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Dave Randall University of Siegen, Germany ‘Live’ data- Ethnomethodology, ethnography and the ‘studies of work’ programme.

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Presentation on theme: "Dave Randall University of Siegen, Germany ‘Live’ data- Ethnomethodology, ethnography and the ‘studies of work’ programme."— Presentation transcript:

1 Dave Randall University of Siegen, Germany ‘Live’ data- Ethnomethodology, ethnography and the ‘studies of work’ programme

2 Aim: to give some flavour of what ethnomethodologists might consider ‘live’ data to be.

3 Ethnomethodology vs. sociology, psychology and all the other ‘social sciences’ Anti- epistemological Un-theoretical Commonsensical Commitment to members’ methods

4 Some basic preferences A preference for sequential, ‘real time’ data An orientation to the ‘member’ not the ‘actor’- a placeholder for the set of visible and accountable skills and artful practices that people manifest in the course of what they are doing. Being data- driven. Nothing is worth saying (academically) if not substantiated in available data. A commitment to sharing data The avoidance of theorizing (but not of typification) A commitment to the principle that people are not ‘judgmental dopes’- refers to the way that ‘members’, given what they know, will behave in relevant, useful and elegant ways in order to solve the ‘problems’ that they have.

5 No specific topic No specific method Ethnos have been engaged in a vast array of ethnographic (and other) studies based on ‘live’ data Banks Air Traffic Control Café culture Map reading Road maintenance Printing Software engineering Playing with cats (and dogs) The Arab Spring

6 A serendipitous relationship with ‘ethnography’ a mis-used term, ‘ethnomethodologically informed ethnography’ has become common. Not interested in technical arguments about what ethnography might be Prefer to think in terms of: Talking to people Watching people Trying to figure out what they’re up to

7 What does this data look like? ‘Live’ data as sequentiality Background A research project concerned with distributed collaborative ontology building Part of E-science initiative Ontologies can be thought of as an aspect of the semantic web

8 four elements : 1.The work entailed in the ‘sharing’ of definitions (see e.g., Bowker and Star, 1999) 2.How expertises and authorities are mobilised 3.Practical work insofar as it is ‘left out’ of standard methodologies for ontology building (e.g. ‘Diligent’, OTK and methontology) 4.Preliminary observations about tool support for distributed collaborative ontology building

9 Dissassembly and Assembly ‘... we’re going to have a general look at the CTO... we need to have a look at the axes of classification... how are the cells classified... both explicit and implicit... you will see terms like... uh... up at the top you’ll see ‘cell by lineage’... what does lineage mean?... so that’s an explicit axis of classification... but you’ll also see terms like, ‘mature cell’ and ‘immature cell’ but that’s not an explicit axis... that’s just hidden within the names...’ ‘we need to identify a primary axis of classification... all the other axes are then pulled out into supporting ontologies... a lot of these already exist in things like PATO [phenotype]... so the phenotype ontology, one of the axes is ploidy [no. of chromosomes]... and so we need to and have a look at how ploidy is described in PATO, and then we will be able to take the actual cells at the end of the leaves...’

10 Dissassembly and Assembly L: ‘well, it’s not that clear what the CTO was trying to model... a cell-type is an approximate synonym for class or concept... biologists distinguish between cell-types and cells so should this actually be the cell ontology... D: for use by biologists it would have to be the cell-type ontology. R: what I think one of the goals should be to make it so ontologically beautiful that it’s unusable...’ [general laughter] Who will use the ontology? And for what purpose? These matters are critical for the size, scope and ambition of the ontology

11 Dissassembly and Assembly How much work shall we do? L: ‘one thing, above that level, are we just looking at cells in vivo? Or experimentally modified? R: They just have like six crosses... they say that this is very weak... they just haven’t populated it... H: It’s kind of horrible... I’d be tempted to put that somewhere else... I was tempted to just look at cells in vivo, so basically we should just take that partition out... experimentally modified cells are something I’m particularly interested in but I don’t think they belong here... this part of the CTO is really problematic and we shouldn’t go there... L: I agree with R., it’s probably out of scope for this...’

12 What does this data look like? ‘Live’ data as sequentiality An extract from a meeting of bio- informaticians S: ‘R, I’ve just put the list up on the screen... I just extracted all the terms... there’s a thousand here... is it useful just to scroll down it? [on screen, S. Navigates through] R: As we go through the screens, can someone have OBOedit open? D: yes, but how do you do search in OBOedit... S: you use term filter... M: so, we’ve got the list... [appears on screen with IDs] H: have you got obsolete terms in there as well... M: yes... H: better to invert them, cos the high numbers are likely to be leaf nodes... R: good point... L: course, now we’re going to have terms where we have no idea what they mean... H: Wikipedia man...trophectodermal cell S: No, there are no definitions for Trophectodermal cell... so not that one... [they proceed down the list. M reads aloud] R: we can record these in the spreadsheet … H: and the Wiki...

13 Understanding Distributed Collaborative Ontology Building The work is not mechanical It involves extensive synchronous face-to-face work on deciding on scope and purpose It relies on a socially distributed expertise, and ‘knowing who knows’ It involves the synchronous or rapid use of a number of different artefacts, and an understanding of how best to use them. It involves constant ‘testing’ and the delaying of final decisions through ambiguity resolution and error checking, and the constant recording of rationales for decision-making

14 ‘Live’ as user generated … A study of a ‘lifelogging device’- SenseCam Background Research project with Microsoft; the BBC and others SenseCam designed to rectify the ‘problem’ of forgetting. Gave out the devices and held workshops to allow people to talk about what they did with them

15 Psychological assumptions: e.g. Schacter (2001) Memory as ‘information loss’ Some issues are ‘sins of omission’ : ‘we fail to bring to mind a desired fact, event, or idea. Transience refers to a weakening or loss of memory over time... Absent mindedness involves a breakdown at the interface between attention and memory. Absent minded memory errors... typically occur because we are preoccupied with distracting issues or concerns... The third sin, blocking, entails a thwarted search for information that we may be desperately trying to retrieve.’ (p4-5)

16 Some are ‘sins of commission’. Or ‘information bias’ Misattribution- involves getting it wrong Suggestibility- transformation through ‘bias’. Persistence- things we might prefer to forget, and has to do with such things as anxiety, embarrassment and trauma. At least in principle- although of course there might be legal and moral issues to be dealt with, some of these ‘sins’ are amenable to technological support and ‘correction’.

17 From sociology: focus on the investigation of how memories become shared through e.g. talk, representation and public event: ‘collective remembering’ of one kind or another- rituals; ceremonies, etc. See e.g. Misztal (2003) ‘Hence, memory, as the knowing ordering or the narrative organization of the past, observes rules and conventions of narrative. For example, successful narratives about the past must have a beginning and an end, an interesting storyline and impressive heroes. The fact that memorizing is not free of social constraints and influences suggests the importance of another type of memory- namely, collective or social memory, which is our main concern here.’ (p10)

18 Some results … ‘‘ It ’ s a bit ‘ doctor-like ’ … you could use it to show people how to do things … like helping kids repair bikes …’ ‘ yeah, it would be really interesting to get several people wearing them to the same event …’ ‘ I put it on a kite. We were in the park... I wanted to know what it looks like when you fly. I ’ d love to know what that ’ s like so I put it on a kite with some gaffer tape.It didn ’ t work though! ’ ‘ Yeah, I wanted to put it on my dog. the world from his level …’ ‘ I hung it from a tree in the allotment …’

19 Some results … ‘ It ’ s nice to add music … I wanted to slow it down … the movie is a bit ‘ keystone cops ’ so I added some nice slow music …’ ‘ I put in some ‘ secret moments ’ … things that are special to me that other people might not notice …’ ‘ I could use it all the time in my workshops … it ’ s usually impossible to get candid pictures of what they ’ re up to …’ ‘ It would be fantastic on holiday … you wouldn ’ t have to pose anything …’ [there was a subsequent discussion about how Sensecams might aid in the production of ‘ animated postcards ’.] ‘ I put it on for my marriage rehearsal … I liked its informality …’

20 The measure of a life …

21 S: … cos, I’d had like the worst day ever … I just found it …, she’d been driving me absolutely mad … and we were in the playground and there was no-one there … and she was … she won’t eat properly.. she’s so small … Q: And what you’ve written, is that documenting [image of daughter next to a giraffe painted on the wall]… S: Yeah, yeah, it was like the conversation we had … it was like, ‘but Mum, when … when am I going to be bigger? …’

22 ‘Live’ as a contrast between the real and the virtual: Sidi Bouzid Background Part of a research collaborations which concern themselves with development Includes ongoing work in Palestine Two visits (14 days) to Tunisia to look at internet usage for political purposes

23 Sidi Bouzid Wanted an ‘on the ground’ view of the ‘Arab spring’ and the use of digital data in conflict situations Wife: ‘We are both graduates, yes, but there is no work here... We rely on our families or we could not feed our [three] children.’ Husband: ‘we are controlled … because we don’t live in the ‘Zone Touristique’, we have limited contact with foreigners. The police register our contacts. We don’t get to find out what’s going on in the rest of the country, like the one in Gafsa … normally …but Facebook changed that …’ Mother: ‘They even meet their future husbands through Facebook. Young people in Sidi Bouzid don’t have much to do.. It’s the only pastime these youngsters have. The boys, you’ll see them in the cafes, looking at their Facebook pages on their mobile phones. The girls … well, they wouldn’t be allowed out …’

24 Activist: ‘Ben Ali sent – additional policemen to the city when it began. The policemen used barbed wire, tear gas, and rubber bullets. There were also snipers of the Presidential Guard in town. They used rubber bullets rather than real ones (shows us a scar on his leg)... But they used real bullets in Kasserine … people were also killed when they climbed the electricity poles’. Activist: ‘there isn’t much internet here … there are five internet cafes, and a few schools, but most people access it through phones. A lot of things are blocked, but they forgot to block Wikileaks, which is how everyone found out about corruption. The presidential family was corrupt, especially Leïla Trabelsi. They took bribes … Ben Ali even gave information to Israel … he had a business relationship with them …’ Young mother: ‘Despite all announcements of Arab solidarity, you could see who their real friends were.’ Activist: ‘A lot of it, we found out through Al Jazeera … and France 24. State television was always controlled, but not the satellite channels. They covered the protests, and then people began posting pictures, photos, on Facebook. And a bit later, someone uploaded Mohamed Bouazizi setting himself on fire … it went viral in two days …’

25 Mother: ‘I uploaded photos of the demonstrations … all my university friends were able to see them, and they live all over Tunisia … but it was more important that you found out where to gather, and where the barricades would be … Activist: ‘during the first three days of the uprising a total of 200 persons were arrested [on charges of] having uploaded video materials, pictures and news of the local uprising to their Facebook accounts. Users began to use nicknames instead of real names in order to protect themselves from prosecution. More experienced users connected to the internet via proxy servers, hot spots, and used other ways to hide their identities. We quickly learned to leave “zero trace”. If the authorities shut one account down, we opened another under a different name. ‘One of the things they did was reduce data transfer speeds so we couldn’t upload video … so we ed [low resolution] things to friends in France and they did it for us’.

26 There is ‘information sharing’ going on here It is structured by real- world political events And by policy and practice over infrastructure … There is a tendency for those engaged in understanding ‘twitter’ or ‘facebook’ behaviour to ignore the ecology in which it takes place. In the social ‘sciences’, we should guard against these ‘information theoretic’ assumptions.

27 Conclusion For the broad church of ethnomethodologists: ‘Live’ data can mean a number of things Often serendiptious/ opportunistic data collection General policy of ‘getting what you can’ Method is not the major consideration


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