Session 1: Big Data/Ethnography or Big Data Ethnography

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Abstract

The first session explores the many ways and forms Data shape our lives. What are new roles, forms of research, methodologies and practices that contribute to the on-going exploration of boundaries between “big data” and ethnography.

“Is Data the new oil?” This has become a proverbial question that many organizations and research institutions have been asking themselves when they face the ever increasing proliferation of data (and data discourses, thereof). This is an enticing postulate, but not one without controversies. But, if data is the new oil, what does it mean for our ethnographic praxis? What roles will ethnography play? What forms of research methods and practices will spring up? In fact, what do we mean by data? These are some of the questions that lie at the heart of EPIC's on-going methodological and practical pursuits. All papers in this session thus contribute to this on-going debate by exploring the boundaries (epistemological, methodological, and practical) between “big data” and ethnography. From describing the use of mixed-methods for investigating mobile money to exploring the emergence of analytic technology tools to help ethnographers collect and explore data to investigating the ‘meanings’ of data in data-intensive social settings, such as, health and wellness communities, this session will offer a broad perspective on the subject, asking us to reflect not only on our own research practices but on the future of our field.

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