Hypertext and Ethnographic Representation: A Case Study

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

This study explores the ways in which ethnographic data might be represented within a hypertext format. It begins with an analysis of the historical roots of the technology to determine key characteristics that differentiate it from other media. Three characteristics surface through this analysis: multilinearity, multivocality, and multimodality. The current study examines these characteristics from a more critical stance to determine what is possible in practice. To this end, three ethnographic hypertexts are analyzed to determine strengths and weaknesses. From this analysis, a set of design implications emerge that provides a framework for a case study entitled The Congo Prototype . The Congo Prototype is built from an extensive study of a museum located in Belgium, The Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA), along with interviews with colonial veterans who served in the Congo up until Independence. This work offers the reader specific techniques that might be incorporated into future works, and at the same time, provides a stand alone ethnographic study of numerous narratives revolving around the Belgian Congo. In the final sections of this dissertation, several suggestions are outlined for future research. It is suggested that practitioners might consider database driven ethnographies as a means of creating a more dynamic reading experience; cross linked studies to achieve a higher degree of multivocality; and integration of a "play around" feature that would allow readers to determine the amount of data that could be viewed in support of specific claims. The study concludes with a brief discussion of some of the intractable issues that cannot be solved through technological means, such as the crisis of representation, the importance of being in the field, and the politics of web publishing.

Source: Author's Dissertation Abstract

[Note from ELMCIP KB editors: the most relevant references to the field of electronic literature have been included, but the list of references given in this database entry is not complete.]

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Patricia Tomaszek