Digital Ethnography (Johansson)

This specific project (or work package) aims to contribute methodologically as well as analytically to the project’s overall purpose. Through two subtasks – representing two levels of ethnographic study – it sets out to explore the challenges and possibilities of qualitative research and ethnography in the context of digital media, with a particular focus on investigating how the object/subject of digital research can be construed. The work package evolves around two subtasks. For the purpose of emphasizing the methodological innovations of the project, the first subtask aims to scrutinize the experimental set-up of the record label. Paying attention to how research practices, context and power are negotiated through this intervention, this subtask sets out to address questions such as: How does the research project construct its relationship to other actors? How are relations negotiated, and with what outcomes? What difficulties and obstacles are encountered during the intervention(s)? What do these tell us about methods, ethics and the role of research in digital culture? The design of this subtask attempts to combine existing project ethnography methodology, as seen in intervention studies and implementation research, with a highly reflexive methodological stance. The design further seeks to problematize notions such as ”online”, ”virtual” or ”social media” ethnography, by emphasizing the multi-local and networked character of any contemporary ethnograpy while also reflecting on what a born-digital ethnography may look like.
The second subtask makes use of the data retrieved through the record label set-up in combination with interviews and participatory observations from ”the outside”. The aim here is to explore the relation between subjectivity and data by studying how the position of ”the listener” is constituted in the context of streaming services. A vast amount of scholarship have pointed to how music consumption and listening patterns change through digitization, and also how streaming services transform the relationship between consumers and the music industry. Against this backdrop, the subtask sets out to explore how the listener (user, consumer) is constructed and positioned through streaming technology. In what ways can user behaviours be tracked and what are the implications for the conceptualization of the listener on the part of the industry? How are technological affordances constitutive of particular kinds of users, and how is this positioning negotiated in relation to service providers?