Rhythm-making, halfway ethnographies and ‘city heartbeats’
No ydut4, SocArXiv from Center for Open Science
This paper explores the issue of temporality in undertaking ethnographic fieldwork, drawing on research that examined urban automated management, wherein software is used to automatically regulate traffic flow in a city. In this case, the study addressed: 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. Time is a resource for coordination and regulation, as well as for making sense of actions and experience. Being increasingly dispersed, and black-boxed in a multiplicity of processes affecting and configuring the way the past, present and future are perfomed and lived, time also represents a new object of concern for the ethnographic investigation of algorithmic management. I argue that ethnography allows us to understand the material organizing of dispersed and heterogeneous temporalities while also intersecting with such temporalities. Drawing on Guattari and Deleuze’s concept of ‘refrain’ and from Lefebvre’s ‘rhythmanalysis’, I introduce the concepts of rhythm-making and halfway ethnography with the purpose of accounting for the manufacturing of multiple temporalities and for the time-boundedness that links ethnographic practice and the technological, organizational, and cultural ‘heartbeats’ of fieldwork. This approach intends to temporally and spatially reposition organizational ethnography, offering analytical tools to study new contemporary entanglements of ethnographic practice and data.
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