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The role of multisensory, embodied and participatory media in the production and dissemination of ethnographic knowledge

Conference: EASA 2016: Anthropological legacies and human futures
Location: University of Milano-Bicocca
Date: July 23rd 2016


Through the practices of creating vivid, multisensory and embodied media during research encounters in the field, and the distribution of that media through online collaborative platforms, the traditional paradigms for the production of ethnographic knowledge might be significantly altered. When experiences of the field of study can be accessed, analysed and contributed to from anywhere in the world, the authorial control of the ethnographer is reduced and the collaborative construction, interpretation and contestation of narratives, memories and potential futures must be embraced.

The efficacy of these practices will be illustrated by the demonstration of sensory research materials created during an ongoing study of Temple Works in South Leeds. Initially constructed as a textile mill in 1840 and once featuring the largest single room in the world, the building is now home to a cultural project that supports local artists, makers and performers. A multisensory, spatial and participatory virtual archive of the building is being developed with the intention of exploring the relationships between the vivid sensory experience of the building and the creative and cultural practices that take place within it.


The opportunity to present at another anthropological conference was very welcome. As I have reflected upon in section 5.2 of the thesis, I was determined to ‘test’ the theoretical and methodological contributions introduced as part of this practice-led PhD at conferences related to anthropology. If these contributions were to gain traction within ethnographic publications and practice, disseminating them amongst anthropological communities and proactively responding to the feedback they generated was deemed to be an important step.

I was offered a 45-minute slot in the programme which allowed me to demonstrate the Experience Temple Works project and to discuss its potential impact upon the production and dissemination of ethnographic knowledge in much greater detail than a typical 10-20 minute conference paper might allow.

The presentation was very well received. In particular, the questions which followed it sparked a lively debate regarding the potential of interactive 360° photography in the context of ethnographic fieldwork.