Fieldnotes as a Social Practice: Elevating and Innovating Fieldnotes in Applied Ethnography, Using a Collaborative Online Tool as a Case Study

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In this paper I propose that applied ethnographers should think critically and innovatively about the practice of producing fieldnotes in ethnographic research. Critical thought on ethnographic fieldnotes has been relatively underdeveloped, both in applied and academic anthropology. Moreover, as applied ethnographers our projects have particular opportunities and constraints that are unique from academic anthropology. I make a case for elevating fieldnotes as a topic of more critical discussion in applied ethnography, and for moving fieldnotes from a private practice to a social practice. I use a collaborative online tool as a case example for possible innovation. Collaborative practices present certain vulnerabilities and challenges to creating fieldnotes, but I argue that the benefits of innovating fieldnotes help to build bridges both between researchers, and between researchers and stakeholders in a project. Innovative fieldnote practices can: deepen the thinking in our research; increase our impact; help ensure that our practices are credible as applied ethnography; and make contributions to the practice of ethnography more broadly.

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