The Heartbeat Of Fieldwork. On Doing Ethnography In Traffic Control Rooms

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Description: This is a draft of a chapter that has been accepted for publication by Oxford University Press in the forthcoming book Research Methods for Digital Work and Organizations, edited by Gillian Symon, Katrina Pritchard and Christine Hine due for publication in 2021. The chapter explores the issue of temporality in undertaking ethnographic fieldwork, drawing on research that examined traffic control rooms, wherein software is used to automatically regulate traffic flow in a city. The study identifies two key aspects of temporality in this situation: 1) polyrhythmia at different scales produced by algorithms, technology, management, and urban life, and; 2) the process of organizing multiple timelines to tune the ‘heartbeat’ of the city. As time represents a new object of concern for the ethnographic investigation of algorithmic management, I introduce the concept of halfway ethnography as a way to grasp the heartbeat of the fieldwork, focusing on its material organizing of dispersed and heterogeneous temporalities while tuning in with such temporalities.

License: CC0 1.0 Universal

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