigating Mobility, Technology, and Space in Homes, Starting with ‘Great Rooms,’” we see an incipient space in American architecture, where an ethnographer can actually engage change as a household negotiates with this new “unsettled” place in the home. Those are two immediate examples, but as we move through these case studies, I’m keen to explore the historical ties of these studies as well. Ari Shapiro brought Evans-Pritchard into his study – and as Christina noted in her introduction, the concept of sociality is a traditional foundation for inquiry in anthropology and ethnography. Even on the cutting edge do we find these ties to the past…

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