Fieldwork

A series of ‘field’ activities for each case-study will be performed by the researcher. These provide a first-person, embodied understanding of the respective procedure, product or service. Again using Uber as an example, this could involve a series of extended journeys using the ride-request app. Using Echo, it could involve purchasing, setting up and issuing a series of spoken requests to the device. These subjective encounters will be documented with basic note taking, enriching the material derived from the other three methods. If the researcher remains ‘outside’ the object of study with the other methods, this one is designed to embody him firmly within the algorithmic ecology as one more material with particular agencies and abilities. While the discourse around these algorithms often posits them as abstract, global and ethereal, the key objective here is to experience them rather as sited, contingent and material. That said, the focus of these activities is not on a particular geography, but on how the infrastructural ‘field’ of the cloud permeates the phenomenological and social ‘field’ of lived experience. How does it feel to entangle oneself in this algorithmic ecology? What happens when I repeat this performance slightly differently? The particular understanding of this method is thus informed by Andrew Pickering’s Mangle of Practice (2010), which understands mangle as a “human prodding and probing a nonhuman object to answer some question” (Hayles 2014). The object offers some form of resistance, which then shapes further iterations of this probing process.