Category Archives: Fieldwork

Tales from the field

Presenting at EPIC Doctoral and Masters Colloquium

This year, I’ve been incredibly lucky to take part in EPIC 2013 – the Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference in London – both in co-ordinating the student volunteers and taking part in the Doctoral and Masters Colloquium.

It was a great experience to present my research to my peers and some senior practitioners in the EPIC community.

Because I was the only one in my group who had completed a project, my questions were different and the feedback couldn’t be plowed back into my assessable work. However, I showed my research in order to gain experience in preparing and presenting my work in an academic setting.

Here’s what I learnt:

  • 20 minutes of presenting research and an additional 20 minutes of questions and discussions sounds daunting. It isn’t. Time flies and the questions and suggestions are insightful and supportive.
  • Ethnographers and their research projects are truly fascinating. Over the course of the day, I was transported to simulations of closed quarters for astronauts, the health care system in rural USA, a hectic office environment in Mumbai and, middle class family life in Bangalore. Everyone’s research had a story to tell and lessons to learn for my own practice.
  • Tiny research can be mighty research. It wasn’t an environment where people compared their research to others, but I couldn’t help but notice that my research was tiny in scale to others. I only spent ten days across six weeks in the field and had a month to gather additional data and write up my findings. That was a by-product of the small time frame, self-funding and a relatively small output required to complete my dissertation and final project. The feedback I received was that this research could be expanded and scaled up to include more fields and more exploration of the communities that form around cafes both in the physical and digital spaces.
  • The research is far richer and insightful than the 12,000 words and 20 minutes it was squeezed into. The questions I received generated so many more angles and paths to follow up on. Should I choose to carry on researching digital device use in cafes (either professionally, academically or on the side), I have so many more ideas to follow up. How is Twitter used by customers to reinforce the sense of community and neighbourhood? How much of a role does furniture and non-digital objects have in influencing digital device use in cafes? Why do cafe owners design the space to encourage or discourage digital device use? Are we becoming better at communicating and storytelling in cafes because of – shock horror – our digital devices?

Perhaps this is what the blog can turn into now that the project is over – an exploration of those ideas and questions.

Once the project has been marked, I’ll be posting the dissertation online for you to download and read. I would be interested to hear your feedback.

Find out more:

London Coffee Festival 2013

I was lucky enough to go to the London Coffee Festival yesterday evening at the Old Truman Brewery in Shoreditch.

Lucky, in that I won my ticket thanks to Caffeine magazine, cheers!

And while it was good to geek out over different coffees and brewing methods, it was also interesting that conversation inevitably came around to digital sociology and the coffee and wifi research.

The conversations were mixed with some people thinking big data and mobile devices are a cause for concern, and others just being interested in talking about the subject area. I’m always fascinated to hear more from non-sociologists about their concerns with big data and mobile devices. It usually provides me with another perspective to look at things from.

Only at a coffee festival could come across a stall of someone selling a book extolling the virtues of working from cafes.

Out of Office book

Out of Office by Chris Ward

Chris Ward was at the London Coffee Festival spruiking his book, Out of Office. The book talks about the positives of working  from cafes and lists great books written, websites founded and revolutions commenced all from the humble cafe.

I’m yet to read the book thoroughly but provides a good pictorial, business argument for working from cafes. Definitely something to look into further.

I had a chat to Chris and it’ll be great to follow up with him in the coming months on his ideas about working from cafes.

On a coffee geek note, I managed to complete my Hario V60 pour over kit yesterday. This means the project will be fuelled by lots of lovely homemade, single origin filter coffees.

Hario stand at the London Coffee Festival

Hario stand at the London Coffee Festival – one of many coffee geek out sites.