Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fieldwork in the Cloud: Training in Ethnographic Fieldwork with Global Technologies

(Note: The Prezi associated with this blog entry is from a collaborative brown bag lecture given by Barbara G. Hoffman, Ph.D. and me at Cleveland State University on October 24, 2013. The essay below is an adaptation of my part of the lecture and as such, it does not reflect the opinions of Dr. Hoffman or Cleveland State University.)

There is – indeed, there has been – a movement afoot in higher education to utilize emerging technologies in order to augment our ultimate goals. For me, this ultimate goal is to contribute to educating an informed electorate. The objectives that lead to that point include making knowledge available and accessible. In the pursuit of the goal, we have witnessed this movement take many forms:
  • Educators use Twitter to engage their students about their subjects while academics and professionals use Twitter to live-tweet conferences and lectures.
  • Instructors are employing stylish presentation software with which to present their lessons, not only in the classroom, but over the internet as well.
  • Researchers are publishing in open-access journals, some publishers are beginning to meet that demand by considering new models, and still more open-access online journals are starting up.
  • Prestigious universities are offering massive online open courses (MOOCs) for free, in which anyone can take part.
  • Within my own field, mobile apps and social media are being used to deliver live fieldnotes to both colleagues and the lay public alike.
This past summer, my advisor and I began to develop our own contribution to this pedagogical shift with cloud-based fieldwork training. Rather than going into the field alone with little training, and unable to enroll in a cultural anthropology field school, I chose to return to the community where I had studied abroad last summer – Dakar, Senegal – to conduct ethnographic fieldwork under the mentorship of my advisor in Cleveland, using the cloud as a point of exchange ideas and advice.