ALTERITY, TRANSFORMATION, AND NARRATIVE: ETHNOGRAPHIC RESEARCH UTILIZING FACEBOOK

Friday, November 20, 2015: 8:00 AM-9:45 AM

205 (Colorado Convention Center)

Facebook provides opportunities for self-presentation as a stage and a world of mimetic potential and activity (Taussig 1993). Facebook is a space for making the peripheral central, the banal enticing, and negotiating identity through the power of narrative. Panelists bring their ethnographic toolbox to these spaces where the difference between real life and representation blur. Individually they consider: • Adoption narratives that allow those involved in the process to navigate matters of community, kin, and self. • A group that is societally peripheral and concerned about being “othered” developing a defined center on Facebook that allows them to reject some of their own Otherkin. • Kazakhs who in person bridge the expert/non-expert alterity through dialogue, but then find it challenging on-line. • Innovative pathways to exploring “intersectional” (Crenshaw 1989) differences in men’s social-skills training communities that eAMst on Facebook and other social networking sites. Together the panelists consider the various potentials for ethnographic research offered by Facebook. Deeming’s preliminary research project explores the language utilized in multiple adoption narratives to determine individual and universal feelings that adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents experience regarding the transfer of children in the United States and the long term emotional outcomes for these groups (Quinn 2005). For the researcher, online groups such as Facebook pages dedicated to specific members of the adoption triad offer a resolution to the challenge of finding willing participants and allow them to join self-selected focus groups. Proctor explores Otherkin, a loosely structured group of people who believe they have the soul and/or memories of at least one non-human entity along with their humanity. This particular paper focuses specifically on how the community both deploys and subverts Facebook’s affordances to negotiate group identity. Engaging in boundary work (Gieryn 1983) to police what can and cannot be considered legitimately “Otherkin”, the community acts as a recursive public (Kelty 2008). Those excluded from legitimate Otherkin status use the same Facebook affordances to create new generative spaces in closed groups for alternative definitions of Otherkin ontology. Aasland set up a Facebook page to get feedback from Kazakhs on his article concerning the appropriation of a Kazakh trickster tale. The Facebook page facilitated organizing focus groups, sharing drafts of the research, and could aid follow up to the group sessions. He argues that the in person focus groups had substantial narrative develop which allowed them to overcome the alterity of the participants’ lack of formal training in oral tradition and establish community (Lewin 2005). He explores why the same did not happen for follow up using the Facebook page. Wallace’s research deals with the remediation of masculine gender through practices of intimate training in seduction skills with women, performed among men (and so-called “pickup artists”) in groups called “seduction communities.” they raise the question of differentiating digital from real-world identities through practices of self-branding, evaluation of expertise, and the stigmatization of so-called “keyboard jockeys” in digital communities. Wallace asks, how are banal interactions of everyday life turned into an embodied archive of self-transformation?

This session would be of particular interest to:
Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students, Those involved in mentoring activities

Organizers:  Erik A Aasland (Azusa Pacific University)

Chairs:  Erik A Aasland (Azusa Pacific University)

Discussants:  Heather A Horst (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology)

8:00 AM
Discussant
Heather A Horst (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology)

8:15 AM
The New Face of Ethnography: Utilizing Facebook As a Study Site on Adoptee Identity
Karen Lisa Deeming (University of California, Merced)

8:30 AM
Networking Boundaries: Facebook Practice and Otherkin Identity
Devin Proctor (George Washington University)

8:45 AM
Alterity and Narrative in Focus Groups and Follow up on Facebook
Erik A Aasland (Azusa Pacific University)

9:00 AM
Uncanny Seduction: Masculinity, Pickup Artists, and the Uses of Social Media in Social Skills Training Communities
Anders A Wallace (CUNY Graduate Center)

9:15 AM
Discussion

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