Laboratory ethnography during a pandemic

On my research blog dhinfra.org, you can find my new post “Laboratory ethnography during a pandemic: On temporality, instability and co-production“. I reflect on methodological and ethical challenges of doing an ethnography during these difficult times. Drawing on my ethnographic study at King’s Digital Lab, I have produced the following principles for approaching a laboratory ethnography during a pandemic: permanent temporality, planned spontaneity, a mixture of work and home, and instability of environment. These preliminary concepts reveal the strangeness of the contemporary moment that makes it difficult to apply standard ethnographic methods. The strangeness of these aspects, unsettling now, might however become an intrinsic part of an emerging new type of “post-pandemic” ethnography we don’t know yet. I also argue that a pandemic situation can help to disclose knowledge about the community and workplace that otherwise would remain hidden and unnoticed. Critical situations can say a lot about labs’ culture and community. This is the time for sharpening a sensibility for things that are exposed: care, trust, and collectivity. Further, I pose the following questions: How do workplaces re-prioritize their work in light of challenges? What is the most important goal for a lab during the crisis? What does a lab do to reconcile individual concerns and management requirements to “keep the lab going”? How is a “lab culture” evinced in strategies adopted in the face of an emergency? These set of questions might become part of the methodological guidance for the ethnography of laboratories in unstable times. You can find the essay here.

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