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The International Encyclopedia of Media Studies, 7 Volume Set by Fabienne Darling-Wolf, Radhika Parameswaran, Erica Scharrer, Vicki Mayer, Sharon Mazzarella, Kelly Gates, John Nerone, Angharad N. Valdivia

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2

Fostering Surprise and Productive Discomfort in Audience Studies through Multi-Sited Ethnography

Kim Trager-Bohley

ABSTRACT

Can an increased engagement with multi-sited ethnography invigorate audience studies? Yes. Too often, media and audience studies scholars have tended to hamstring ethnographic methods by predetermining their audiences, their activities, their research sites, and the temporal sequence of their research. This chapter argues that multi-sited ethnography has the potential to enlarge the boundaries that have circumscribed and enclosed media/audience studies if researchers can avail themselves of its central strengths – its unpredictability and flexibility. I urge audience studies scholars to embrace a flexible research imaginary that can be open to surprise, modification, and productive discomfort while tracking mobile social formations that crisscross multiple and unexpected sites and local–global dichotomies. Drawing on my fieldwork on global sponsors of literacy in the United States and Singapore, this chapter discusses several overlapping elements of multi-sited ethnographies: (1) its tracking strategies; (2) its emphasis on complicitous relationships; (3) its greater exposure to multiple perspectives, including multi-level power dynamics; and (4) its unbounded, open-ended notions of the field, which are not limited or constrained by place.

Today an increasing number of third-generation audience scholars have experimented with multi-sited ethnography in ...

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