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Winter 2022-23 Workshop | Köln- Siegener Masterclass for Media Ethnography

(Post)Digital Ethnography - from Participant Observation to Collaborative Approaches

with Simone Pfeifer (s.pfeifer@uni-koeln.de, GRK “anschließen-ausschließen”, University of Cologne)
and Suzana Jovicic (suzana.jovicic@univie.ac.at, University of Vienna)



In contemporary anthropological research, digital media and technologies such as smartphones are part of almost all fields and themes. At the latest since the COVID-19 pandemic, many anthropologists are paying more attention to ‘the digital’ in its manifold manifestations, not only as a subject of study but moreover as a means of fieldwork. While ‘the digital’ in digital ethnography is often used synonymously with “remote” (Walton 2018, Postill 2017) or “virtual”, online-only ethnography (Hine 2001, Boellstorff et. Al. 2012), in this masterclass we encourage a “postdigital” approach to digital ethnography. “The postdigital” points beyond the online/offline or analogue/digital divide (without dismissing it entirely) and allows us to investigate the situatedness of digital media, smartphones and related practices in everyday life through a critical lens. (Post)Digital Ethnography in our sense encompasses a range of methods and approaches that we will explore through hands-on exercises in this masterclass. The aim of this workshop is therefore to examine (post)digital research practices in the context of increasingly personalised devices such as the smartphone and discuss them in light of the participants’ research designs. Practical exercises on participant observation or collaborative methods in groups will alternate with open discussions and short impulse presentations.

The guiding questions for the exercises and discussions include (but are not limited to):

  • How to access the field?
  • How to present/position oneself, also in ‘online’ contexts?
  • How to integrate smartphones into conversations? How to negotiate access to individualised, sometimes very private information in ethical ways?
  • How to observe and participate on social media and other platforms?
  • How to deal with audio-visual material?
  • What are the legal and ethical challenges of archiving, analysing or creating audio-visual materials as part of your research?
  • How to integrate various collaborative and participatory approaches?

Reflecting on ethical challenges, asymmetries, power dynamics and questions of (digital) positionality will guide our exercises in and with the digital.


Date: 24.Nov - 26. Nov 2022

Thursday  24. Nov, 10 am-6 pm
Friday 25. Nov, 10 am-6 pm
Saturday  26. Nov, 10 am-1 pm

Place: Alter Senatssaal (Main building), University of Cologne

The course is primarily directed at Master and PhD students with their own projects who are interested in learning more about the hands-on practices of digital ethnography with a critical perspective.

Interested participants who are not currently working on their own research project are also welcome to contact us.

Please register for this masterclass by 14th of November 2022
with a short email detailing your (planned) research interest/project and how it relates to digital ethnography (max. 500 words)

to  s.pfeifer@uni-koeln.de  and suzana.jovicic@univie.ac.at

Short bios:

Suzana Jovicic is an Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW) postdoctoral fellow and lecturer at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Vienna; and co-PI of the “We-Design” interdisciplinary project that combines ethnographic research on the role of digital technologies in relation to the labour access among Viennese youth with participatory design and app development. Her interests lie in the areas of digital, design and psychological anthropology, youths, and participatory research. She is co-founder of the Digital Ethnography Initiative (DEI) at the University of Vienna.


Simone Pfeifer is a postdoctoral researcher in the Research Training Group “anschließen ausschließen: Cultural Dynamics Beyond Globalized Networks” (UoC) with a project that focuses on Muslim everyday life and digital media practices, using digital ethnography and (digital) curatorial strategies for the co-creation of knowledge. Her work explores social, visual, and digital media practices in post-migrant societies from a critical and reflexive perspective. In her previous work she has focused on transnational social relationships between Senegal and Germany, securitization of Islam, political violence and ethical challenges in ethnographic research. www.simone-pfeifer.de