We did it! The panel proposal organized by Edgar and Annette Markham, in which Elisenda and me (Adolfo) participate with a paper (and Edgar with other), has been admit for the AoIR Conference have been accepted. The title of the panel is ‘Beyond place: Using concepts and methods of Practice Theory to study mediated experience’, and it explores how the concept of ‘place’ can be fruitfully understood by looking at practice. Using Practice Theory as a working foundation, each of the four panelists analyze this issue, beginning with two papers focusing on theoretical premises and followed by two papers that apply the lens to the teaching of Internet Studies and live blogging practices, respectively.

Beyond place: Using concepts and methods of Practice Theory to study mediated experience

Edgar Gomez Cruz, Annette N Markham, David Silver, Elisenda Ardevol, Adolfo Estalella

This panel explores how the concept of ‘place’ can be fruitfully understood by looking at practice. Using Practice Theory as a working foundation, each of the four panelists analyze this issue, beginning with two papers focusing on theoretical premises and followed by two papers that apply the lens to the teaching of Internet Studies and live blogging practices, respectively.

Practice Theories shift our central lens from structure and texts to practice, to explore how different actors (humans and non-humans) intertwine to generate identities, features and senses of place. Although the practice turn is not new, it becomes more relevant (and a useful research tool) as identities and social worlds are increasingly mediated, diffused, or multiplied. The foundations of the concept can be traced to Bourdieu’s theory of practice, Foucault’s use of it, and de Certeau’s work, among other well known theorists like Stuart Hall. Practice Theory was further analyzed by Schatzki, T., Knorr-Cetina, K., & Von Savigny, E. (2001) who points that: “the social is a field of embodied, materially interwoven practices centrally organized around shared practical understandings.”

Acknowledging the re-emerging importance of the concept of “place” in Internet research, this panel presents various concepts and methods for exploring place as an ad hoc or emergent process of ongoing dialogue among actors and their practices. By decentering structural elements of internet such as sites or platforms, we recenter the analytical lens on the processes and practices that interweave material objects, technological procedures, body responses, and discourse. This deliberate re-positioning also enables us to blur some of the polar oppositions (such as offline/online) that limit conceptualizations of identity, agency, and structure in mediated environments. In this panel, we build the argument that by focusing on practice, we can identify frameworks for describing the relationships among users and between users and objects in a more comprehensive way than we find by focusing on either structures/platforms or identity/production of texts.

Through their diverse cultural backgrounds, research perspectives, and case studies, the panelists bring both theoretical and empirical strength to the table, as well as a cross-cultural perspective.

In the first paper, Edgar G?mez, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Barcelona, Spain) reviews some of the theoretical premises of the practice turn, as applied to the study of internet related phenomena. He then shifts to an application of these concepts in social science research, particularly the emergence of agency and subjectivity through digital photography practices.

In the second paper, Annette Markham, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (U.S.A.) reviews the epistemological foundations of the practice turn, exploring how this approach plays out in ethnographically-informed studies of internet. She then turns her attention to two case studies that illustrate how self-reflexive methodologies can lend analytical strength to research outcomes.

In the third paper, co-authors Elisenda Ard?vol and Adolfo Estalella explore the ways we can apply practice theory in empirical internet research using live blogging practice as a case study. Their paper examines how blogger identity performance is interwoven with place and material objects.

Finally, in the fourth paper, David Silver examines the way that place – offline and online – becomes a key site for content creation and sharing among students. He presents a case in which he utilizes concepts of practice theory in teaching. As students examine their own and one another’s offline practices and behaviors, they become more mindful of and creative about their online practices and behaviors.


  1. From Virtual Communities to co-presence practices: Some theoretical notes from the field.
    Edgar Gòmez

The idea of Virtual Communities, one of the first and most important issues at the beginning of Internet Studies, used a theoretical and methodological approach to study them as closed and compact communities (even in online places) despite the fact that the challenge on the idea about situated and fixed communities was largely discussed even before the Internet Studies arise (Marcus, 1995). Nowadays, concepts like Social Networks conceptualize these new mediated forms of communication but, although with different characteristics, sometimes the properties of those technologies to create social spaces are established a priori independently of the specific social uses and networks that interact with them (Slater, 2002).

This paper proposes some elements that could be useful for the study of these aggregations of humans and non-humans with the approach of the Theory of Practices (Schatzki, Knorr-Cetina, Savigny, 2001). This theory presents an interesting option to account the interconnectedness, ubiquity and complexity of the social uses of internet, along with the materiality elements.

Based on the author’s ethnographic study of digital photographical practices, this paper discusses some theoretical and methodological elements of this approach using an analytical model based on the “circuit of culture” (cfr. Du Gay, Hall, Janes, Mackay, & Negus, 1997). In this proposed model, the agency and performance of the individual practices are related to the infrastructural elements and the socialization of them. This seeks to show how this theory could be useful for the study of Internet, not as a series of places for communities, but as a co-presence medium that is crossed by several practices.

  1. Methods for studying lived experience with technology: Revisiting the past to find new paths
    Annette N. Markham

Almost every discipline–from the hard sciences to literary studies–has experienced a late 20th century shift in theory and practice, exploring the ways in which knowledge and reality are constructed through processes of social interaction. This paper explores some of the roots of these shifts, focusing on the emergence of practice theory as an approach for the social scientific exploration of lived experience in mediated contexts.

Beginning with a historical perspective, this paper sketches the shifting terrain of social research in the fields of anthropology, sociology, and communication. The historical sketch narrows to Internet Studies, specifically some of the early 1990s analyses of internet experiences. Focusing on the methods utilized in personalized or heavily autobiographical accounts, this paper describes the ways in which user/authors draw on postmodern sensibilities, often utilizing approaches that would now be labeled “practice theory” to make sense of their own experiences. Deliberate or not, these early studies of internet experience can give us methodological advice for understanding the way multiple agents, human or not, interact dialogically to create the reality of everyday life.

Finally, this paper reviews the problem of language in social research that relies on and therefore continues to reinforce false distinctions between virtual/real, online/offline. While alternatives are scarce, a challenge is issued for shifting language practices in social science research of internet that will help overcome these faulty parameters for experience in the 21st century.

  1. Constructing localities: blog events and situated practices
    Elisenda Ardèvol and Adolfo Estalella

This paper analyzes a set of locally situated practices unfolded by individuals that consists of writing posts, taking photos, recording videos and publishing them on the Internet while attending public events on blogs. Individuals incorporate into their blogging practice material artifacts (cameras, laptops, images, etc.) through which they publicly performed their blogger identity (Jansz & Martens, 2005). We propose that blogger identity performance is interwoven with place and material objects in these events in a way that cross-cuts the notion of place and the dualism of global and local, and also dismantles the online/offline dichotomy. Following the concept of locality proposed by Mizuko Ito (1999), which refers “to social, cultural and spatial proximity at a scale that is experienced as personally relevant and accessible, a materialized convergence of place, established practices, and group affiliation,” we analyze live blogging as a situated practice that takes place simultaneously on line and off line, so the “place” from where you are blogging defines the kind of practice you are involved in. Our proposal point to rethinking community and place through the ethnographic analysis of the very specific practice of “live blogging.”

  1. Practice Theory and Pedagogy: Teaching Internet Studies
    David Silver

Early Internet studies in the US were comprised of canonical readings about digital communities (Rheingold) and identities (Turkle) and online fieldtrips to esoteric sites like LambdaMOO or the WELL. Today, however, the kinds of sites that allow interesting exploration of issues as important as identity, community, and place are sites that are part of our students’ everyday experiences – blogs, Facebook, flickr, myspace, wikipedia, yelp, and hundreds of others. This provides many interesting opportunities and pitfalls for teachers of Internet Studies. Approaching Internet Studies pedagogy through the lens of practice theory and attention towards individuals’ social engagements within their settings, this paper surveys recent pedagogical developments in Internet Studies and opens up conversations about new directions.