Contributed Articles

Digital Living and Sensory Perception: Implications for Ethnography and Design

by SARAH PINK, RMIT University As an ethnographer working at the interface of theory and praxis, I frame my research by the need to understand the sensory and digital environments in which we live. Approaching the world through the prism of the digital and sensory offers us a novel and effective way of engaging with contemporary social and environmental challenges – like those relating to energy, safety or privacy – which are also challenges for industry. But why these particular turns to the digital and the sensory? And why now? Every few years ethnography gets caught up in a new theoretical ‘turn’, a novel way of thinking that casts existing paradigms into critical relief. Sometimes it feels like theory turns so often that, if we took each trend seriously, we would get caught up in whirlpool of abstraction. We have been through the reflexive, gendered and embodied turns of ethnography of the 1980s and 1990s. More recently we’ve seen Christine Hine’s Virtual Ethnography and Ethnography for the Internet, Tom Boellstorff...