I recently published an article in Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture that considers the place of identity in ethnographic research. Stemming from my dissertation research on community media in Nairobi’s slums, I wanted to do some self-reflection to consider how my identity was used strategically (by myself and others) during the course of my fieldwork, and how identity management and use is complicated by the digital age. The abstract for the article “Negotiating the researcher: Interstitial, appropriated, and digital identities in media production ethnography” is below:
While all people form, exhibit, and use multiple identities, the hybridity of identity plays an integral role in the production of ethnographic knowledge. This article explores three critical tensions concerning researcher identity in media production ethnographies. First, I argue ethnographer identity is interstitial, situated at the margins of contesting and, at times, divergent selves. Second, while researchers privilege certain selves and favor particular agendas, others can appropriate and promote certain aspects of the researcher’s identity to serve strategic purposes. Finally, the rise of digital and social media has complicated traditional notions of identity management and ‘the field’ and provides new opportunities for participants to study the researcher. Thus, while acts of identity are exertions of power, that power can be harnessed and enacted by both researchers and participants.
WPCC is an open-access journal, so the full issue, which focuses entirely on media ethnography, is available online.