TEACHING WITH A DIGITAL TEXTBOOK: WHERE EXPERIMENTAL ETHNOGRAPHY MEETS PEDAGOGICAL INNOVATION
Goucher College (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Conference name: 2nd International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 5-7 July, 2010
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Abstract: Centered on the ground-breaking ethnography, Dangerous Citizens. The Greek Left and the Terror of the State (2009, Fordham University Press, and dangerouscitizens.columbia.edu) by Neni Panourgiá, this presentation examines the rich pedagogical possibilities of digital media in experimental ethnography. Panourgiá’s ethnography exists both in a print edition and as an online book that opens out to reader/viewers in ways that challenge them to consider new modes of interpretation. As Panourgiá herself notes, the electronic edition of her book is not intended to replace the print edition, but to explore new ways of addressing the subject matter not possible in print: “it allows one to open one's cards, so to speak, to show the intellectual and scholarly work that goes into conceptualizing, researching, and producing a book. It enables the author to share resources, explore connectivities that are not immediately apparent, provide a synaesthetic experience of the presented ethnography, hear what the sounds of the place are, follow the threading of associations that interlocutors make in sight and in sound”. In its goal of greater transparency and reflexivity with regard to the processes and data that led to the author’s conclusions, this book reflects important priorities of ethnographic writing today. As such, it can be an extremely valuable tool for illuminating the ethnographic process to students. The myriad images, videos, and texts embedded within the electronic version of Panourgiá’s book are both an illustration of the building blocks drawn on by most ethnographers, and an exciting introduction to new ways of reading ethnographic texts that include re-organizing data and seeking out new causal connections and influences not necessarily highlighted in the printed text.
At the same time, teaching with such a text such poses new challenges for educators. How is a teacher to create assignments that will assess the new skills gained, and allow students to further develop them? While students today are used to drawing on multiple media to gain information, to what extent are they able to perceive the important differences between the different kinds of information presented? Will the open-ended and non-linear presentation of much of the material in the online book make it harder for students to learn to construct meaningful linear narratives of their own? This presentation describes the presenter’s strategy for employing this text in a Fall 2010 anthropology course (“Cultures of Contemporary Europe”), focusing both on the new challenges presented by a digital textbook such as Panourgiá’s and on the innovations in pedagogy and ethnography that Dangerous Citizens will present.
Keywords: pedagogy, experimental ethnography, digital textbook.