Summer 2013 – Present

For the past couple of years, I have served as a lead architect on the Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography.  This open-source, Drupal-based platform is designed to support geographically dispersed researchers, working in the spirit of experimental ethnography, as they collaborate on projects around such issues as the global asthma epidemic and disaster response and recovery.  In offering capacities for archiving material, engaging in collaborative hermeneutics, and publishing with new genre forms, it more broadly serves as a model for the digital empirical humanities.

Central to the design of PECE has been the translation of theoretical and philosophical commitments – experimental ethnography’s “design logics” – into digital infrastructure.  My role in the project has involved conceptualizing information architectures, mechanisms for describing and organizing data, and visualizations that cultivate diverse and creative ethnographic insights for PECE and building them out leveraging the affordances of Drupal.  Notably, much existing digital infrastructure is out of sync with the philosophies and methodologies of the humanities.  Existing infrastructure aims to clean up noise, whereas experimental ethnography seeks to pursue it. Existing infrastructure aims to establish closure, whereas experimental ethnography seeks to open space for perspectival multiplicity.  Importantly, a successful experimental ethnographer approaches, not an answer, but new questions.  In this sense, the platform needs to accommodate the potential for differential trajectories to emerge recursively.  The PECE design team has thus developed a series of light structures – structures that suggest but not determine pathways into data and remix but not completely randomize the way data is visualized.

See http://worldpece.org/ for more information.