Theoretical Context

The project was located within ethnographic methodological work, and sought to consider the role of the digital in data generation, analysis, argumentation and representation. The project was located within ongoing methodological debates within qualitative research - including the increased use of computer software for qualitative data analysis (CAQDAS), the role of the visual in ethnographic research, and new media and ethnographic representation.

CAQDAS: Our critique of CAQDAS programs had been that 1) they tend to fragment and decontextualise data records and 2) they have tended to naturalise a division between analysis and representation, thus neglecting the implications of digital technology for transforming all stages of the research process. In this project we explored alternative and complimentary strategies that sought to explore the potential of analysis through hyperlinking and the integration of representational and analytical strategies.

Visual methods and ethnography
: Visual methods have rarely been considered as a way of ‘doing’ ethnography (Ball and Smith 2001); illustration has taken precedence over detailed analysis. We constructed the project in order to contribute to recent explorations of the possibilities for the qualitative analysis of visual data (Banks 2001; Pink 2001; Rose 2001). We focused on the premise that factoring the audio-visual dimension into qualitative research does not produce a merely additive effect; but can constitute a new, multi-semiotic form of communication (Kress 1998; Dicks and Mason 2002b; Dicks et al 2005).

Ethnographic representations: The conventions of representation and authorship for qualitative research have undergone substantial contestation and revision in recent years. However, relatively little attention has been paid to the ways in which digital technology might be brought to bear on the authorship and readership of research texts. The possibilities of digital data expand the range of representational issues with which the qualitative researcher must engage, and thus provide opportunities for novel re-presentation.