[Air-L] CFP // 4S Open Panel // Messiness in Ethnography

Sarah Rüller sarah.rueller at uni-siegen.de
Mon May 8 05:19:03 PDT 2023

Dear colleagues,

We are inviting submissions to our open panel 147. Acknowledging and Embracing the Complexities of Conducting Ethnography: Navigating the Notions of Messiness in the Field to be submitted to the 4S Conference (Society for Social Studies of Science (4S), which will take place in Honolulu, Hawai’i on November 8 - 11, 2023.

Deadline for submission is May 26, 2023.

Panel Description:
This open panel explores the challenges and complexities of conducting ethnographic research in messy, real-world environments within the disciplines of STS, Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and Media Anthropology. Ethnography often requires researchers to navigate complex social dynamics, unpredictable events, and unexpected outcomes. Research carried out in contexts under occupation or oppression, faced with war crimes or human rights violations bring out even more uncertainties, complexities, and potentially even trauma. Ethnography undoubtedly carries the notion of (neo-)colonialism, exploitation, and extractivism. Questions that should occur here are: How do we ensure that our research/work does not play into these practices? What are steps we can take to counteract these exploitive mechanisms? What authority do we have to do the research we are doing? Who is actually benefiting from our work and how can we align that with decolonial thinking?
This open panel seeks to bring together researchers who are acknowledging and embracing these complexities and who are seeking and/or developing strategies to manage the messiness of ethnography. It is open to both conceptual and empirical presentations that address the challenges of ethnographic research and offer insights into how to navigate the nuances of messy ethnographic fieldwork. We encourage researchers to submit reflective pieces which are very personal and show the influence the research setting has on the researcher.

Potential topics may include, but are not limited to:

• The impact of unexpected events and outcomes on ethnographic research
• Strategies for adapting to changes in the field and managing the messiness of ethnography
• The role of reflexivity in navigating messy ethnographic scenarios
• Reflections on the researcher’s authority and privilege
• The ethical considerations of conducting messy ethnographic research
• Approaches to analyzing and making sense of complex and unpredictable ethnographic data
• The challenges of preserving the validity and reliability of ethnographic findings in messy environments.
• The influence of the research setting on the researcher

Session Chairs: Sarah Rüller (sarah.rueller at uni-siegen.de) and Konstantin Aal (konstantin.aal at uni-siegen.de)

Keywords: University-Society Relations, Method, and Practice, Decolonial and Postcolonial STS, Ethnography; Messiness; Authority

Submissions: If you would like to participate in this session, please submit your individual abstract of approx. 250 words and follow the instructions described here: https://www.4sonline.org/call_for_submissions.php


The Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) is an international, nonprofit association founded in 1975 that fosters interdisciplinary and engaged scholarship in social studies of science, technology, and medicine (a field often referred to as STS).

This year, 4S will be holding its annual meeting at the Honolulu Convention Center in Hawai’i, November 8-11, 2023. This year’s theme is “Sea, Sky, and Land: Engaging in Solidarity in Endangered Ecologies.”

More information can be found here: https://www.4sonline.org/meeting.php


Sarah Rüller M.Sc.
Pronouns (She/Her)

Researcher // CRC 1187 - Media of Cooperation
PhD candidate // Information Systems and New Media

University of Siegen

Kohlbettstraße 15 // 57072 Siegen // Room: US-E 103

Phone: +49 271 740 3474

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