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Ethnography Lab

The Ethnography Lab at Concordia University was established to promote and explore innovative ethnographic research. Ethnography is the traditional methodology of anthropologists, based in situated participant-observation, mixed qualitative data-collection and non-reductive forms of representation. It has recently become popular in other disciplines as well, and even outside of the academy, making it a site of increasingly interdisciplinary methodological thinking. The Lab gathers diverse ethnographic expertise from various faculties at Concordia to foster creative thinking about methodology, to enhance the possibility of new collaborative projects, and to act as a resource for university researchers and people outside of academia who wish to explore cutting-edge ethnography.


Kregg Hetherington, Associate Professor, Sociology and Anthropology

Bart Simon, Associate Professor, Sociology and Anthropology

For additional information, please visit:  Ethnology Lab, Concordia

  • How can researchers from different backgrounds collaboratively develop process-centered agile frameworks for research that allow us to attend to the change and uncertainty of the 21st century?
  • How do practices of ethnography transform researchers and the spaces of knowledge production?
  • How is ethnography taken up by research participants (researchers or not) as part of ongoing political, economic and social projects inside and outside the university?
  • Who does and doesn't get to be an ethnographer and why?
  • What kinds of infrastructure can we create for improving collaborative ethnographic methods?
  • What is the relationship between the "field" of fieldwork and the tactile aspects of ethnographic experience? And by extension, how does one translate this tactility to the study of things and assemblages that defy any notion of field?
  • What does it mean to ethnographically represent phenomena that are too large to sense?
  • What can ethnographic research actually do? How can it play a role in promoting/facilitating/enacting positive, sustainable social change?
  • Can ethnographers truly claim to "know" or "understand" anything unless they are involved in collaborative efforts to change things?
  • How can we experiment, within the controlled and constrained conditions of a laboratory apparatus, with ethnographic methods?
  • After the laboratory ethnographies made famous by science-and-technology-studies scholars, what remains to be accomplished by ethnographers in laboratory settings?
  • What is infrastructure? How do we scale ethnographic practices to engage with global and even planetary infrastructural projects? How does it relate to older categories such as “society”? What is at stake in the transformation and replacement of older categories by this term?
  • What is resilience? What are its political and ethical effects? How do notions of resilience and catastrophe shape contemporary design and engineering thinking and practice? How can we intervene in these terms to produce more ethical and plural futures?
  • What can usefully be achieved when different disciplines "borrow" ethnography?
  • How might ethnographic work be better mobilized in online dissemination/representation?
  • What are examples of experimental or "gonzo" (Taussig) ethnographic practices that we can draw on in terms of their form and ways of making knowledge?
  • What is the geneaology of ethnography applied to art and design practice? How is ethnography used and what forms of knowing / being are produced?
  • How can new technological tools and paradigms (digital archives, digital recording systems, sensing/actuation, etc) reformulate traditional forms of ethnographic writing and lead to new ways of seeing ethnography as creative and generative?
  • How do we further develop the notion of "sensory ethnography" (Pink; Taylor and others) away from reporting of the sensory elements in culture and towards the production of new ethnographic "sensoria?"

Maria Carolina Cambre—Assistant Professor, Education

Dr. Maria Carolina Cambre is an artist/scholar/educator. She explores questions of representation and visual meaning-making with an eye to ethics and social justice. Methodologically, a focus on discourse analysis and semiotics on the micro level combined with varied empirical qualitative approaches on the macro level and building research designs are part of her repertoire. Critical theory/methodologies and visual sociology, visual anthropology, critical policy analysis, new methodologies and artistic/creative research practices as well as emerging social and image-centred theories are central to her work. 

Martin French—Assistant Professor, Sociology and Anthropology

Dr. Martin French’s research examines the social dimensions of technology with an empirical focus on communications & information technology and the risks they help to mitigate or aggravate. He studies--often ethnographically--the ways that organizations use surveillance technologies to know and manage the risks they face. 

Govind Gopakumar—Associate Professor, Centre for Engineering in Society

Dr. Govind Gopakumar is an interdisciplinary scholar whose research interests are quite varied but broadly he is interested in how technological change becomes acceptable to society. In analyzing this puzzle he thinks that a combination of social, policy and technical dynamics play a defining role. His specific interests are in the policy dynamics of urban infrastructure change, social dimensions of the sustainability of water supply, globalization of urban infrastructure, interdisciplinarity in engineering education and social entrepreneurship for engineers.  

Kevin Gould—Associate Professor, Geography, Planning and Environment

Dr. Kevin Gould's research explores everyday processes of policy and market formation.  He is particularly interested in how different forms of expertise and sociotechnical arrangements elaborate systems of rule.  He maintains an ongoing focus on Guatemala as a site of policy/market formation with a particular interest in development and conservation.   

Orit Halpern—Associate Professor, Sociology and Anthropology

Dr. Orit Halpern’s work bridges the histories of science, computing, and cybernetics with design and art practice. Her most recent book Beautiful Data: A History of Vision and Reason since 1945 (Duke Press 2015) is a genealogy of interactivity and our contemporary obsessions with “big” data and data visualization. She is now working on two books; the first is a history and theory of “smartness”, environment, and ubiquitous computing and the second is on speculative design practices and politics. She has also published and created works for a variety of venues including The Journal of Visual Culture, Public Culture, Configurations, C-theory, and ZKM in Karlsruhe, Germany. 

Kregg Hetherington—Associate Professor, Sociology and Anthropology

Dr. Kregg Hetherington specializes in the ethnography of infrastructure, environment and bureaucracy. He leads research on bureaucracy and agrarian transitions in Latin America, and a research group on Infrastructure and Environment based at Concordia. His publications include Guerrilla Auditors: The Politics of Transparency in Neoliberal Paraguay, and a forthcoming edited volume Environment, Infrastructure and Life in the Anthropocene

Tina Hilgers—Assistant Professor, Political Science

Dr. Tina Hilgers’ research deals with poverty and marginalization in urban Latin America and the Caribbean, focusing on informal politics, clientelism, and violence. Her publications include Clientelism in Everyday Latin American Politics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012, edited volume), A violência na América Latina e no Caribe(Observatorio de Favelas, forthcoming, edited with Jorge Luiz Barbosa), and Violence in Latin America and the Caribbean: Subnational Structures, Institutions, and Clientelism (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming, edited with Laura Macdonald). She is Director of Concordia University’s Lab for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (LLACS). 

Rilla Khaled—Associate Professor, Design and Computation Arts

Dr. Rilla Khaled’s research and practice has centred on the design of learning and persuasive games, interactions between games and culture, and practices involved in emerging forms of game design. She currently focuses on speculative play and reflective game design, design perspectives that embrace ambiguous subject matter, foreground play, empower the perspectives of players, and draw together learning and experimental games. 

Christopher Salter—Associate Professor, Design and Computation Arts

Chris Salter is an artist, University Research Chair in New Media, Technology and the Senses at Concordia University and Co-Director of the Hexagram network for Research-Creation in Media Arts and Technology in Montreal. He collaborated with Peter Sellars and William Forsythe/Frankfurt Ballet. His work has been seen all over the world at such venues as the Venice Architecture Biennale, Chronus Art Center Shanghai, Vitra Design Museum, HAU-Berlin, BIAN 2014 (Montreal), LABoral, Lille 3000, CTM Berlin, National Art Museum of China, Ars Electronica, Villette Numerique, Todays Art, Transmediale, EXIT Festival (Maison des Arts, Creteil-Paris) among many others. He is the author of Entangled: Technology and the Transformation of Performance (MIT Press, 2010) and Alien Agency: Experimental Encounters with Art in the Making (MIT Press, 2015). 

Bart Simon—Associate Professor, Sociology and Anthropology

Dr. Bart Simon is co-founder and former director of the Technoculture, Art and Games Research Centre and co-founder and current director of the Milieux Institute for Arts, Culture and Technology at Concordia. His areas of expertise include game studies, science and technology studies and cultural sociology. His ethnographic interests range from micro-ethnography and everyday life to the study of materiality, non-human agency and the intersection of ethnography and design. Some of his most current work is represented in journals such as Games and Culture, Game Studies and Loading and he has ongoing projects on the socio-materialities of play, indie game scenes and player-maker cultures. 

Mark Watson—Associate Professor, Sociology and Anthropology

Having worked for over 10 years with Indigenous Ainu in Tokyo and other cities in Japan on issues of urban Indigenous migration, Dr. Watson is currently Principal Investigator of the Nunalijjuaq Action Research Initiative, a five-year Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council funded project working with Inuit in Montreal and across the North to assess and analyze their situation in the city and to implement community-driven actions to promote collective well-being. Alongside being a producer of the bi-weekly Inuktitut language radio show called Nipivut or ‘Our Voice’ (broadcast on CKUT90.3FM), Dr. Watson is interested in the theory and practice of action-oriented and collaborative research and the potential imaginaries of ethnographic research as well as engaged by the ethnographic analysis of radio, podcasting and other mobile facets of collective life.

Ethnography Lab Workshop Series 2018: Experiments at the Edge

EV building: 1515 St Catherine St. West, north-east corner of St Catherine & Guy Room 10.625 Ethnography Lab

Monday Feb 26 17:00-19:00

Proprioception: the physiological phenomenon of the sense of self in space. Proprioception is knowing and sensing one's orientation: It knowing where self ends and the rest begins – a physical & material mode of attention often overlooked in academia’s text-based world. This workshop attunes participants to a sense of self & other-- & the implications for conducting interpersonal research through movement exercises, followed by discussion & activity. The space is wheelchair accessible & activities are tailored to participants’ mobiliBes.

For more information download workshop poster here

Public Talk: Tincuta Heinzel  

Friday February 9th at 12:00 / EV 11.705

Revolutionary Textiles. A Philosophical Inquiry on Electronic and Reactive Textiles.

The question we will address in this presentation is that of electronic and reactive textiles’ revolutionary character. This very question incorporates a series of other questions such as “what do electronic and reactive textiles revolutionize?”, but also “what it is to revolutionize?” in order to understand what exactly do we expect to be revolutionized when it comes to textiles. By addressing these questions and acknowledging the constructivist position of design, we will investigate its role(s) in the present societal-technical configurations.

Bio: Tincuta Heinzel (PhD) is an artist, designer and curator interested in the relationship between art and technoscience. Following Visual Arts and Cultural Anthropology studies in Cluj (Romania), Tincuta completed her PhD in Aesthetics and Arts Sciences at Paris 1 University Panthèon-Sorbonne (France) in 2012 with a thesis on electronic and reactive textiles’ aesthetics and fabrication processes. Her artistic production focuses on electronic textiles and interactive installations and engages the ways in which technologies can be diverted in order to bring into the light their common places and potentialities. For now, under what she labels as “aesthetics of imperceptibility” she is investigating the aesthetic issues of nano-materiality and design’s new roles as operator between scales.

She initiated, curated and/or coordinated several projects, such as “Artists in Industry” (Bucharest, 2011-2013), “Haptosonics” (Oslo, 2012-2013), “Repertories of (in)discreetness” (Cologne, Budapest, Bucharest, 2013-2015) and “Attempts, Failures, Trails and Errors” (Bergen, Bucharest, 2017-2018).

She was DAAD fellow at ZKM Karlsruhe (Germany), artist in residence at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne (Germany), Fulbright Fellow at Cornell University (USA). At present she is Senior Lecturer at Loughborough University (UK) and visiting professor at “Ion Mincu” Architecture and Urbanism University Bucharest (Romania).






Abstract: At the height of the Cold War on the Reykjanes peninsula of Iceland, the American navy built a cutting-edge network of sonar equipment to surveil Russian submarines. Just across the road, in the small fishing town of Keflavík, Icelandic men employed more intimate tactics in surveiling Icelandic women suspected of dating American men. Separated then, by a thin gravel highway, two communities of watchers on the North Atlantic peninsula set their anxious attention on tracking an other for their own gain. By telling these parallel practices together, this talk asks how global infrastructures work through local formations of difference, and makes a case for thinking with uneven intimacies in theorizing technological surveillance today.

Bio: Alix Johnson is a visiting scholar at Concordia University’s Ethnography Lab, a Fellow with the American Council of Learned Societies, and a PhD candidate in Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her work is broadly concerned with querying infrastructures and imaginaries of global connection, and has appeared in Imaginations Journal of Cross-Cultural Image Studies, Allegra Lab, and Anthrodendum.

October 5th: Ethnography Lab Inaugural Workshop

The CISSC Ethnography Lab presents an inaugural exploratory workshop for interested graduate students on Wednesday October 5th, from 10am-12pm in H-1120 in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. The Ethnography Lab is CISSC-sponsored collaborative project of faculty and students across departments to advance and promote experimental ethnographic research methods in the University and beyond. Our activities are meant to foster the development of new research methodologies and tools at the interstices of formal curriculum and applied research. Our desire is to prompt productive methodological engagements with a variety of community, government and industry partners and collaborators across different disciplines and settings through a series of pilot projects to be launched in the Winter semester. In this meeting, we invite interested graduate students from any discipline and at any stage in their studies to explore the developing mandate for the lab, to discuss the problems and possibilities in the application and innovation of ethnographic methods beyond our disciplines, and establish frameworks for the design of pilot projects. The workshop will be led by Kregg Hetherington and Bart Simon, along with other faculty members of the Lab.


Friday, November 4th: The Toronto ethnography lab visits Concordia University

Dr. Joshua Barker and Jessika Tremblay from the University of Toronto Ethnography lab will be visiting Concordia University to share their experiences promoting innovative ethnographic research.  

When: Friday, November 4th, 2016

Time: 10:00am – noon

Where: Hall Building, Room 1120, SGW Campus, Concordia University 

Who: Faculty, students and members of the general public are welcome! Please rsvp to aryanasoliz (at) if you have not already confirmed.  

The Ethnography Lab is a University of Toronto Anthropology faculty and student collaboration to promote ethnographic research methods and practice inside and outside the university. Arranged in interest groups, the Lab explores the craft and impact of ethnography in the contemporary world. The groups are Applied Ethnography, Public Ethnography, the Infrastructures Research Group and the Kensington Market Research Project. The Lab acts as a resource centre for the university community by providing intellectual and physical space for those exploring ethnography or seeking to deepen its role in their research. The Lab provides knowledge, technical resources and connections to cross-disciplinary ethnographers from the university, the public and private sector, and the community. For more information visit:


1) WORKSHOP on methods bombs: everyone is welcome!

Date: January, 27, 2017, 2:00-4:00pm

Location: EV.10.625

This workshop is not about how well it all went in the field, rather we would like to discuss the real bombs and bloopers in design, in approaching people, or even in the possible mismatch between data collection, questions and analysis. Let’s come together and see what these kinds of stories can offer up for consideration.

2) CALL for ethnographic fieldnotes, images and artifacts: Concordia living gallery. Deadline for submissions: February 7, 2017.

Fieldnotes, found objects and other research artifacts are vital to ethnographic practice. Fieldnotes represent the record from which ethnographic accounts are constructed, often involving prolific note taking, scribbling and surprising analytical discoveries while on the move. In recent years, many ethnographers have pushed the boundaries of traditional fieldnotes, recognizing new ways of gathering data in the field. They’ve also taken seriously the multiple sensitivities that constitute the lived experiences of people and collectivities, including touch, texture, smell, sound and sight. Critical, auto-ethnographic and collaborative methods have further worked to expand the scope of ethnographic field data, integrating everything from political archives, to photo-voice and other forms of collective artistry. 

For the opening of the Concordia Ethnography Lab and Living Gallery, we will be holding a collective exhibition of ethnographic fieldnotes and field data of many shapes, sizes and materials. Our inaugural theme for the living gallery’s first exhibition is Initiations. Along with expanding notions of what constitutes field data, the Living Gallery also seeks to provide an inclusive forum for critical, collaborative discussions on ethnographic and curatorial practices.

We invite faculty members and graduate students from any department to submit diverse ethnographic field-data, including fieldnotes, notebooks, sketches, maps, sound-clips, and artifacts (as conceived inside or outside of the box). The selected submissions will be showcased at the Ethnography Lab’s inaugural opening in mid-February 2017 and displayed on an ongoing basis as a part of the Living Gallery’s collective space in EV.10.625 until August 2017.

For consideration, please submit the following:

a)     A copy, scan or photo (pdf or jpeg) of texts, photographs or artifacts (please do not send originals in the proposal stage); or a sound clip (.wav or .mp3)
b)    A 200-400-word description of the object and how it relates to the theme of initiation and/or your experience in the field
c)     The dimensions of the submission
d)    A 100-200-word biography

N.B. You may submit multiple items, but we may only accept 1 submission per person

Please submit materials via email to:

Deadline for proposals: February 7, 2017.

~ We thank everyone in advance for their submissions. We will notify applicants of acceptances in mid-February.

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