The Ethnographer Unbounded: Considering open source in corporate environments

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Abstract

Technological advances that enable seemingly endless information sharing, as well as various counter efforts that attempt to limit and control access to information, have prompted us to reexamine how industry-based practitioners of ethnography promulgate their research. A comparison of two distinct professional experiences reveals how varying degrees of information “openness” impact ethnographic work. One occurs within a large corporation in which research is proprietary and confidential. The second is an open source project supported by a Knight Foundation grant. In doing so, we aim to discern which elements of open source ethnography have beneficial applications in corporate environments. We present a “layering model,” as well as a set of questions to consider, as a way of determining which aspects of ethnographic research should be shared and with whom.

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