Fortun, Kim, Brian Callahan, Brandon Costelloe-Kuehn, Brad Fidler, Alison Kenner, Aalok Khandekar, Alli Morgan, Lindsay Poirier, and Mike Fortun. “Hosting the Platform for Experimental, Collaborative Ethnography.” HAU, March 4, 2018.

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July 3, 2018

Critical Commentary

Abstract: This essay narrates a social, conceptual and technical history of the Platform for Experimental, Collaborative Ethnography (PECE, pronounced “peace”), a digital research environment designed to support new forms of collaboration among researchers across time and space, and new ways of drawing users into ethnographic research. The essays highlights the work of the PECE Design Group, made up ethnographers, technologists, public health and open source advocates, a philosopher and a historian, among others, linked through friendship and shared concern about science, technology and society (STS). The essay explicates the ethnographic origins of PECE in studies of environmental public health but also shows how PECE has become a site for exposing, testing and extending ethnographic methods and the pedagogical and political promise of ethnographic modes of inquiry. PECE is described as a practical project to technically support collaborative ethnography, as a research project to understand the valences and possibilities of digital space for knowledge production, as an inquiry into the intellectual, social and political consequences of different language ideologies, and as an experiment in counter-hegemonic social and language forms. The essay describes and demonstrates what we have come to call “collaboration ethnography” and “collaborative hermeneutics,” though the latter is still far out ahead of us, like PECE itself. The essay is thus also an account of how ethnography can “loop,” with riveting effects (Fortun 2012). In trying to respond through practice to what we have come through ethnography to critique, we run an often out of control but exciting test of what ethnography can become.