Academically, the Oxford English Dictionary quotes the keyword as far back as 1881, describing technography as the “observing and descriptive stage” of the technological development cycle. However, contemporary interest with recent developments in technological capabilities and potentials have stimulated a fresh anthropological and sociological concern with describing “the arts and crafts of tribes and peoples.” Much of this fresh surge in what we might classify as technographic work adopts a Goffman- informed interactionist approach, referencing classic texts such as The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959), Behavior in Public Places This grounding has been helpful for numerous academics struggling to make sense of the public–private performative aspects of human “technologically contextualized” behavior that has become particularly visible with the virtualization of experience and congruent mobilization of electronic space (a few examples: Gotved, 2006; Humphreys, 2005; Katz & Sugiyama, 2006; Ling, 2004; Robinson, 2007; Soukup, 2006; Waskul, 2005). Although such work is unquestionably rigorous and often quite academically poignant, Goffman-informed research perpetuates an assumption that the authors in this special issue wish to contend with. That is, it continues to reify technology as a prop or dead “thing” somehow situated outside the arena of social interaction even while it demarcates the boundaries. It is not that we eschew this orientation; there is much we have learned from such work, and will no doubt continue to garner for many years to come. Rather, in the present circumstances of technological evolution, the work in this special issue seeks an approach that enables us to describe what the traditional approach cannot: the intimacy of technology, the relationships and feelings it is bound up in, and the understanding that technology contributes dynamically and dramatically to the performance of everyday life rather than one-dimensionally serving as its backdrop and container.
I passed this in a traffic jam on the way to pick up a friend at SFO this morning. It was slow enough to snap a few shots. I’ll definitely write more on this later.
This work incorporates a camera as participant in the showing of experiences of surveillance, exploring some effects of defining power as the circulation of signifiers. This techno-ethnographic piece moves through numerous spaces, documenting how myth and aesthetics are experienced and play in everyday life, inducing performances that ultimately appear to stabilize and further legitimate a globally reaching network of surveillance.
In Qualitative Inquiry, Volume 12 Number 4, August 2006, 681-703
Abstract: This essay exemplifies the methodology of Global Technography, combining elements of autoethnography, photo essay, and actor-network theory to trace performative elements of global citizenship and global community facilitated by wireless mobile communications technology in the context of contemporary China. The result is a documentation of intensely personal and private communications practices even in highly public environments. Likewise, the personal nature of experience is shown to constitute public spaces even as they confuse and disrupt them. Mobile hyper-interconnectivity inspires both absurd and reassuring performances of culture and intimacy, while the reality of everyday life at street level demonstrates the fragility of hyper-mediated global connectivity.
In Qualitative Inquiry October 2008, vol. 14 no. 7, 1264-1271
Father John, Technology, and God An International Christian Mission in the Lobby of the Juyoh Hotel (Grant Kien, 2007)
Abstract: Although insinuated into incredibly nuanced performances of everyday life, the ways in which we qualitatively ally with technology often continue to determine which of its potentialities will be realized. The following autoethnographic vignette takes to heart the Denzinian stylistic preferences “show don’t tell” and “bury the theory,” and the Actor–Network theory directive to produce a text that “provides” time rather than steals it, in terminology that the actors themselves would recognize, use, and understand. This work follows the actant of the wireless laptop to a hotel lobby in Japan, where ritual and habitual performances show the maintenance of nationalist performativity. A missionary in Tokyo voices the American dream of rock and roll fame, invoking questions about the role of technology in spirituality in the process. Finally, an understanding of morality as mundane, everyday performance is presented.
In Qualitative Inquiry, December 2008, vol. 14 no. 8, 1444-1457
Abstract: To sport a beard signifies something. Stories are not generally written about being clean shaven. Although perfectly natural, a beard is an add on, like an extra appendage. A beard is a style choice. This series of autoethnographic vignettes shows some of the added effects of a beard felt by a body aesthetic that already signifies “foreigner” in the national imaginary of South Korea. What begins with a simple assumption about a marker of foreignness and difference later serves as a signifier of normative tropes, an ethnic identifier, as a sexual and political marker, and eventually comes to unveil a deeper cultural dimension within the context of its interpretation. Finally, through the process of reflecting on its erasure, the depth of personal significance of the beard in question is revealed.
In Qualitative Inquiry, June 2005, vol. 11, no. 3, 458-465.