Applying ideas from multi-sited ethnography to sociology of culture
Sociology University of Helsinki Helsinki, Finland
The methodological contemplation behind this paper began when the author set out to examine further the case of her Master's Thesis. The study had focused on the club, rave and recreational drug use culture in Finland and the empirical data supported both the, at the time popular, idea of post or late modern era with individually rather than structurally determined lifestyles and hybrid cultural sphere, as well as the thesis of cultural distinction as a way of reproducing social structures of power, by Pierre Bourdieu. Work by British sociologists combining class theory, Bourdieusian theory, feminism and Cultural Studies, most importantly Beverley Skeggs, provided the theoretical premise for the further PhD project around the same empirical case. This work made sense of the earlier findings by arguing that the mobile, post or late modern lifestyles, are actually a particular, privileged social position, and made possible only by a contrast to those failing to be late or post modern.
The research question for the PhD paper, then, was 'in which ways is popular culture today a symbolic economy that is used to produce unequal social power relations, whether of gender, class or other type?" This paper discusses the reasons that a method and a discussion known as multi-cited ethnography was drawn on as the main methodological frame for the PhD study. Advantages of ethnography as a general concept are discussed, as well as problems with conventional ethnography in contemporary contexts of doing research. The main features and advantages of multi-cited ethography are presented.
The application of the method into author's research project is then described. It is presented how, out of the academic discussion concerning multi-cited ethnography, some concrete tools and definitions were chosen and applied.