OxDEG: How can ethnography inform policy? Insights from digital ethnographic methods and the social semantic network
EdgeRyders NGI Forward is part of a larger European Commission Horizon 2020 Project on The Next Generation Internet. Within this project, the NGI Ethnography Team is dedicated to responding to three core, intersecting questions: when people talk about the future of the internet, what are their key concerns and desires? What issues do they face, and what solutions do they imagine? And how can we, as ethnographers, visualise and analyse these topics in a way that meaningfully contributes to ongoing debates and policy-making? As digital ethnographers, we respond to these questions through a range of digital ethnographic methods: we participate in and observe online interaction on EdgeRyders’ open source community platform, engaging with community members from a range of disciplinary backgrounds as they share their insights on issues from artificial intelligence, to environmental tech, to technology solutions for the COVID-19 pandemic. Using our open source coding and visualisation tools, we also perform inductive, interpretive analysis of written online content. At the same time, we are able to yield a broader Social Semantic Network (SSN) of codes to gain a large-scale view of emerging salient topics, which we can then navigate and zoom in on to identify actionable subsets of conversation. Our approach thus combines qualitative research at scale with participatory design, combining the richness of everyday details gained through ethnographic research with the ‘big picture’ vantage point of network science. We can, thus, dynamically address what people know, what they are trying to do, and what they need, while remaining open to novelty: allowing us to address problems as they emerge, without having to define what those problems are from the outset. During our talk, we will invite attendees to explore our methods with us, while we demonstrate how these allow us to create a dynamic picture of the future of tech, and, in turn, how these enable us to inform current policy-making.
About the speakers
Kate J SimPhD Candidate at the Oxford Internet Institute
Kate J Sim (she/her) is a PhD Candidate at the Oxford Internet Institute where her dissertation examines how data-driven reporting technologies reconfigure the ecosystem of campus safety in US higher education. She is also a Sr. Researcher on European Commission’s Next Generation Internet project. Currently, she is at Microsoft Research as a PhD Intern researching how platform companies figure ideas about harm and care in their reporting mechanisms.
Amelia HassounPhD Candidate at the Oxford Internet Institute
Amelia (Mia) Hassoun (she/her) is anthropologist and geographer at the University of Oxford who uses ethnographic and mixed-methods research to study urban and digital health. Mia’s doctoral research (based upon 2 years of field work in Singapore) analyses smart home technologies, particularly in the context of ageing in cities. She has also been a Senior Researcher on EU Horizon 2020 projects since 2016, where she has led a range of public policy and social innovation work.
Leonie SchultePhD at ISCA, University of Oxford
Leonie Schulte (she/her) is a linguistic anthropologist with a focus on language policy and migration. She recently finished her PhD at ISCA, University of Oxford. Leonie’s research investigates the relationship between language, ‘integration’ and belonging in contemporary Germany, for which she has conducted extensive ethnographic fieldwork in Berlin on the linguistic and temporal impacts of state-sanctioned integration programmes for newcomer socioeconomic mobility. She has been conducting research for the EC’s Next Generation Internet project since 2019.