“Just Do It!”

Sebastian Dahm

Abstract

In this paper I present an ethnographic approach to the research of hackerspaces. It draws upon an ethnomethodological background in order to address the role of members’ skills and knowledge. To that end, I aim for an immersive ethnographic approach in order to achieve a first-hand understanding of members’ practices. In this, I draw upon ethnomethodology as it provides a rich theoretical and methodological background for the study of skill and knowledge, namely the call for practical knowledge as an analytical instrument (Garfinkel 2006). In order to fully understand the implications of social movements like hacking and making communities, appropriate research methods are called for. Ethnomethodology, with its tradition in the analysis of epistemic practices and embodied knowledge, can provide the means for a more immersive and reflexive ethnography. By using materials of my own ethnography, I demonstrate how active engagement with members’ practices can provide for a deeper ethnographic understanding. In order to overcome the challenges of the field, I chose to adopt a project of coding myself. This acquisition of field-specific knowledge proved to be not only a valuable resource for the ongoing fieldwork but could offer important analytical insights in itself. I will show that important facets of members’ meanings were accessible only through personal experience. I suggest a broader adoption of ethnomethodological principles in ethnographic research of hackerspaces as it accommodates the underlying affinity towards experimentation prevalent in the field.

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